Back to School, Back to Networking: Tips for Optimizing Your Networking this Fall

Students getting on a school bus for their first day of classes.

Students getting on a school bus for their first day of classes.

As summer comes to a close and the last quarter of the year approaches, it is time to start thinking about how we want to finish out the year. Many business professionals have children and are preparing them for school or going on their last vacation before the summer ends.

Once summer is over, everyone starts to feel the pressure of getting back into a networking mindset. Networking groups start meeting again, people take fewer vacations and with the fiscal year winding down, professionals “buckle down” to finish the year strong. Networking is one of the most valuable tools and skills a business person can have.

With Labor Day falling late this year we technically lose a full week of networking. I would not be concerned about losing 7 days of networking; look at it as an extra week to prepare for business development activities.

Here are some tips for getting back into the swing of networking.

Look at your online profiles

Granted summer is a time for relaxation and vacations but before doing anything business related I make sure that my online profile is up to date. Did you receive an award or have a business success since you last updated your profile? Adding an award or new accomplishments that you are proud of should be done at this time.

Examine your LinkedIn profile. As we know LinkedIn is the number one online networking site among business professionals and updating this profile is important.  LinkedIn is also a place where people go to find out who you are and what you do. Remember to have a profile that does not focus on selling. Let your experience and personality shine. Your profile should be informative and demonstrate how you can be of assistance to others. In a networking context this is where you can expect a visit from people you have met at networking events.

Networking event.

Networking event.

Set your networking goals, budget and time commitment

Knowing the level of commitment that you are able to give to networking is vital.  Networking is work and part of your overall marketing. The commitment stage is where you decide how much of your time you are going to give to meeting and following up with people as well as how many meetings you will attend. Create a schedule that works for you and does not put too much time pressure on you. Don’t overbook yourself to a point where you cannot get the most out of meetings or events.

Next, create a budget. Not many people think of this, but it is critical and should be built into a networking plan. It’s important to be aware of the amount of money being spent to be a member of each networking group as well as the time spent on networking. We know time is money and to properly network you must spend a significant amount of time. Consider how long meetings are, how often they take place, how many one-on-one meetings you will need to set up and are their extra costs for special events or activities that are not part of annual dues or fees?

Setting goals is among the important elements of networking. How many groups do you want to belong to?  How many of meetings do you wish to attend? Keep this constant throughout the year.

Networking schedule and preparation

It is important to keep track of the networking events that you have on your calendar and to prepare for them thoroughly. The night before the event, review what the meeting is about, what you hope to gain by attending and how you can help others with their business growth. Consider the fact that even if the person you are meeting with cannot help you or send you business, you may be able to assist them. Giving and facilitating relationships is the step in building trust.

Have a follow up plan

Attending an event or making an introduction starts the networking process. How you follow up with people will be critical to the outcome. How are you going to follow up? Are you going to connect with them on LinkedIn, send them an email or a note or call them?  Have a plan of action and as I have recommended in the past, have a system for categorizing new contacts. Focus on those who can send you business but who can also send you referrals. Look for people who you can partner with as well. For different types of contacts or even different professions you should have a system for following up and adding people to your database.

A thoughtful follow-up approach will lead to a positive impression; it shows that you are really interested and not just looking to sell new contacts your products or services. Think about how you are going to ask for a meeting or a call. Once you have set up your follow up, be sure to have an action plan.  I will repeat again, meetings should never be sales calls. Have you ever had lunch with someone who immediately started talking about their services and why you need them? This is a flawed approach and one that will repel people. Get to know people, share information and once trust is built you can offer your solutions.

Have some fun

Summer was fun and there is no reason why the fall can’t be fun. When networking, share your summer experiences, just like you did when you were in elementary school. Ask others to tell you what they did last summer. This is a great way to engage, build rapport and get to know what people like to do outside of work. This approach will be helpful in starting conversations. As you know some of the best business conversations have nothing to do with business at all.

Welcome the fall with open arms and think about these strategies before you head out to your next networking meeting. Check out more about networking from my blog at www.corbettpr.wordpress.com.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Black Monday – Why Proactivity and Being Top of Mind Matters

A financial advisor speaks to a client on the phone.

A financial advisor speaks to a client on the phone.

The financial market meltdown which occurred today, Aug. 24, 2015, is a stark reminder that being proactive matters.

Planning in finance, business and marketing is critical. Today and in the days to come, we will be hearing a lot about portfolios, risk tolerances, retirement, investment and financial planning.

Having a plan for your finances and retirement is important but many Americans fail to plan. Unbelievably, more than half of Americans have not even spoken with a financial advisor. In a time where 30-40 percent of Americans continue to struggle to pay their bills each month, it is amazing so few look for assistance.

These facts and the market meltdown puts into perspective the need for advisors and others who work with clients in the financial professions to be proactive. Communicating regularly is important to prepare for the future and to prepare for eventual downturns.

Proactive communications is key for customer service, relationship building and to maintain trust. Advisors should communicate regularly with clients by phone, in-person and now with technology: Skype, GoToMeeting or Zoom.com. These services allow advisors to meet virtually and “share screens.” With screen sharing it is much easier for an advisor to help his or her client visualize where they are and where they want to go. Engagement with clients allows the advisor to assess risk tolerances as well as educate clients about different strategies.

A financial advisor consults with clients.

A financial advisor consults with clients.

Staying top of mind is also important. Advisors must communicate and share information regularly and when important news breaks. As we move through this current financial downturn, all businesses can learn a lesson: it should not take a crisis for a service provider to contact you. Your team should be in regular contact and understand your specific needs and challenges.

It is also vital for advisors and business professionals to listen to their clients and the marketplace. What are they discussing online and what are they sharing? What are they (clients) discussing online and what are they sharing? What are they reading and watching? During a day like today, clients are watching news and business news networks; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites are buzzing with news and commentary. Understanding your clients and where they get their news is important. Some advisers correctly ask their clients what media outlets they follow and they connect with clients on social media. Although constrained in some cases by compliance rules, there are no rules against listing and finding out client concerns.

A few takeaways:

  • Communicate regularly with clients to provide information and education.
  • Listen to markets and observe what interests and concerns clients.
  • Provide solutions or at least assurances when crisis periods take place.
  • Have an ongoing communications plan and process to take during challenging periods.
  • Encourage planning; this is important for everyone in terms of finances but also in terms of business, marketing and when seeking personal objectives

This, unfortunately, is an historic day. Let’s hope it does not mark the beginning of a new economic downturn or recession. We can learn from today that ongoing relationships can regular communications can and do play a vital role. Clients will gain great respect for any advisor who is proactive and thoughtful.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

The Subway PR Crisis, What Should Franchisees Do?

A Subway franchise owner.

A Subway franchise owner.

Another Reason why Personal Branding Matters

I have written about the Subway Jarod Fogle spokesperson scandal and crisis PR recently. I understand what the management, marketing team and PR firm for Subway is doing this week. It has been a roller-coaster and certainly a challenge for them; this is truly a nightmare for a corporation. While I have discussed spokespeople before in blogs, I am not going to focus on the spokespeople for this blog. I have a different take and a marketing strategy that most franchises should take, both on how to market as well as how to weather a crisis.

Let me start by saying that I like Subway and give them great credit for building a brand and empowering so many entrepreneurs.  I have been to Subway shops many times and have been treated well.  Through Subway, many people around the word are experiencing the American dream of business ownership. They provide for their families, they create jobs as well as economic activity. They provide food at a reasonable cost and for the most part are a positive influence in communities; but, I feel quite sorry these days for the average Subway franchise owner. They have no control over who the corporate management chooses to use as a spokesperson and have little control, if any, over national marketing programs. However, there is no doubt that they do benefit from national marketing and branding efforts. The branding is part of the overall rationale behind franchising in the first place. I have worked with a number of franchises and understand the model from the franchisee as well as the franchisor perspective.

I hope that the marketing team at Subway is thinking about its franchise owners and local operators. The franchise was founded in Connecticut in 1974 and today has close to 70,000 units in over 100 countries. Interestingly the company does not own any units.

The damage of the current controversy will impact store sales, some more than others. Negative publicity for any reason will have an impact.  Most consumers also know that the crisis is not the individual franchisee’s fault, but it is their problem. Negative perceptions will hurt them.

If I was on the Subway marketing team, I would focus my attention on the franchisees and provide them with support, tools and a long term strategy for localized marketing which should include a personal branding and marketing plan for franchise owners. Subway shops are no different than any other local business. They are part of communities and rely on people for business. Franchises like Subway, unlike most other small businesses (restaurants in particular), have owners out front. What I mean by this is that in my market, Long Island, New York, it is not uncommon for you to walk into a diner, Italian restaurant or even a sushi place and be greeted warmly by an owner, chef or hostess. Many of the most successful local restaurants have owners who get to know their patrons, interact with them and treat them special. They make customers feel like family and this builds loyalty. This works with chefs and hostesses as well but not as effectively when you have an owner interacting directly with the customers. The key is the relationship. This relationship-focused approach is something that franchises, and in this case, Subway, need to embrace. When customers know the owners, they have a relationship with them, can compliment them or provide feedback. Even negative feedback is important for businesses and the owner is the best person to deliver it to.

A Subway franchise location.

A Subway franchise location.

Recognizing that franchises do not have this type of structure, for the most part, is a challenge but it can be turned into an advantage if done properly. Like me, many people like Subway, but they don’t know the owner. If they did, when a crisis hits, having a relationship will help the franchisee weather the storm. People will come back because they know the owner and like them. This personal connection is invaluable but must be cultivated. Here are a few personal branding strategies for franchise owners:

  1. Be present: Franchise models are designed so that owners don’t have to be there. While is true, this does not mean that they should not be there. Owners should spend time at their operations, greet people and speak with them.
  2. Be active in the community: Some Subway shops provide food, support and other items for charity or local groups. Owners need to be part of this and part of the engagement with community members.
  3. Local press: There is no reason that good work cannot be touted in the media. Owners, who have interesting stories to tell, should tell them and be available to the local media for stories. However, in the case of Jarod Fogle or crisis situations from corporate, it is best to not to get involved. All media inquiries should be forward to the regional or corporate office. However, local positive business stories or franchise stories are certainly fair game.
  4. Social media: Subway has a large and active social media presence and this helps local owners and operators with branding and promotions. However, local operators should also have a presence online and be part of the online/local online community. Social media should be used to allow the community to get to know who the owner is, what they stand for and what they are passionate about. Again, this is another way to make connections and build valuable relationships that matter when crisis situations occur.
  5. Join local organizations and business groups: This is simple marketing 101. Owners need to be out at groups and remain. Business people need to buy lunch. Do you think that they would frequent Subway shops more often if they know the owner? I do.
  6. Speak: People are interested in big brands and business owners. The branding of Subway or any international brand will open doors. Owners should create presentations for local groups and present the lessons learned as a Subway/business owner.
  7. Educate: Schools and camps are looking for activities for students. They also want to give them life lessons. I remember going to a Roy Rogers as a child. I still remember how they made the burgers and the fact that they placed a little butter on the hamburger buns. This is a memory that has stuck with me for over 40 years.
  8. Have a personal marketing plan: The steps outlined here are part of a personal marketing plan. The owner of a Subway or any franchise should have a personal marketing plan that will allow them to become better known in their community. With the right approach and commitment to the effort, a franchise owner can become a local rock star. We know rock stars attract attention and interest. Interest will lead to customers and will also blossom into relationships. These activities create good will. Through good will and relationships is an insurance policy in the event that a crisis should one day occur.

The Subway Jarod Fogle controversy presents an opportunity for all franchise owners to look at their marketing and their reputations in their communities. Franchisees leverage their brands to grow their businesses and this is an advantage in many ways. Branding and frequent messages builds awareness and a modest level of trust. However, personal relationships and direct interaction with customers build stronger trust and loyalty and can mean the difference in weathering a given crisis.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Simple Marketing Strategies for Accountants and Accounting Firms to Beat their Competition

Accountant.

Accountant.

Over the past 25 years I have worked with and networked with many accountants and accounting firms. My team and I have secured media coverage and built personal brands for professionals. We have developed websites with firms as well as LinkedIn and other online strategies for individuals.

The field of accounting is more competitive than ever. Most accountants generate new business via referrals. Although accountants possess special expertise in what they do and are able to build trusting relationships with clients, they struggle with marketing effectively for new sources of business. For many accountants projecting their expertise and their unique value is challenging. A few years ago I gave a presentation on personal marketing to a group of 100 accountants on Long Island. When I asked who in the room has a personal marketing plan, only five raised their hands, and when I asked if their firm has a marketing plan, only about 15 raised their hands.

This response rate is slightly below the average that I see when speaking with small business owners or managers.

Accountants are in a unique position to market themselves and their firms because of the special relationships they have with clients and other professionals. Based on the work that my team at Corbett Public Relations has done with accountants, we wanted to share some strategies that work and will make your firm stand out. While these recommendations are geared toward accountants, they can also be applied by other professionals and businesses.

Video

Create a video about the firm discussing not only what the firm does, but specialties, giving examples of how the firm has assisted clients to be more successful or overcome challenges. Videos should feature the firm’s accountants relating who they are, why they do what they do and how they help clients. Stay away from listing services and explaining in details about accounting practices. People will not remember descriptions of services but they will remember stories and examples. Tell stories which will resonate with prospects, clients and referral sources.

Accountants, like all businesspeople, must be completely prepared and comfortable before going on camera. Practice and, if necessary, contact a firm like Corbett Public Relations to secure the training and professional advice needed to project a powerful message. Accountants who want to have the competitive advantage will have to invest the time and some money on training. Production is important, but how you appear on camera and your message is much more important.

Why video? Savvy business owners, young business executives and growth focused referral sources are looking for partners who they can build relationships with. They want to watch videos and they want to work with professionals who understand how to market effectively online and on mobile devices today.

Firms and individuals will struggle to get the attention of startups, growth focused companies, tech companies and businesses that have been passed to younger family members if they don’t understand how to use video to market.

Personal Marketing Plan

Every accountant and/or partner needs to have their own personal marketing plan.  The marketing plan will establish goals, clarity marketing messages and identify what online sites or tools will be used, such as LinkedIn. Additionally, every accountant must have a fully completed LinkedIn profile. This includes having a quality image/headshot, videos, a profile written in the first person and messaging telling people who you are and why you do what you do.

A personal or firm marketing plan is the road map for success. It will establish a process for communicating with prospects. The development of the plan also allows the firm to create ideal client profiles. Gathering this information is essential for marketing. With this information in hand materials can be created and the process of communicating with prospects and referral sources can begin. Without a plan and process there is no way to track success. We know that accountants are ROI focused and want to use their time efficiently and effectively. This is why there must be a mechanism for judging success.

The unique relationships that accountants have with clients create wonderful opportunities to gather stories about the challenges business owners face. Every challenge and solution is an opportunity for an accountant to tell a story and highlight a success. While the names of clients can’t be revealed the discussion of the types of issues and problems can be the foundation for blog posts or long form posts on social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Accountants should not be fooled to think that social media will not help them. Success stories and stories of interesting challenges will attract attention and demonstrate capabilities and knowledge. Since most accountants are not taking advantage of this approach those who do will stand out. Combined with video, the firm will attract attention when they are active online.

Accountants can also provide a wide variety of helpful information for business growth and management and this expertise can be leveraged to get media coverage through PR. Accountants can then use media coverage to build the firm’s brand and their individual reputations as experts and advocates for clients and businesses.

Every marketing plan must have a budget and schedule. Marketing requires resources and energy. This means spending money and putting in time. With a marketing schedule, calendar and goals a program can be implemented. The elements of the program and its goals will dictate how much time will be needed and how much money will need to be spent. Funds spent on marketing should be looked at as an investment and not as an expense.

The growth in the number of young professionals, advances in technology and new marketing strategies will make it much more challenging for small accounting firms with older partners to survive and compete. To compete and keep current clients individuals and firms must adopt proactive marketing approaches and embrace digital media and video as part of their marketing plans.

Networking

Accountants must have a system for approaching networking events and for following up with the people they meet. Accountants, particularly solo practitioners and those from small firms network but do not do it effectively or efficiently. This is a challenge that accountants and most businesspeople face.

A good system starts with creating a process for following up with people that are encountered at events. Without this there is no reason to go to a networking event in the first place. Determine the criteria to use to classifying contacts and how you will follow up with them. For example, after you get their business card mark on it P–Prospect, R–Referral Source, M–Marketing prospect or N–not sure. Add these people to the database. Based on the person’s classification, a follow up procedure should be established.

There are plenty of places to go to network. Every networking event should be viewed as “work.” Set goals and remember the purpose of networking, which is to meet people and build relationships. Networking groups are costly, not in terms of the membership fees but in time spent. Determine how much you need to benefit financially each year as a member of a networking group and focus on achieving your goal. If this goal is not met at the end of the second year, then you may not be in the right group or your approach is not working. After assessing your activities either re-commit or move on. It may be wise to stop networking and look to other forms of marketing. Remember, networking and relationships building must include one-on-one meetings which occur after or between events.

Accountants are in the unique position of having the trust of clients and this is the reason why other professionals and businesses want to build relationships with them. It is also why it is easier for accountants to get meetings or introductions. Leverage your knowledge, contacts and skills to market and build relationships. Keep in mind what it is that prospects need and expect. Today, they expect accountants and firms to have video content, quality websites and a social media presence. Accountants must use their skills knowledge and status of the most trusted advisor to market and attract the attention of prospects and referral sources.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Are Lifeguards Watching Out for Your Brand?

A lifeguard watching over a pool.

A lifeguard watching over a pool.

Tragically, Long Island beaches have experienced a number of rip currents this summer that have led to drownings. Rip currents drag swimmers out into deep water. Swimmers then drown as they become exhausted fighting to swim back to shore. Even non-swimmers can get swept away by a rip current when standing in shallow water. Rip currents, rip tides and undertows are powerful forces of the sea that are difficult for even the most experienced swimmers to contend with. To escape the rip, the person must swim parallel to shore and NEVER swim against the current.

Unfortunately, swimmers panic and tire out in a short period of time and/or they may not know what to do in this type of situation. As a former lifeguard, I know the challenges and pressures a lifeguard faces when watching water conditions.  Lifeguards use their eagle eyes to look out for the safety of swimmers. I never was a lifeguard at an ocean beach – only at pools and lakes – but I had to come to the aid of close to 50 swimmers in just two summers.

Jumping into the ocean when lifeguards are not on duty is a risk, one that no one should ever take. The same is true for your brand.  When you open your business and jump into marketing and promotion, once you put just one foot into the water you are exposed to threats and risks to your business, which could consist of angry customer reviews or comments on social media, negative word of mouth comments about your business or a product or a poor review in the media.

There are many ways a brand or business can get in trouble. Some problems are completely out of the control of the business owner or management: a fire, an unwarranted lawsuit, theft by an employee, an extended power outage or a computer virus. Any of these can cause a major disruption in business and will quickly have a negative impact on a brand.

Every business must have a crisis plan in place for the day when something unexpected happens. The crisis plan, like an insurance policy, will provide you with a process for reacting to the problem at hand. The plan is only part of your response. You also need a “lifeguard,” somebody who can help keep you away from danger and step in when something bad happens. In fact, you need more than one lifeguard to make up an effective support team.

Your professional business team.

Your professional business team.

Your business lifeguard team must be comprised of the following professionals:

Reputation Monitor 

We live in the digital age and social media is a key part of marketing and branding. A crisis for any business can start online or in the cyber world. Negative reviews, comments and articles can damage a brand or business. Failure to know that your brand is under attack is unacceptable. It’s imperative that you or your team monitor your brand online. If you don’t have the time or lack experience, have your digital marketing firm monitor and report to you regularly about your online reputation. They should also have a plan ready should your brand come under attack online or in the real world.

We regularly monitor online news, social media sites and websites to make sure that nothing negative is being said about our clients’ companies, their products, their services, their staff, or owners/management. Online reputations must be monitored and if there is a need to address an issue, it must be done in the right way. Negative reviews, comments or even videos can damage a company’s ability to attract and keep business.

Crisis Communication Expert / Public Relations – Media Relations Expert 

If a crisis situation impacts customers, business or a community, it is likely to become of interest to the media. Negative press can lead to loss of business, clients questioning their relationship with you and damage to your brand (personal or business). Having a communications plan and a crisis communications expert available to you is important. At Corbett Public Relations we work with clients on Long Island and across the nation to establish a procedure to follow during a crisis. We see ourselves as professionals who are promoters and protectors of brands. Reacting to a crisis situation in the media takes thought and consideration. Every incident is different and those with decades of experience, such as the individuals on my team, know how to manage communications in all kinds of situations. At a minimum the owner of a business should consult with a firm and have a plan for managing a crisis and know who to call if the situation escalates. Would you know what to do if the media calls or shows up with cameras at your office? If you don’t, you need a plan today and the help of a crisis communications expert.

Attorneys

Your attorneys protect you before, during and after an incident. Make sure to consult with them and discuss potential risks and know how to get in touch with them during nights and weekends should a crisis situation occur. Discuss your concerns with your attorneys so you know that they are prepared to handle the types of situations that could possible occur. Attorneys have different types of practices so make sure your attorney is experienced in handling crisis situations.

Accountant/CPA

Crisis situations can come from many directions. Bankruptcy, fraud, ID theft, tax issues and other financial issues require the assistance of accountants. Your accountant should act proactively to warn you about issues and potential problems that could occur from their perspective. Your accountants will also be part of your team to provide reports and financial information should you need to defend your business and brand in court or with authorities.

Insurance Professionals

Everyone and every business has insurance. In addition to knowing the coverage that your policies provide, it is critical that you also know and trust your insurance agent and local broker. These are the people who will fight for you if and when a crisis occurs.

Depending on the company that the policy is purchased from and the kind of policy, there are many details that you will need to know. Having a good relationship with your broker will help. We saw this play out on Long Island after Super Storm Sandy in 2012. Thousands of people and businesses were impacted by flooding and extended power outages. Local insurance professionals played an important part in helping clients submit property claims and get the funds they needed to rebuild and survive. Insurance companies will also assign attorneys to defend clients following incidents. Remember to look at this part of your policy to get an understanding of how it works and get the name of the firm that could potentially be defending you.

Often crisis situations occur without warning. Trying to manage them as they happen is a challenge. Take the time in advance to create a plan, put together a list of the critical actions that need to be taken and be sure that you have all necessary contact information at your fingertips. Keep copies of your plan at the office, at your home and in a place that is accessible online at all times.

Lifeguards are on duty to protect as well as to jump-in to save a swimmer in an emergency. Every business needs to have a team of “lifeguards” watching out for the management and the brand. The swimmer (the business owner or management) must also know what to do in case of a crisis and certainly never take risks when the lifeguards are not on duty.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

End of an Era for an Entertainment and Business Venue

Business Events, Memories and Lessons Learned at the Nassau Coliseum

Earlier this week I attended the Billy Joel concert that marked the final show at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, New York. The show was both memorable and special. As a Billy Joel fan for decades, this was the first time I have seen him live in concert; I hope it is not the last. It was strange to walk into the venue that I have been to well over 100 times for concerts, games, business events and trade and consumer shows. Almost all the signage outside and within the area was gone.  The crowd walking in was upbeat and we all knew that this would be a memorable evening.

While You Were Out host

WPIX 11 “While You Were Out” host Leslie Segrete at the Nassau Coliseum Home Show.

Going to the Coliseum brought back over 30 years of memories of events I attended or promoted there. Corbett Public Relations specializes in securing publicity for clients sponsoring large events. Over the years, we have worked with an eclectic group of clients that held events at the Nassau Coliseum, including multiple home and consumer shows that featured all types of home renovation, remodeling and products and services companies. We also promoted the Nassau Coliseum Fair for several years, an event held in the parking lot.

A flyer for the March 2010 Home Show at the Nassau Coliseum.

A flyer for the March 2010 Home Show at the Nassau Coliseum.

The Fall and Spring Home Shows were very different from each other and interesting events. They included between 200 and 350 exhibitors, several seminars and contests sponsored by local radio stations. Shows ran for three days; Friday through Sunday. Shows were fun to be a part of for several reasons. During the time we promoted the home shows, television home makeover programs were very popular with consumers. You may remember the Discovery Channel programs While You Were Out and Trading Spaces. We were fortunate to have many of the show designers and carpenters as guests at these home shows. Leslie Segrete, Andrew Dan Jumbo and Frank Bileck were three “celebrities” that were great to work with; they were excellent educators and promoters. In the past I have written stories about working with celebrities; I can say that these three people were “good” to work with, not among the bad or the ugly. They cooperated with me to do media interviews, including early morning live remotes that started at 5 a.m. They carried show messages well and were friendly with audiences.

A John Deere vendor during one of the Home Shows at the Nassau Coliseum.

A John Deere lawnmower race broadcast live on WPIX 11 during the Home Shows at the Nassau Coliseum.

The exhibitors at the home shows, for the most part, were local businesses mixed with some national product vendors. It was enlightening and inspiring to work with local business owners seeking to grow their companies. We looked for new products and services to promote and we helped to educate exhibitors on how to promote themselves and attract attention. There are do’s and don’ts in the trade show business and we found that new exhibitors often needed assistance. The management company and my firm provided training and support. We also provided media training for exhibitors who were lucky enough to be part of our live or recorded television segments.

We also worked with local trade groups to produce a quality insert that was published and included in the Sunday edition of Newsday. Two home shows each year for several years was a lot of work, but the energy of working with entrepreneurs at the Nassau Coliseum was rewarding.

News 12 Long Island conducting an interview during a Home Show at the Nassau Coliseum.

Trading Spaces star Frank Bileck being interviewed by News 12 Long Island during a Home Show at the Nassau Coliseum.

We secured dozens of live and recorded media interviews before and during shows. This publicity attracted attendance and provided show exhibitors with valuable media coverage. When exhibiting at a show, it’s always good to communicate with the show’s PR team to let them know about new products and services and special promotions. I know from experience that they want to be given this information; it helps them and the exhibitors get the most marketing value out the show.

Dondi the Elephant during an event at the Nassau Coliseum.

Dondi the Elephant live at the Nassau Coliseum Fair on Fox 5 News.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the convention space will be revamped. This was needed at the Coliseum back when we did the shows and is sorely needed now to enhance economic development in the region. The old convention venue was actually an underground parking facility and was used to store equipment and even circus animals when it wasn’t used for trade or other shows. I can tell you it is not a good idea to have a trade show in the same space where just a few days before, elephants, camels and horses were being stabled.

From the marketing and event perspective, what I gained was a keen understanding of the logistics of a venue like the Nassau Coliseum and the rules. There were strict rules on hours of access, labor and media access; these rules became challenges. Thankfully, I was aware of most of them and was able to plan to ensure that media crews would be granted access and I knew when labor was required. It’s important to communicate with event production companies and venues well in advance. Doing this and knowing the rules and schedules is vital. We had one Home Show that was delayed due to a hurricane and another by snow. Exhibitors who followed the schedule and the rules got in, but those who did not missed a day of valuable exhibit time.

The Nassau Coliseum Fair.

Fox 5 News filming live at the Nassau Coliseum Fair.

The Nassau Coliseum Fair was an enjoyable event we publicized. For over two decades my firm has promoted large fairs, concerts and balloon festivals. More than one million people have attended the events that we have promoted. In July I wrote about what it’s like to do live morning TV. One memory related to the Nassau Coliseum Fair stands out. This particular fair took place in July when we were experiencing a heat wave and the event was in the parking lot, which didn’t help. We scheduled a live morning remote with the WPIX 11 Morning News.

Morning TV at the Nassau Coliseum Home Show.

Larry Hoff live on WPIX 11 Morning TV at the Nassau Coliseum Home Show.

Over the years I have done over 100 live mornings with WPIX and this wasn’t going to be any different, or so I thought. I arrived at about 5 a.m. The TV crew and truck were expected at 5:30 a.m. I had several performers set up for high wire performances and acrobatics. At 6 a.m. it started to rain very hard. A summer thunderstorm that was not predicted to hit the area materialized and very quickly the parking lot (with only a few drains) was flooded. We were actually in the middle of a flash flood. Thankfully, one of the acts, a family that operated a circus, had a big top and we took refuge. The skies were dark, the thunder roared, but the show went on even though the water level rose and the wind rocked the tent. Of course we checked the tent supports every 10 minutes to make sure we were safe. We changed some performers on the fly, but all the segments were done live under the tent with lights and some improvisation.

WLNY-TV 55 at the Nassau Coliseum Home Show.

WLNY-TV 55 at the Nassau Coliseum Home Show with Frank Bileck.

Fortunately, I knew that we had access to the big top and that the performers were spirited and I could count on them. We created a great morning with five segments of live and exciting TV coverage. We were a little wet by the end, but the job was done. Ironically, as the TV crew packed up and headed out of the parking lot of the Nassau Coliseum, there was a burst of sunlight starting a great weekend that was warm and dry.

Memories have been made, business opportunities were realized and lessons were learned. The renovation of the Nassau Coliseum will give us a more modern and a bit smaller facility. The area will be developed with new businesses, restaurants, entertainment and an improved exhibition hall. Soon this new venue will be where new memories will be made and new opportunities created.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Marketing Lessons from Beach Wrestling

Beach Wrestling.

Beach Wrestling.

On a hot Saturday afternoon I went for a stroll on the boardwalk in Long Beach, Long Island, New York. Thousands of people were enjoying the beach, walking, biking, playing volleyball and wrestling. Yes, wrestling.

It is commonplace for concerts to be held along this iconic Long Island boardwalk. From a distance I could see a crowd gathered in front of a stage. I approached the stage but did not hear any music. I thought to myself maybe the performers are between songs or sets. As I got closer I could see there was some sort of competition going on. When I arrived, my assumption was correct.

I saw three rings. These “rings” were basically rope circles about 20 feet across. I wondered what was happening. Then a young Asian woman entered one of the rings. She warmed up and stretched. A few moments later a young man entered the ring. Before I knew it they were grappling. The match was quite good; as a high school wrestler, I appreciated the skill and the dedication of athletes like these two young people. A minute later another wrestling match started in the second ring. Two very large young men squared off. It was more akin to sumo wrestling than the match in the first ring with the smaller athletes.

Both matches lasted just a few minutes. I can’t see how they could go very long in the 90-plus degree heat. The young lady, by the way, did not win, but it was close.

You never know where you will be when you see something remarkable. I vaguely recall someone mentioning wrestling at the beach. I thought this was just a bunch of friends getting together and going at it. I learned that it is considered a real sport and that right here on Long Island people of all ages and both sexes are enthusiasts. It’s great to see people compete in sports that they love.

Beach wrestling at the Jersey Shore.

Beach Wrestling

What I watched was remarkable in another way. Although it was not the first time for me to see men and women compete against each other, this was not any ordinary competition. The young lady was obviously there to compete and no doubt she loves this sport. She appeared dedicated, skilled and fearless. She had the crowd on her side and she got the attention of those – like me – walking by. The lesson here is don’t be afraid to pursue your passions and don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. You may not win the match, but you are in the ring. Simply being in the ring allows you to make an impression on others and gain valuable experience.

Every week I talk with business people who relate their ongoing struggles to achieve the level of success that they want and need. Many fear taking chances with their marketing and marketing dollars. They sit on the sidelines; they don’t jump into the ring so they fail to get the attention they need to grow and succeed.

If you are not ready to wrestle (build your brand and market yourself), then find a coach, get some training and start preparing (read books, blogs and listen to podcasts or attend seminars). Business is a wrestling match; you must get in the ring with your competition to show the audience (your prospects) your skills and abilities. When you make a positive impression in the ring, you will gain respect and this will stimulate business growth.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

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