Posted by: hopesbtw | May 6, 2010

Celebrating the 4th of July with a Bang!

While it may be early to begin planning a 4th of July barbecue party for friends or a special family vacation for the holiday weekend, it’s not too soon to begin thinking of ways you can commemorate this holiday through your business with a PR initiative, campaign or event.

The 4th of July (also known as Independence Day) is a federal holiday that recognizes the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This is a perfect opportunity to display your patriotism by hanging an American flag at your business location or co-sponsoring a community government event.

Along with flags and patriots, this holiday makes us think of fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals and fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, and other events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States of America. So, think about combining the traditional 4th of July celebrations with some of the other awareness campaigns in July, and align with the holiday for a PR initiative that lasts throughout the entire month:

  • Fireworks Safety Month: Everyone loves to see the colorful explosion of fireworks during holidays like the 4th of July. But, fireworks can be as dangerous as they are beautiful, and the National Council of Fireworks Safety (NCFS) has designated July as Fireworks Safety Month. The NCFS has fireworks safety tips and advice on its Web site (www.fireworksafety.com) that you can put on flyers and hand out to your customers and other members of your community. You can also create a sign in or outside your place of business to advertise the safety measures.
  • National Hot Dog Month & National Ice Cream Month: Since July is also National Hot Dog Month and National Ice Cream Month, traditional food choices at 4th of July celebrations, consider hosting a 4th of July barbecue party event to show your support to your dedicated customers and attract new customers. You can give out free hot dogs and ice cream, along with information about new developments, services, or products available at your business.
  • National Recreation and Parks Month: The weather is warm and the parks are usually filled with kids during July, the start of summer. This year, consider sponsoring a 4th of July fundraising gathering to celebrate the holiday and bring attention to National Recreation and Parks Month. The funds you raise can help finance necessary renovations or a new piece of playground equipment. This kind of PR initiative adds value to your community all year long.

When you deliver your business message wrapped up in the trappings of a celebratory holiday, you make it an easy one to remember.

Posted by: hopesbtw | March 30, 2010

PR Opportunity: National Teacher Day

Plan ahead! Use these helpful tips from NEA to brand your business and recognize National Teacher Day on May 4: http://bit.ly/cT23h6

Posted by: hopesbtw | March 23, 2010

Hope’s BTW – The Red, White and Blue of PR

This May, as the weather turns warmer and we begin to savor the freedom of the great outdoors, it is important to remember that some members of our communities will be far from home this spring. Actually, those people, the men and women of the United States Military, are the very ones we have to thank for our freedom. And just because they are out of sight should not mean they are out of mind.

For this reason, Congress has designated May as National Military Appreciation Month (www.nmam.org), an awareness campaign designed to “honor, remember, recognize and appreciate” everyone on active duty across all branches of service. It is a time for people throughout the country to rally in their communities and highlight their own hometown heroes. Simply put, it is a time to put all politics aside.

So what can you, as a business, do to show your customers that you are proud of our men and women in uniform? Try dedicating some space in your location to focus on area residents who are currently serving in the military. You can include photos, biographies and contact information for people who may want to stay in touch. You can even sponsor a letter-writing campaign with children at an area school or collect supplies like lip gloss, energy bars, CDs, and paperback books to bring a touch of home and comfort to those serving overseas.

Of course, be sure to acknowledge area veterans and their service too. Offer them a special discount or host a morning breakfast to thank them for their dedication. You can also volunteer at your local VFW or join local service-based organizations such as Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Shriner and Elks clubs to sponsor an event in their honor. Just don’t forget to invite the area newspapers and radio stations to the events, as well.

And, if you are not flying the Red, White, and Blue already, make sure your business is proudly displaying the American Flag throughout the month of May. Don’t wait for Memorial Day – make the entire month a celebration of what it means to be an American.

Posted by: hopesbtw | March 9, 2010

Hope’s BTW – National Youth Traffic Safety Month

They say April showers bring May flowers, but May also brings prom season, graduations and summer road trips for young adults, creating lots of opportunities for young people to get behind the wheel of a car. And, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To raise awareness about statistics such as this, May has been designated National Youth Traffic Safety Month. This month-long awareness program creates a great opportunity for you to get involved in your community and show your customers that you care about more than just selling your products or services – you care about their lives, and their families’ lives, too.

Here are some ways to make a difference while creating a positive brand image in your community:

Safe Driving 101 – Partner with your local driving school to sponsor a free seminar about basic safe driving, such as driving within the speed limit, buckling up, and no cell phone texting. Not only does this help both businesses get their name out in the community, it will help those who attend your event become smarter drivers.

D.A.R.E. to Make a Difference – Hundreds of people are injured or killed by alcohol- or drug-impaired drivers each year. Join your local police department or D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program to sponsor a marathon, where money raised goes to families or organizations affected by drivers under the influence, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (http://www.madd.org/).

Friendly Competition – Design a contest that challenges the young adults in your local community to organize their own initiative for the campaign. The individual or group that thinks of the best way to encourage their community to stop drinking and driving can win things such as money for a scholarship, or free services and/or products.

Endorse It – Design posters and flyers that remind young adults about driving sober. Hang posters at your business, mail flyers to customers, and bring a few of the flyers to the local schools for them to advertise. You can also think of a creative slogan, such as “Ditch the Drinking,” and create T-shirts or bumper stickers with your logo and hand them out for free to community members.

Get your thinking caps on and find out how you can join this initiative. To learn more ways on how your business can recognize National Youth Traffic Safety Month this May, visit the National Organization of Youth Safety’s Web site at http://noys.org/YouthTrafSafe/toolkit.html.

Posted by: hopesbtw | February 17, 2010

Keep Your Piece of America Beautiful

As a business owner, you know you have a responsibility to your local community, but you may have some questions about how to meet it. How can you contribute to your community in a way that will truly resonate with residents? Is there an approach you can take that can serve your community’s as well as your business’ needs?

That’s where the Keep America Beautiful Campaign, which is officially recognized during the month of April, comes in. Sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization, its mission is to engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments through litter prevention, waste reduction/recycling and community beautification.

It’s a campaign that is certain to hit home, on some level, with nearly everyone in your community. Eco-savvy or not, most people will welcome any simple initiatives that help make their town or city look its best – especially as the spring season gets underway and people opt to spend more time outdoors.

So whether it’s planting trees along urban streets or providing recycling receptacles at your establishment, make it a point to help Keep America Beautiful this April. Use one of the ideas below as a starting point, and ask your employees for their ideas and input. Then, let your grassroots initiatives begin.

• Think outside of the box with recycling: Recycling newspapers as well as glass, plastics and aluminum has become commonplace, but many residents are still unaware of how to properly dispose of their electronics. Encourage the members of your community to “e-cycle,” by placing bins at your location where they can drop off old or unused cell phones, televisions or computers. Visit earth911.com for a list of recycling centers that can serve as partners in your efforts.

• Paper or plastic? Try suggesting neither: For many shoppers, carrying a canvas tote bag to transport their purchases has become the norm, so why not have eco-conscious members of your community sport one with your logo? You can give the branded bags away to customers who spend a predetermined amount at your store or designate a day of the month when you will give one out with every order. If you’d rather not create your own bags, offer a discount to those customers who use a reusable bag or decline a bag for their purchases.

• Get dirty and dig in: Trees and flowers do more than just please the eyes – they actually help purify the air. So organize – and equip – a team of volunteers to spruce up your business neighborhood by removing litter and weeds and planting new shrubs and flowers. Or, get your team to donate time – while you donate the materials – at a local school or community center that could benefit from your green thumbs.

For more information on ways you can help Keep America Beautiful, visit http://www.kab.org.

Posted by: hopesbtw | January 27, 2010

Story Ideas – March: National Women’s History Month

March brings thoughts of spring and celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day – but did you know that it is also National Women’s History Month? Mother Teresa, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, and Hilary Clinton: these are just some of the women who have had a significant impact on our history. They join other women honored as role models in March for their achievements in science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine, and other disciplines.

Integrating this awareness month into your PR initiatives for 2010 is easy to do, as there are certainly businesswomen, volunteers, and others in your community to spotlight. Young women and girls today could really use some positive role models.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Past: Talk about HERstory.
Make it your mission to educate your community about women’s history by focusing on a specific woman who made a difference in your industry. Those in the health services field, for example, might spotlight Elizabeth Blackwell, the country’s first female doctor. Post flyers around your business, hand out logo-branded informational brochures about her and her initiatives, or invite your local librarian in to give children in the community a history lesson about Blackwell and her contributions to the field of medicine.

Present: Honk your own horn!
Are you a female business owner? Do you have women in positions of influence in your company? Talk about it! Here’s an opportunity for you to promote yourself and your female staff members as professional resources in your community. Hold support seminars for other women in the community who are looking to become entrepreneurs, interested in making career changes, or those who just want a boost of self-esteem by learning about how you climbed the career ladder. Your story can inspire others.

Future: Make a difference.
Help women in your community improve their future by encouraging them to make strides in their careers and personal lives. Sponsor – and promote – a mentorship or internship program at your business. Or, volunteer your time at your local women’s homeless shelter and offer your employees incentives to do the same. Donate goods and/or services to groups that support single parents. There are many organizations that could use some help from their fellow business community members.

There’s a great opportunity here for PR professionals and business owners to raise their profile in the community while making a real contribution. National Women’s History Month is not just about highlighting women of the past, it’s also about inspiring and supporting the women who will be tomorrow’s role models. For more information about this awareness campaign, visit the National Women’s History Project organization at http://www.nwhp.org.

Posted by: hopesbtw | January 19, 2010

Responding to the Chaos in Haiti

As the devastating images of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti dominate news coverage, many of us are feeling helpless and are looking for ways to lend a hand. How do we make donations?  What do we give?  How do we know that our contribution will have a positive effect?

Well, officials have made it clear that Haiti is in dire need of one resource, and that is money, since the nation’s demolished infrastructure has rendered it incapable at this time of effectively handling shipments of goods.  Charities ranging from AmeriCares to UNICEF have dedicated areas of their Web sites to enable people to electronically submit funds. Making a difference is just a few clicks away.

So how do you, as a business, participate in this “virtual” charitable initiative?  You go to where your customers and prospects are and you speak their language – through Facebook postings, text messages and “tweets.”

If you haven’t joined the social media revolution, chances are you’ve been told you should – and it’s true. Social media platforms are a quick and efficient way to introduce consumers to your company.  And the disaster relief presents an ideal opportunity to make a positive difference while starting or expanding your social media presence. Use your Twitter account or your business’ Facebook page to spread the word about how people can help. 

If you’ve made a donation on behalf of your business, announce it and invite readers and fans to “follow” your lead.  Consider a reverse corporate match, for example. Challenge your customers, as a community, to make contributions toward matching your donation. Then, update your site frequently on progress as contributions are reported to you by your customers.     

Or perhaps you have an employee who has been directly affected by the disaster. Why not use his or her story to inspire people to give? When you personalize the tragedy that is unfolding, you help your online customer base make a connection with the victims that can only enhance the relief effort.

Of course, at the very least, you should use your social media sites to post links for reputable charities that are currently collecting funds for Haiti disaster relief. For help picking an organization, visit www.charitynavigator.org, which evaluates the effectiveness of charities based on their financial health.

So don’t be afraid to use the tools that are at your fingertips –literally – to generate a charitable response amongst your business community.  People are looking for ways to give.  Go find them and show them the way.

Posted by: hopesbtw | December 17, 2009

Story Ideas – February: Library Lovers Month

Yes. February is a time when many of us think of ways to talk about relationships, love, hearts, and, of course, the color red. This year, why not put a slight twist on the traditional angle and develop a campaign around your relationship with your local library? Why? Well, because, February is Library Lovers Month – a national celebration of school, public and private libraries.

With so much focus on technology and the internet today, it’s easy to forget what a remarkable resource a library can be.  A library card is the key to a world of books, music, movies, and more.  Partnering with your local library gives you a different way to spread news about your business and advertise your brand while supporting this critical public service.

There are several ways you can show your appreciation for libraries in your community. Here are a few events and campaigns to consider:

  • Book Drive: Libraries are always looking for ways to expand their inventory. Therefore, host a drive where community members can drop off gently-used books at your location to be donated. After you’ve collected the books, you can then donate them to the library. You can take it a step further by also making a monetary donation to the library.
  • Read-a-Thon: Partner with your local library to create a contest where children in the community are challenged to read a targeted number of books during the month of February. Design a poster that illustrates a book stack and reflects a weekly count of the amount of books the children read. The child who reads the most books can receive a gift basket with reading items, such as a book light, and a T-shirt branded with your business logo.
  • Library Volunteer Program.  Encourage your customers and others in the community to volunteer their time at their local library. Volunteers can earn points that can be redeemed for merchandise, services or gift certificates at your business.
  • Story Hours. Instead of reaching out, start the initiative at home base. Ask your employees to volunteer to read books to children in hospitals, seniors in nursing homes or other care facilities.

These are just some of the ways you can showcase your business, while also demonstrating your appreciation for the important role your library plays in your community. Share successful campaigns you have initiated with community libraries.

Posted by: hopesbtw | December 7, 2009

It’s the Season of Giving: So, Join a Cause!

Cause-marketing campaigns have proven to be very positive public relations opportunities for businesses in various industry sectors. In fact, the most successful initiatives have been related to charitable initiatives. For example, this summer, the women’s apparel retail company, dressbarn, found success with its annual “Relay for Life” campaign, which is part of the partnership the company has had with the American Cancer Society since 2002. Burlington Coat Factory, kicked off its annual Light the Night Walk this year, to help raise funds for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. And, Symmetry, a direct selling company that provides health-related products, announced this month its partnership with the SUCCESS Foundation, which helps encourage teenagers to set and reach life goals. The winter holiday season is known as the season of giving. Therefore, it is an opportune time for you to get your brand name out there and show your customers and clients that you care about the community. Offer a little holiday cheer and partner with a non-profit organization or charitable initiative that meshes well with your company’s mission.

Posted by: hopesbtw | December 2, 2009

Story Ideas – February: American Heart Month

Whether they are molded from chocolate or cut out of construction paper, hearts of all shapes and sizes will be on display this February in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. But, with heart disease still the leading cause of death in the United States, the most important heart to keep in mind is the one that is beating inside of each of us. 

February is designated as American Heart Month to remind all of us that we need to treat our own hearts – and not only our sweethearts – with care.  This is a perfect time for business owners to build awareness about cardiovascular disease and the disguises it takes while they build brand awareness and goodwill in their communities.

Begin by thinking about collaboration.  What other businesses in your community can you pair up with to take a stance against heart disease?  Considering that the condition can be prevented through diet, exercise and regular health screenings, there are a few strategic partners that should be on the top of your list.

Take your local grocery store, food market or even corner deli, for example.   Why not join with them to sponsor healthy lunch and dinner options, featuring heart-friendly ingredients such as whole grains and unsaturated fats?  Your company’s logo along with a picture of a heart can be used to denote the special menu offerings. 

Additionally, your community’s gym or recreation center is another great place to cross-market this month, since regular physical activity plays a major role in reducing the risk of fatal heart disease.  You can arrange to sponsor a pick-up basketball league, provide branded T-shirts for members, offer discounted or free trial memberships, or even host a 5k walk or run. 

And, of course, you shouldn’t overlook your town’s healthcare providers, including hospitals, health clinics and pharmacies, as marketing partners for American Heart Month.  Complimentary blood pressure screenings are a sure fit, as elevated blood pressure is an initial indicator of heart disease. 

 For more information on heart disease and the steps that can be taken to improve heart health, visit the American Heart Association at (www.americanheart.org). Get the facts, know the statistics and teach your community to be proactive about heart health.

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