Due to technical errors (uh…recording in a coffee shop…note to self…never do this again..) my final Seattle jag episode has been stalled. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get it up and running for you because it was oh so good. With that said, I’m taking the opportunity to share a past interview featuring yours truly on the ZipSprout podcast.
Back in March 2017, I had the opportunity to unleash my inner local PR nerd with Megan Hannay, Co-Founder & CEO of ZipSprout and host of the community-based marketing agency’s podcast, The Zip. On Megan’s podcast, she asks me questions about how I got started in PR and how I launched Veracity in the middle of a recession. I had forgotten that we started the company during tumultuous times. I guess it’s like child birth, you forget the pain that you endure. I also share local public relations tips that can be used in any market while bringing home Veracity’s message that anyone can learn PR — especially of the community variety.
Megan helped me out this week by allowing me to rerun this episode. I wasn’t surprised to receive her speedy response because podcasters help each other out just like PR people do. I apologize for not having the new Seattle episode available, but if you’re not failing you’re not trying hard enough, right?
To read the full recap from this podcast, visit our write-up about it here.
About the Host of The Zip:
Megan Hannay is the CEO and CoFounder of ZipSprout. She developed the process and manages the team of Matchmakers. She also contributes planning and UX expertise to the ZipSprout app and oversees internal and external content strategy. You can read her column on local marketing in Marketing Land or hear her interviews with members of the local ecosystem in her weekly podcast, The Zip.
This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon
Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.
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Community work is tied into a lot of what we do at Veracity. In fact, one of our specialties is matching charities with businesses and unfolding the PR magic. We are lucky to have truly learned from the best when it comes to infusing community into daily work life. Our long term client, Windermere Stellar, has been doing this well before we came onto the scene.
“I am proud to say that our brokers are equally successful at real estate as they are raising money for worthy causes,” said Joan Allen, Windermere co-owner and co-chair of the local Windermere Foundation chapter. “Working to build better communities is a natural extension of what real estate professionals do on a daily basis.”
The real estate company recently ranked number one on the Portland Business Journal’s (PBJ) list of the area’s most philanthropically-inclined, large-sized companies. How they did this is the making of a PR person’s dream.
Do more than write checks
Don’t get me wrong, giving money to charity is a wonderful way to give back, but it’s got to be more than that. In fact, we believe that this idea of “more” is what fuels Windermere’s fundraising machine. Every realtor donates a portion of their commission from every sale to the Windermere Foundation, which serves local charities helping low income families. But they don’t just stop there, embarking on friendly competitions to determine which office can raise the most for charity. Full-time realtors spearhead everything from charitable golf tournaments and gala auctions to smaller but still meaningful actions like donating a dollar to the Foundation for every realtor that shows up at an open house.
Most of these efforts are highly PR’able. We can follow an event PR timeline with many of the public fundraisers:
Pre-event publicizing with calendar listings & press releases
During event publicity with inviting & hosting applicable press
After-event publicity to announce the fundraising results
Reach a wider, more engaged audience more often
Naysayers might wonder if our client is getting lost among all this charitable messaging. But remember that nobody cares about our clients as much as we PR people do, especially the press. And since it’s our job to make them care, we rely on the charitable messaging. Regardless, the press won’t want to write a piece solely focusing on the client and if they did that likely won’t happen again soon. Also, if your content surrounds the “self” of the organization and isn’t about how the organization affects others, your audience will stop listening. We as human beings don’t care about too much that doesn’t affect us directly. Since community issues affect everyone, community engagement is a goldmine for generating lasting PR results.
But we are writing checks!?!
OK, let’s get real. It’s true that charitable donations are not only how businesses can make waves, but more importantly how they can help others. However, handing a check over to the charity isn’t necessarily a PR event, no matter how oversized it is and I don’t mean in dollar amount, I mean in literal size.
If your organization plans on writing a lot of checks, the first step is to have a re-usable check made of dry erase board prominently displaying your logo that can be used over and over again. With each donation, arrange to present the oversized check to a charity representative in front of key stakeholders that would most appreciate the gesture — such as your employees or board members.
Have someone take a high-resolution (ish) photo of the check presentation and then send it to applicable publications with a recap of what happened. Your write-up doesn’t have to be a fancy press release. Simply type down how much was donated to whom with a brief description of the charity including their general mission, service demographic and location. You may also need to list the titles and names of the people in the photo if there aren’t too many people in it.
Repeat these actions every time you present a check, but be sure to customize the copy and the press list with each donation. If you are writing checks for coastal charities, let the coastal media know. However, if the next check you write is for a Tigard, Ore.-based charity, do not let the coastal papers know (unless your organization is based on the coast or highly affects coastal economies) and switch up your press audiences to focus on Tigard reporters. This thoughtful customization is basic and produces great results. Also, remember to use the images and copy for your social media.
Add a better visual element for better coverage
But your boss or board is breathing down your neck asking for a segment on the evening news or a front page story? Ok, my friend, this is where you need to do more than write the check. Bring in bodies to produce some sort of story-telling action to make a splash. Think in terms of visuals to get TV coverage or deeper storylines to get front-page worthy print or web articles.
An example of a TV-able action would be to volunteer for your beneficiary with a gaggle of your staff, board or clients. Incorporate physical action in to the volunteer work, such as raking leaves, painting or cleaning. Take photos and send them to TV stations before 2 p.m. on the event day if the TV stations do not come after you’ve invited them. Call to follow up on the photos. Be wary of incorporating children with the charity in your photos as you’d need to have their guardian sign a release form, which can be tricky for many service-oriented charities. Also run all your PR plans by your charity before incorporating them into the volunteer event at all.
How you could dig deeper to pull out a print or web feature story is to uncover some of the “why” around the charity. Is there a larger story that connects your organization to the charity? Was one of your board members or executives highly affected by the organization through receiving past services? Gently find out if they are comfortable going on the record and type a short synopsis that entices the press to uncover their own version of this story.
Many people are uncomfortable opening up in such a vulnerable way, or if you just don’t have a story like that to tell, then ensure your donation goes to something tangible, like a specific portion of a center or a certain program within the charity and create a story around that. For example, if your organization is donating funds to help build a new center, discover what portion of the center you could allot your donation to. The kitchen comes to mind with thoughts that go deeper than the financial donation into how the nourishment of food first fills stomachs, slowly making its way toward filling the emptiness of the soul.
It’s good for business & the community
Sometimes when we suggest publicizing the charitable activities of our clients, they are hesitant as they do not do it for the publicity. Our response it that first of all it is good for business. You are getting your name in the community, providing monetary contributions, time and/or in-kind products or services. Those are all good things and if we get the word out, it can have a real impact on the bottom line as we highlighted in a case study with Clackamas Federal Credit Union and Habitat for Humanity.
The other bi-product of publicizing community work is that it leads to more philanthropy. When your partners, competitors and the public see how you are impacting your community, they want in. We have heard numerous times that charitable programs and activities of other organizations have inspired companies to start contributing to the community or caused them to step their game up.
The humble brag
And we sure are taking the roundabout, deflecting way of telling you that for the first time Veracity also make the list of PBJ’s Most Generous Corporate Philanthropists in Oregon & Southwest Washington – Small. While our donation was modest, we are one of the smallest of the small on the list. We are humbled to be on a list with such generous donors and inspire to follow in their footsteps, increasing our donation amount each year to slowly rise higher on the list. We learn from the best of them and practice what we preach in the evolution, growing and learning realm.
If there is one thing you can take away from this episode of PR Talk, it is that Eleni Kehagiaras is a print-first kind of woman. I mean it — her newspapers don’t even have websites. And in a digitally dominated media landscape where publications largely dole out homogenized content, only varying with the “takes” they provide, Eleni has made it her mission to reconnect to local storytellers with community-based businesses.
We don’t want to paint Eleni as someone who refuses to download the latest iPhone upgrade or get sucked into the Facebook wormhole, she just believes in something more. Or maybe she believes in something less — something more minimalist — a belief in stepping back from the information overload of digital platforms and engaging with the community on an intrinsically human level. I said it in the podcast, but I’ll say it here too: we are gasping for air when it comes to positive information, and publications like Eleni’s are our oxygen masks.
Eleni is staunchly addicted to people and connections, so when she heard about the possibility of creating neighborhood publications, she took up arms with N2 Publishing, a franchise-based community publishing conglomerate boasting 800 magazines across the country.
For the past two years, Eleni has acted as sole Publisher for Portland Heights Living and Moreland Living (covering the southeast Portland community of Eastmoreland), and Co-Publisher of Irvington Living and Laurelhurst Living. Keeping in mind that Eleni is the franchise owner of her two magazines, her role as Publisher is much more involved than it sounds. Beyond dealing with logistics and coordination with her parent company (N2 Publishing), Eleni organizes all of the content to bring the magazines together. While N2 handles the printing and distribution of the magazines, it’s clear that the meat and potatoes of the business fall under Eleni’s domain.
Ideal for clients who live or work in Portland Heights or Eastmoreland: Eleni recognizes that placing absolute editorial control on top of her managerial duties would result in a humungous work-load. As a solution, she involves students and members of the community to help out by sending in pictures and guest-written articles for the editorial side, along with business referrals for her advertising space.
Eleni says she is always looking for more content about each neighborhood, so if you have a client who lives or works in Portland Heights or Eastmoreland, send Eleni a pitch. To get your event listed in her publications, you’d better get it to her at least one month ahead, but if you’re a PR professional, you should be well on top of these kinds of deadlines already!
Eleni takes thorough care in selling ad spots to the right businesses. In fact, she actually goes out and meets with neighborhood companies to make sure they do reputable work. She notes that her magazine’s reputation is on the line, so she’ll only advertise ethical businesses worthy of the referral. Eleni has even turned down advertising before because she was skeptical of their practices. If you’ve landed an ad in one of Eleni’s papers, take it as a compliment — you’re providing good service.
Beyond actually selling advertising spots, Eleni told us that she reserves one free ad per month for nonprofits. The nonprofit doesn’t even have to be based in the specific neighborhood, it just needs to have some degree of presence there, so keep that in mind, coverage-happy PR pro’s!
Eleni agrees with us that the “shotgun” advertising approach of getting your company in front of anyone and everyone is overkill. Instead, you should be focusing on targeted, hyper-localized advertising that generate quality leads, converting to meaningful and renewable sales. People don’t want to be told anything from businesses, she says, they want to know something from a business. That is what modern, digital-first advertisers are getting wrong.
“To have a source within your community where you can read and learn about your neighbors, and the businesses in front of you want to build community, it’s a whole different experience.”
Reaching Myriad Audiences in the Digital Age
Eleni takes a risk by being not just print-first, but print-only. She describes the challenge of learning how to put a publication together that suits to the 3, or even 4 different generations living in each neighborhood at one time. Eleni thinks that Millennials will “come around” to publications like hers because we (yeah, I’m one of them) have a natural tendency to want to pick things up. Eleni maintains that the younger children are really engaging with these papers too, due in part to her going into neighborhood schools so kids can partake in article projects.
Again, Eleni isn’t looking to replace digital media and she’s realistic that digital media won’t be going anywhere. Instead, she is looking to fill our nostalgic void for, and desire to return to, the community.
To those interested in getting into publishing, Eleni says that every generation is doing it in specific, different ways — like getting out there and producing blogs, vlogs and websites. Figure out what your comfort zone is and then see how you can most effectively reach people through that medium.
Eleni Kehagiaras has never thought of herself as a journalist. Her practice in writing is scientific and educational, so she admits that she needs another set of eyes on the “colorful, beautiful, fun to read,” articles. In fact, she thinks her papers function much better when she’s not doing the writing. And that’s the great thing about her operation — there are so many people helping out that they truly are community newspapers.
About the guest: Eleni Kehagiaras
Eleni Kehagiaras is Publisher of Portland Heights Living and Moreland Living Magazines, and Co-Publisher of Irvington Living and Laurelhurst Living Magazines. She holds degrees in Biology and Psychology from Portland State University. Eleni enjoyed a long and successful career in the health and fitness industry while also hosting a live daily radio show on health topics, during which time she was named one of the “Top Health Experts” to follow on Twitter by the Huffington Post. She is also Chair of Cardinal Families Health Action Network at Lincoln High School.
Pretending to be a stay-at-home-mom, the three tiers of journalism and PR for the people.
Amid bites of line-caught Oregon salmon at SEMpdx’sEngage Conference in March, Amy got the chance to unleash her inner local PR nerd to Megan Hannay, Co-Founder & CEO of ZipSprout and host of the community-based marketing agency’s podcast, The Zip. The exchange of ideas led Megan to invite Amy on The Zip to share her knack for community public relations. The episode, which you can listen to below, digs deep into Amy’s approach and enforces Veracity’s message that anyone can learn PR — especially of the community variety.
Amy experienced the entire marketing spectrum — from buying ads in magazines to fighting for earned media coverage in exclusive publications — while working in the PR department of an advertising firm. She then turned to real estate when the opportunity to market and sell a development of 50 condominium units presented itself. However, a whopping financial crash, paired with a new baby led Amy to leave real estate, opting for stay-at-home-mom status instead. This was nothing short of a ruse, though. As someone who knows Amy, I can attest that staying at home is not in her nature.
And thus, Veracity was born from the basement of Amy’s southeast Portland home. With the help of Amy’s husband, Mike, who has a successful history in digital marketing and SEO, Veracity has continued to grow with a strong connection to community-based businesses and organizations. As Amy puts it, “We don’t try to grow too fast…we’re just taking things as they come.”
The biggest skill Amy learned while selling real estate was how to best reach a specific audience. Marketing a product with such high financial implications taught her to ask questions like: “How do I get my audience to feel comfortable with my message? What does this person want? What do they want to consume with their brain?” Today, Amy addresses these questions with her own clients at Veracity.
The goal, Amy preaches, is to let consumers decide for themselves whether or not to engage with your client’s product or service. There shouldn’t be any explicit persuasion involved — just present the facts and let them make up their minds. Rather than shoving a sales pitch down the audience’s throat, take a journalistic, PR approach.
Real estate also taught Amy how to be her own boss. With a pay structure based solely on commission, there is a certain degree of risk involved and you have to fight to succeed — a true PR mentality. Amy took that approach to start her own business.
Three Tiers of Journalism:
Megan asked Amy about the state of journalism, and Amy alluded to the problems the industry has been facing lately — largely the result of a plummeting decline in the value of print advertising revenue. For a more in-depth look at these problems, check out my take in this blog post.
When discussing the state of journalism, Amy broke down the industry into three tiers:
National publications, like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times — publications like these are not going anywhere because they are so well-known and financially supported around the world.
Local daily newspapers, like The Oregonian — these are the publications that are struggling. Papers that split their coverage between national and local news are casting too wide a net — readers who want national or world news turn to the larger publications and readers who want to know community news turn to the small papers.
Community newspapers, like the Lake Oswego Review — here is local PR’s bread and butter, where readers still visit to find the information that is actually affecting their lives. See the list below for ways to garner coverage here.
Amy warns, though, that if local papers start closing down, the PR industry is in danger.
Getting Coverage in Local Papers:
Amy shared examples of what kinds of stories typically get ink in community newspapers. Think about writing a press release or sending a note to a community newspaper if your company or your client:
Joins a board or committee
Donates to a cause
Opens a new office
Makes a notable hire
Releases a new product or service
Voices an opinion on a locally-based issue
Regardless, you could pay close attention to the news to spark ideas for your client or your company’s take on a particular topic if you want to get some PR juice.
Amy’s career has taken a few twists and turns, but all of her experiences pointed back to one thing: community-based marketing. While working in local PR is a fast-paced, highly competitive realm, it is one that you can learn to navigate with the right coach and plenty of practice. Take some of these tips into your own marketing campaigns and get in front of those community newspapers — they’re the lifeblood in the age of information.
About the guest: Amy Rosenberg
In a past life selling real estate, Amy relied on her marketing background to move high-priced properties despite the bursting real estate bubble. Realizing her true passion, the Portland PR firm Veracity was born and has since guided a wide range of clients — from destination resorts and real estate developers to technology events and nonprofit groups — through the intricacies of utilizing marketing to enhance business goals.
If you ever wanted to get into the Portland Business Journal (PBJ), you MUST listen to this or at least read our write up of tips from PBJ Editor, Suzanne Stevens. She gave so much advice that I was tempted to pull out a pen and paper in the middle of the interview and start taking notes!
Connor and I had fun getting to know Suzanne on a personal level. Self-defined as someone with a bit of “wanderlust” who loves to travel, Suzanne has lived in places as varied as Louisville, Charlotte and New York. She spent 12 years working for NPR before entering print journalism, but once she exited radio she’s been “all print all the time.” An Oregon Business magazine editor position brought her to Portland — a town she’d been eyeing like many current transplants. She then came over to the PBJ where she first worked as the Digital Editor and is now going on year three as Editor.
The Portland Business Journal is a weekly publication released each Friday that is revered by local business executives. Its email newsletters hit the in-boxes of movers and shakers throughout the city on a daily basis. Subscribers have the option of receiving more frequent newsletters focusing on a specific industries (Healthcare, Real Estate, Tech/Start ups).
Here’s an in-depth guide:
Reporter’s Pages: Each reporter’s weekly section highlights news within their targeted industries. There isn’t much room for PR pitches here.
Strategy: A weekly feature goes in-depth with stories and rotates among reporters. Bring story ideas for this section — it’s a great way to get covered.
Executive Interviews: Even though they have a list of 2,000 local business leaders they’d like to feature in this section, keep it in mind if you have a quirky business executive.
People On the Move: You can now upload these yourself here for digital coverage. We’re still debating whether or not this is the best way to get your executive news to also run in print though.
Digital Newsletter: Send your story to the relevant reporter, but also include digital editor, Andy Giegerich, so he can consider it for the email newsletter. “Include Andy on most things as he’s always looking for web stories.”
5 Things to Know: Also handled by Andy Geigerich as part of the newsletter. This is great for “anything that is funky or weird that might never fly as a news story.” It’s also where you’ll read about events as they aren’t frequently included in the paper or other digital sections.
Competition is High:
On a “good day,” 200 emails await Suzanne in her morning in-box, but messages can reach upwards of 400. “That’s because I’m the editor. The reporters probably get 100 new emails per day,” Suzanne clarified. Make no mistake — the majority of these emails are from PRs! Everyone at the PBJ knows what they want from us, too — they even wrote an article about PR do’s and don’ts!
Suzanne loves PRs who do their homework to understand what the publication covers and to get a handle on what each reporter writes about. Best practice? Know who covers each beat and include a pitch about why the PBJ should cover your idea.
Suzanne explained the multitude of new product releases flooding her inbox that lack broad appeal. “Thousands of companies are releasing new products in Oregon. Why would we write about that?” Instead, Suzanne advised adding details like expanding staff, additional funding or bigger industry trends to catch their attention.
“Sell your story in one paragraph [less than 300 words],” Suzanne advised. “We’re looking for the ‘nut graph,’ which tells readers what’s coming if you stick with the story. We want to know if it impacts the business community.”
The prospect of exclusive content gets the PBJ really jazzed. If you haven’t already blasted your news all over town, you might consider contacting the PBJ first and offering an “exclusive.” But if the PBJ accepts, your story can’t be placed in other media outlets — so you might float the idea by your boss or client first.
5 Reporters & 5 Beats:
Suzanne receives many pitches that are irrelevant to her role at the PBJ, but everyone makes it a daily practice to give all emails a cursory glance. Suzanne seems to be very easy going, considering how busy she is, and is happy to pass emails on to the right reporter. However, she’s careful to state that she doesn’t assign stories. “My seasoned staff know their beats better than I do.” More specifically, here’s when you’d email Suzanne:
You can ‘cc her if you’re worried that a busy reporter won’t see it, and she’ll pass it on.
Send Op-Ed or Guest Column ideas to her or Eric Siemers. “We love getting these written by business owners on a topic of interest in the news.” Best to send the pitch first before investing time in writing the article.
Suzanne generously added that she’s happy to talk through ideas, provided you call at the right time. Here’s a typical week at the PBJ:
Mondays & Tuesdays: Reporters are writing and planning the stories for that week’s paper.
Wednesday: Deadline Day! This is the worst day to send an email and absolutely DO NOT CALL as the newsroom is getting the paper ready for Friday’s publication.
Thursday: Planning and writing day. Suzanne meets with reporters to strategize next week’s stories. This is a better day to call.
Friday: Paper is in print. Reporters are working on next week’s stories. This is a better day to call.
Throughout the week Suzanne is editing what comes across her desk, helping reporters organize upcoming stories, and planning future coverage.
Truth be told, getting business journal coverage can be tough. But if you remember to do your research and customize your materials before contacting them, you’ll not only increase your chances, you won’t inadvertently kill your future pitches as well. Oh, did you think newsrooms didn’t talk? Don’t be the person who sends the irrelevant pitches or calls excessively. Trust me, they will all know.
About the guest: Suzanne Stevens
Suzanne is editor of the Portland Business Journal, overseeing the newsroom and guiding all news operations.
“Location, location, location.” We’ve all heard the phrase, most commonly associated with real estate. There’s no denying — the allure of buying a home has a lot to do with where that home is. But maybe the importance of location doesn’t stop at real estate. Maybe location permeates and shapes, more than anything, our identity. So much of how we act is based around where we’re from or where we live, including the little nuances such as the foods we eat or the kind of music we listen to. Just how real estate brokers use the power of a location to move a listing, we can tap into the consumer’s location-based identity to market a product or service.
Humans are naturally ego-centric. We can hardly go a minute without thinking about our direct needs or desires. Marketers can appeal to this ego-centricity that is inherently found within everyone. Since so much of our identities are tied to location, business owners are given a great opening to connect with their customer base.
I feel incredibly fortunate to own a business in a state that is growing in popularity, seemingly by the day. The expansion of our area has been such a great tool for business that we advise our Portland-based clients to put it into practice every day. Whether it be events in our local parks, new restaurants opening up, or television shows filming near our office, there is always a local angle to shed light on. Here are my tips on how to localize your outreach and satisfy all the ego-centrists out there.
The Importance of the Community Paper
Forget those dreams of a cover story in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Where are your customers? If they are in Portland, we think most of them are reading the small community papers that narrowly report on each specific neighborhood. Why not get in front of a highly targeted audience right in your own backyard?
How, you ask? Do I have to buy an ad? No! Do something that relates to that local community and let the local media know, it doesn’t have to be through a fancy press release. Volunteering in the neighborhood, opening a new office location, or hiring someone that lives in that area are worthy reasons to give the local media a heads up.
Localize Your Pitches
But here’s the thing: reporters have jobs to do. You certainly do not want to come off as irrelevant when sending an email to the press and there are ways to avoid that. Namely, give them something they will actually want to cover. Tying location into your pitch to a local outlet will immediately give you a connection and a much higher chance that your email will get read. By placing a community reference in the subject line and first sentence of your email, the reporter you are pitching will have no choice but to let their location-ego inflate.
Public Relations is Changing, You Should Too
In the past, if your business ever wanted recognition or a shred of popularity, it would have to be granted by the traditional media. The influx of social platforms ensure that old-school newspapers and TV shows aren’t the only ways to get noticed. Consumers are actively seeking out new media with the entire landscape re-shaping before us. So integrate social and other non-traditional media into your outreach — you have to keep up with the times in order to stay top of mind.
Optimize Your Online Search Presence
Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages. Today people map out their every move online and if your brick-and-mortar location isn’t showing up in the search results (especially on a mobile phone), you might as well just not exist. There are some simple (and free!) tools — from companies like Moz or Google — that can demonstrate how your online presence could be updated in order to rank higher in the search results (and simply tell you if Google regards your site as “mobile-friendly“).
Are you pleased with your results when you Google your business? Are your business’ details consistent throughout all of your listings? How specific do you have to get to find your business via location? These questions all aid to answer whether or not you are adequately integrated into your online community.
Make the Effort to Post Regularly
On top of meetings, e-mails and other work, taking the time to post to social media can seem a daunting task. Creating a themed schedule for posts will quickly challenge you to diversify your content and it will give you a push in a clear direction of what to write on what day. For instance, the Facebook post on the right illustrates “Think Ahead Thursday” — letting the community know about local events for the upcoming weekend. Posting to social media regularly, especially including references to your community, will add another dimension to your business.
At the end of the day, location is far bigger than real estate. Location is a composer of our identity and should be used as a means of promotion. Get more involved with your business by getting more involved with your community.
Below you can scroll through my presentation deck I prepared for the Pearl District Business Association on the topic of location marketing.