I LOVE Northern NY – How to get in on ILNY promotions

BROOKE ROUSE

Many recognize the I LOVE NY brand and think of it as New York City. In fact, I LOVE NY is the official destination brand of New York State.  Each county government designates an organization be the ‘local boots on the ground,’ or tourism promotion agent (TPA) for I LOVE NY, or more specifically, Empire State Development’s Tourism Division.  An annual grant is then administered, combining state and County funds to be used specifically for marketing the County as a destination to out-of-county visitors.

                In addition to the grant funds, the TPAs work closely with the I LOVE NY team on a number of marketing initiatives and state wide campaigns. So how do you, as a business or community, get a piece of the pie?

                Your County TPA creates a marketing plan annually and always appreciates participation from tourism partners. Sometimes cooperative marketing opportunities exist, where you can buy in at an affordable rate to get a lot more. This is done through regional branding efforts, where you can be highlighted in print or digital platforms.

                Your TPA is actively seeking exposure for your county…one of the best ways to do that is through earned media (we do the work to earn the recognition, but don’t necessarily pay any money). For example, the TPA will communicate with writers or the state may organize a trip of writers (also known as a FAM or familiarization tour) to visit and write, blog, photograph the area. Typically we need businesses to host for overnights, meals, excursions, or tours. Typically these things need to be offered for free or at a discount. The ‘host,’ as an active participant will then be covered in the content. These stories have tremendous value that our tourism marketing budgets could not afford, so this is a great opportunity for the destination and the business, product, etc.

                Your TPA is actively updating websites, social media, visitor guides and requests for story leads. The most important thing…PHOTOS. A picture tells a thousand words. High quality (high resolution) photos, showing people doing things are the best way to really tell the story. Any time your community or business can share high quality photos (not smartphone photos) of a festival, activity, landmark – you are sure to be included in the next promotion.

                The more we know, the more we can help. I LOVE NY is constantly sending out story leads for major publications like USA Today, NY Times, etc. They want to know what is new, what is unique. If we know what you are up to (and have high quality photos!), we can quickly send the word (and image) along. Sometimes its quirky – a top 20 list of breakfast features, or unique requests like spa getaways where you can sleep under the stars. The more unique offerings you can create, the better. The more we know about it, the more you benefit.

                The state and other state partners have also developed several thematic campaigns.; Haunted History Trail, PRIDE, Underground Railroad,  Path Through History, Taste NY, to name a few. If you can create an event or have an attraction that is a fit, be sure to let your TPA know.

                To get connected with your local TPA, call 1000 Islands International Tourism Council (Jefferson County) 315-482-2520, Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism & Planning 315-349-8322, or St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce 315-386-4000.

Brooke Rouse is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and a Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center advisor. Contact her at brouse@st.lawrencecountychamber.org.

The Business of Small Business

KRISTEN AUCTER

President Calvin Coolidge stated that “the business of America is business” and although the statement was made in the 1920’s it still rings true today. The encouragement of entrepreneurship across the country idealizes our willingness to take risks and reach for the stars. The successful businesses that run through our small towns and communities provide the nourishment to keep that enthusiasm and those dreams alive.

    Small businesses create a strong middle class, give back exponentially to the community and have been, throughout the nation’s history, the primary source of job creation in the country. It is our job as consumers to continuously provide support to perpetuate the cycle of success to the business owner and the communities we live in.

    According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.7% of US employer firms. Since the last recession they have accounted for 67% of the new jobs created! Those statistics alone should make people want to identify how to continue our small business revolution. Here are some ideas on how you, as a consumer or business, can do just that:

  1. Shop there! This one shouldn’t need much of an explanation. Visit their businesses. Use their services. Make it a habit to check what they have available before going to larger box stores.
  2. Participate in “Small Business Saturday”. Since 2010 American Express has been encouraging consumers to skip Black Friday shopping and support their local small businesses. The campaign was launched in an effort to aid small businesses in gaining exposure and to change the way consumers shop in their own community. Many Chambers of Commerce, including Lewis County’s, open their doors on that day as a welcome station. Providing lists of business open for the day, reusable shopping bags and goodies for kids or pets who may be tagging along!
  3. Encourage your friends and family to shop local. Everyone hates the dreaded question “what do you want for your birthday/Christmas/graduation etc”. Let them know you love what the local shops have to offer. It not only gets you what you want but introduces a new customer to those businesses.
  4. Look into community gift certificates. Many local Chambers offer gift certificates that can be used at multiple participating businesses in the area. Lewis County will have Chamber Ca$h available as of June 1st. It is a dollar for dollar match that will allow the recipient to purchase goods and services locally!
  5. Organize a community event. Small Business Saturday doesn’t have to be the only day of the year to step foot in the doors of these businesses. Be creative and host an event that encourages people to become aware of what hidden treasures your community has.
  6. If you enjoy your experience provide a good review. Yelp, Google and Foursquare are all review sites that other people use when making decisions where to shop. It is the new “word of mouth”. It will increase their visibility in search results and continues to foster that sense of trust in small businesses.
  7. Network. Network. Network. Business After Hours are a great way to know what is new in the community. Most small businesses start out of someone’s home. While these businesses might not have a store front to visit this doesn’t mean they aren’t exactly what you are looking for and you can help them grow. As a Chamber we encourage these new, up and coming businesses to come to Chamber events to let people know what they have to offer.
  8. Collaboration. Do you own a small business? Do you have skills or insight that might be a benefit to someone just starting out? Reach out to your Chamber to host a speaking event in a local speaker series at a free or discounted price.

   Beyond creating jobs, investing in locally owned small businesses keeps money in your community to support other important initiatives through the local sales tax earned. Education, law enforcement and emergency services, parks, and other publically funded programs all benefit immensely.

And, of course, shopping at local small businesses creates a unique experience you can’t have online. Small businesses tend to provide a more personal customer experience and offer special things you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Kristen Aucter is the president and CEO of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. Contact her by emailing kristen@lewiscountychamber.org.

Focus for a Vibrant Future

Kylie Peck

I often find myself ringing in the New Year by reflecting on the past twelve months both personally and professionally and categorizing what worked and what didn’t, how fortunate I am and how I can make improvements for the future. For the sake of this column, I will leave the personal reflections out and focus on the efforts put into the future of the Chamber of Commerce.

    At the chamber office we regularly discuss the importance of our members and how to best serve the needs of businesses in the Greater Watertown region. For 2018 we are focused on strengthening the value of our organization to promote and support business and industry and enhance the community in which we live, work and do business. Plans are in place to educate members on the tools and programs available to them through the chamber. We will focus on retaining the interest and involvement of our existing members and want an even better understanding of each of the businesses we serve. What are your wants and needs? How can we fulfill them? I look forward to having these questions answered by getting to know each of our member businesses better, and continuing to build upon our success while attracting new members, focusing on young professionals and enhancing our overall communication.  

    With changes to the horizon on many levels – federal, state, local – the chamber looks to establish partnerships more than ever. There are many entities in the region that can broaden opportunities to our membership base. We look forward to strengthening partnerships in the areas of business development, education and networking and continue to foster our relationship with Fort Drum. If you are a business or organization that would like to partner with the chamber, or if you have thoughts on a partnership that you feel would benefit the business community, please share them with us. We are always accepting of suggestions from the community we serve.

    As we take on 2018 and focus on our goals established for the upcoming years, we are excited to have two new team members on staff. We welcome Director of Events Kayla Perry and Director of Marketing Jessica Piatt. Each of these women bring vibrancy and enthusiasm to our organization and will help us reach our goals of connecting with young professionals in the region and enhancing our utilization of social media among many others. Kayla and Jessica join us with skill sets that complement each other and enhance the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce team.

    As you continue to map out your year and implement established plans, I encourage you to visit our office to see how we can play a part in a successful 2018. The GWNC Chamber office is located at 1241 Coffeen Street, Watertown, and meetings can be scheduled by calling (315) 788-4400.

Kylie Peck is the president and CEO of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Clayton with her husband and two young boys. Contact her at kpeck@watertownny.com or 315-788-4400.

The Power of Mentorship

Brooke Rouse

Mentorship in professional development is especially beneficial to women leaders, whether those mentors are male or female.  Some women are hesitant to ask for help, others crave constant feedback;  finding a balanced support system of mentors and mentees allows you to continue learning from other perspectives.

                A circle of mentors should include some diversity in experience, age, gender and other defining characteristics. It should include people within your industry and outside your industry, people you know well, and people who are just acquaintances. In some cases a mentor may be a paid coach, lawyer or advisor of another sort. The key to establishing a truly productive mentorship balance is engaging people who will tell you what you need to hear, and what you want to hear…not always at the same time. Personal, emotional, and professional feedback can come in many forms and it is good to have someone on speed-dial for the variety of scenarios you face as a businesswoman and leader.

                The power of mentorship between women of different ages and experience levels has been gaining momentum in the Canton-Potsdam college towns of St. Lawrence County. In 2014 the Young Women’s Leadership Institute of the North Country (YWLI) formed as a partnership between the four colleges and the local chapter of the American Association for University Women (AAUW) and has quickly recruited a number of active and diverse professionals from the county. According to their website (http://ncywli.weebly.com ), the group notes their vision as being “… a membership institute providing opportunities for women to come together from the area colleges and engage with each other, with mentors and other resources in the community, enhancing the leadership development options for young women”.  Professional women in the area mentor college students and the college students have teamed up with middle and high school women. An annual conference and special speaker and networking events throughout the year have helped the board realize that there is a critical role to be played in developing young women leaders.

                Listening and learning, that is what mentorship is; age does not define a mentor. As many professionals in the YWLI have found, they are learning so much from college students, as well as connecting with each other as mentors. Likewise, college students are finding great value in their conversations with older and younger women. A study by LinkedIn in 2014 found that only one in five women have mentors, yet business success, poverty reduction, fair pay and higher GDP have all been identified as impacts of female mentorship.

                Finding the time to be a mentor or seek out mentors often takes a back seat to being a mom, a business leader, a wife, sister or daughter. Making a goal of one hour per month is a great start. It does not always have to be in person, as Google hangouts, Skype and a variety of online networks allow you to connect at any time of day or night. Mentorship does not have to be formal; it can happen over a cup of coffee or a walk (good self-care!) In addition to making a difference in someone else’s life, leaving a legacy, and helping to shape the next generation, you too will benefit from a growing network, a reduced feeling of isolation, fresh ideas, and the opportunity to further your own leadership skills.

BROOKE ROUSE is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center Advisor. Contact her at brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 315-386-4000.

Take steps to retain young leaders

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Some say leadership is learned, others say leadership is an inherent trait. Either way, if a young leader is identified in your hiring process or in your company, you certainly want to keep them around.

Young leaders have a desire to continue growing and learning, are looking for new opportunities and a feeling of value, and want to enjoy their work environment. Paying attention to and fulfilling these professional desires will help you to keep the best and brightest working for you.

Goals & vision

Keep your young leaders informed of the goals and vision of the company and how their work contributes to moving the company forward. Providing the individual with the guidance to work productively, without micromanaging their work, will ensure they stay motivated. Recognize their efforts in terms of the overall success of the organization, welcome their opinions and allow them to be a part of understanding the risks associated with business.

Face time

I’m not talking about the video function on an iPhone … provide your leaders with the opportunity to represent the company on committees, in presentations, at public charity events — in any way that they know you trust them to be the face of the company in the public eye.

Culture

Young leaders enjoy being on a team, having responsibility to lead people and be led. The people and culture of the workplace are important to keeping them coming back and looking forward to work every day. Hiring people for personality that fits with the team can make or break the long-term possibility of employment. Instilling a culture of hard work balanced with a lighthearted and social atmosphere are important, too.

Community connection

Finally, young leaders who are new to the area will also be seeking a connection to the community. Beyond work life, social life and civic engagement are a big part of what will connect a person to a community. Meeting people, expanding social networks and contributing to a cause or the community at large adds value to a young leader and fulfills other needs outside of the office.

Developing leaders is not an individual event. It must be an ongoing process, which may include casual mentorship, participation on a team and a company culture that is aware and responsive to the role of young leaders.

LinkedIn is a professional nerowrking site that many businesses employ as a means to connect with customers and market services. Later this month, the Potsdam Public Library will offer a free class designed to introduce users to the business networking platform. Here’s some more information:

                Sunday, Dec. 11, LinkedIn, 12:30 p.m., Potsdam Public Library, 2 Parks St. #1, Potsdam. This class will provide information on how to create and effectively use a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is a business-0oriented social networking tool to find useful for anyone seeking work or those looking for employees. The event covers how to connect with people, how to input your information and create a profile. Bring a laptop and a professional photo of yourself saved on the computer. New users welcome. Cost: Free. Information/registration: Potsdam Public Library, (315) 265-7230.

 

Brooke Rouse is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center Advisor. Contact her at brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 386-4000.

Subtle, effective holiday season prep

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Temperatures are dropping, days are getting shorter and before we know it people will be shopping for the holidays. As much as some of us don’t like the early launch of holiday decorations and products, there are some more subtle ways that your business can be prepared to make the most of the season.

Be top of mind

People may start their gift shopping this month or they may wait until the last minute. Now is the time to be sure potential customers know you exist so that when they’re ready or motivated, they think of YOU, not the Internet or the big box store.

Plan to increase your marketing now; don’t wait until the week of Thanksgiving or put it off to December. Be active on social media to feed photos of new products or services (or gift certificates) frequently and at least once a week. You may consider doing sponsored posts to new markets beyond your existing fans so that they will “like your page” and receive your posts over the next couple of months. Informing people of what you have to offer is the first best step.

Get them in the door

Now is the time to schedule an event at your shop. A “do-it yourself” workshop, a tasting of some sort, a ladies night, a book signing, a demonstration — anything you can come up with to get your business on community calendars and in the news. In addition to publicity, you also get people to come to your location, see what you have available and begin a relationship with you and your staff. It is all in the name of fun as well as getting people through the doors and into your shop, browsing and buying.

Entice them

Photos are the best way to share what you have to offer, whether it’s a unique product, a delicious meal or a perfectly detailed car — again, think gift certificates. Now is the time to take high quality photos of your products and services, or invest in a photographer to do an even better job. You will use those photos multiple times over the next few months, in print ads, on social media — Facebook and Instagram — and on your website.

Make shopping easy

Think about the many ways you can get your product to market MORE during the next few months. Perhaps extending your hours or opening an extra day will allow more people to shop after work or in their free time. If you have a website that allows for Internet sales, e-commerce, get your items updated, use those professional photos and make sure your online store is functioning, attractive and easy to use. Link the web address to your email signature and your Facebook page. Did you know you can install a “SHOP” button on your business Facebook page? Promote your online store in your brick and mortar store, too.

Reward your loyal customers

Be proactive about getting your existing customers to shop with you this holiday season. You can create a coupon or postcard to hand to them with their receipt. You can plan a customer appreciation holiday party and pop the VIP invitation into their bag as they check out. Your existing customers provide your best word of mouth advertising and if you continue to treat them well, they will shop with you this holiday season.

If you take these and other simple steps NOW to plan for the holidays, the busy season will be less stressful and more profitable. Good luck and happy holiday planning.


Brooke Rouse is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center Advisor. Contact her at brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 386-4000.

August 2016: Commerce Corner

Workplace wellness: It really can be fun

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Many of us spend a long day sitting in front of a computer, eating lunch at our desks, and eventually feeling the negative impacts of this routine on our health and wellness. When you think about it, this daily practice is not normal. Even on your biggest “couch potato” day at home, it is unlikely that you will sit in a chair in front of a screen for eight hours straight, unless of course, there is a great series marathon on Netflix. [Read more…]

April 2016: Commerce Corner

Six ways colleges impact local economies

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

The north country is fortunate to be home to many institutions of higher education. Many businesses in college towns feel the ebbs and flows of a “semester-based business cycle” and periods of particular peaks during move in, move out, graduations, family weekends, reunions and sporting events. The influx of students and their families, as well as a constantly revolving pool of faculty and staff, presents challenges and tremendous opportunity for the local economy. Here are six ways that colleges help to drive the local economy: [Read more…]

March 2016: Commerce Corner

North country women ahead of the curve

Kylie Peck

Kylie Peck

Women have been a part of the working class for decades. Today they represent almost 47 percent of the labor force in the United States, according the U.S. Department of Labor. Historically, women have served as secretaries, administrative assistants and receptionists, as well as nurses and teachers, but there has been a radical change in how women in the workplace are perceived. [Read more…]

December 2015: Commerce Corner

Give the gifts of local this season

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Gift-giving is a traditional part of the holiday season for many. Some are overwhelmed by the shopping experience; others plan throughout the year and carefully select each and every item. In many parts of our rural north country, retail is limited and travel to larger areas or online shopping becomes a necessity. [Read more…]