If you’re in the market to buy promotional products to increase your company’s brand awareness at a trade show, event or conference, it’s important to know the most common mistakes people make – so you can avoid them like the plague.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the simplest jobs go wrong because of a mix up of facts, colors, formats and more.

Take a few minutes and read what the mistakes are so your order comes out exactly as you expect, at the price you want and on time!

Lack of purpose

With millions of promotional products to choose from it’s important to know the purpose of your promotional product campaign. Do you want to increase traffic to your website, landing page or promote a special offer? Based on your answer, you may be surprised that a different product, design or distribution plan may be a better idea. Without a clear goal and purpose, your marketing campaign could be doomed to fail before it really begins.

Not tailored to your audience

A custom beer koozie is a great premium for a bar or brewery, but not necessarily on target with a hospital’s image. I’ve seen buyers select premiums that are cool in their eyes, but just don’t fit. When this happens, marketers are appealing to their own taste rather than their audience’s. Take time to research the interest and hobbies of your target demographic and find a product that will appeal to them. Not sure?  Create an informal focus group!

Bland or generic design

Does your freebie or premium have visual interest? Whether it’s colorful, has a catchy slogan or pattern, you want to be sure your product gets attention and a positive reaction. If you create a giveaway that’s boring and uninteresting, chances are you’ve wasted a timely marketing opportunity. Remember, one of the goals of giving a promotional product is to create interest – in the product, service and the item itself!

What’s your distribution plan?

Before you even order promotional products, determine what you’re going to do with them. Will you give them out at a trade show or will reps hand them out to customers in the field? Are you trying to increase your customer’s loyalty by sending a product in the mail or attract a new prospect, in a totally new target market? No matter how you answer these questions, you can be select in your distribution. And, remember to keep at least a few samples in your file cabinet with important facts like where you gave them out, when and feedback. (You can use an excel spreadsheet too).

Ordering cheap items

Most promo products are fairly inexpensive and cost effective as compared to other types of marketing. I know it’s tempting to save as much money as possible and buy the cheapest products available, but sacrificing quality for quantity can actually cost you more in the long run. Be mindful that what you give out is a reflection of your brand, so going cheap isn’t always the way to go. I’m not asking you to break the bank or your budget, but here’s the deal: Your product needs to be effective, before it can be cost effective.

Printing ineffective information

This sounds like a no brainer, but don’t forget to include your website and contact information on the promotional item. The best product at the best price will be wasted if people can’t reach you. Granted, you have limited printing space to work with, so make every word count to reach your goal. A call to action isn’t a marketing maybe, it’s a marketing must! Premiums and promotional items included.

Not proofing carefully

How carefully are you reviewing the proof your promotional company is sending you? Take it from me, you may want to enlist others in your company to take a look too. Triple check the ink and PMS colors as well the actual imprint position. Once you’ve signed off on a proof and the job is in progress, additional changes will mean tossing out the old, and beginning from scratch. And, you know you’ll have to pay extra unless it’s not your fault.

Being stingy on quantities

Don’t be afraid to order a few extra premiums to have on hand for future events and surprise trade shows or meetings. Most vendors offer quantity price breaks where the price per piece decreases as the quantity increases. A company can often save 10 to 15 percent on an order by just adding more product. Plan out your event calendar and product purchases ahead of time and you can save big time.

Pay rush charges

This is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make and one of the easiest ways to reduce costs. Think and plan ahead! A typical production facility schedules weeks in advance so when a rush order comes in changes must be made immediately at the plant. A standard rush order can result in charges of 25% or more. A next day change for your million-dollar client can be – well, you don’t want to know. I’ve done it and saved the day and you could too. When you’re not in panic mode, ship by ground to avoid high freight charges. If you’re going to fly premiums overnight, why not save the money and travel yourself?

The bottom line is this.  Don’t rush through the planning stages of your promotional products campaign. Effective event purchasing can give you the results you’re looking if you use these tips on your checklist before you buy.

About the Author

Rachel Leone is a client and President of Leone Marketing.  Her firm specializes in finding perfect promotional products for trade shows and events to increase brand awareness, loyalty and recognition.  Rachel works with Fortune 500 brands as well as small business owners to engage, without a diamond ring. Her brainstorming sessions are noteworthy and complimentary. Contact Rachel at .

There’s a small shop near my summer house that sells rafts, boating supplies and bouncy floatables to the vacation crowd who flock here every year to enjoy life on the lake. Their prices aren’t cheap, they have a decent selection of products, but from the minute you walk in the store you notice something wrong.

Terrible customer service.

We went to look at rafts and engaged the staff, from the manager to the owner, and what we noticed was true. Customer service was frightful. It wasn’t just their individual attitudes, but collectively it was horrifying. I was ready to walk out, but my friend wanted to buy a raft and was willing to pay full price.

Would they take the raft down so we could see it. NO. Could we look at it to see if it was the right size for the kids. NO. No seemed to be the only response and snarky disrespectful growls didn’t win any points.

We took the raft home and my teenage niece told us how to fight back. 

“Click on their Ad words and tell all your friends to do the same,” she said. “It could cost them thousands.”

At first, I chuckled then thought about it. She was right. If there’s an ad campaign for their company and they’re spending money on Google Ad words, she’s got a point.

I didn’t do it and suggested to the entire family and CEO friend who was irked as well, to let it go.

Truth is: One angry customer who felt violated, ripped off and annoyed at disrespectful lip service and attitude could cost a business money, and lots of it – especially if the business is buying Ad Words.

My take away from this experience and advice to small business owners?  Spend time in training and adopt an attitude of “How can I help you?”

We travel frequently and visit top hotels and restaurants (at great discounts) and companies who care spend time and money training their staff – to make a positive impression, keep a customer for life and create an experience that makes them feel special.

You don’t have to be a top hotel to do this – you or your company can have great customer service.

Hey, no one’s perfect. But from my experience and other’s feedback, this raft store on the shore of America’s oldest summer resort in America doesn’t give a hoot.

I wish they would.

My tagline is “Don’t Be the Best Secret in Town” and it’s no secret that I love to teach small business owners, experts, authors and professionals how to promote your business and brand. Why? I’ve studied and practiced PR and promotion for over two decades and it comes naturally to me.  I also love to see people succeed and share their gifts so they can sell more products and services.

Even though there are hundreds of ways to promote yourself, there are a few timeless principles that I’d like to share.

1)  Go outside your comfort range and step into the brand you want to be. If that means faking it until you make it, go for it. The feeling is what you’re going for, hand in hand with inspired action. Determine your core values and make every decision from there. You won’t go wrong.
2)  Keep moving forward. We all get discouraged and may want to hide in bed, but that’s precisely when you have to jump back up and restart the engines. There isn’t one flower that I know of that blooms 365 days a year.
3)  Make a dedicated effort to learn. There are countless videos, programs, articles, webinars, classes, and experts in your subject field that know more than you. That’s a good thing. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I’d rather grow today, thank you.
4)  Acknowledge that you’re an expert in training. We can all learn from one another and even the smallest piece of advice that you take, digest or tweak can move your business in the right direction. Sometimes these experts are disguised and are at networking meetings at 7am. Set your alarm clock for 5:30.
5) Hang with, hire or be a part of a group that’s smarter, richer and more successful than you. You’ll get to where you want to go quicker when you listen to the voice of experience. It’s worth the time, effort and money to hear how others have accomplished goals.
I would add that you want to be accountable to yourself, a group you’ve put together or a Mastermind. But, don’t underestimate the power of a mentor or coach who you trust. Find the right one and they can transform your life and business. You still have to do the work though!
Oh, and write down your goals. When you follow these timeless principles and put pen to paper, or pen to pictures, you’ll become a manifesting machine.

I’ve been promoting for most of my life. Ideas, interesting concepts, friends, schools, my kids, favorite consignment stores. You name it, I’ve always found a way to accentuate the positive. I learned it from my Dad, the ultimate promoter and influencer.

“When there’s a will there’s a way,” he would tell me.  By learning marketing, PR strategies and how to maximize ROI, he beckoned us to take advantage of every opportunity, live life – and live it up!

In How to Get Great Free Publicity from WikiHow.com, we get more than a few ideas to grab attention and get through to the media without spending a fortune.

  • I love the tip if a journalist “blows you off” tell them you’re new at this and ask for help.
  • Or, how about getting the right phone number for a journalist by researching Hoovers.com

 Click here to find other Free PR strategies.  

Lisa Furgison, from VerticalResponse.com shares 7 Tools to Get Free Publicity for Your Business for small business owners.  I’ve been a fan of  free online directories  for quite some time, but Lisa sweetens the pot adding these tips: 

  • Use a shortened version of your bio to create a resource box at the end of articles or guest blogs. Make every word count and include a call to action; Grab Your Free Report. Download this Checklist. Contribute to my trip to Bora Bora. (Why not?)
  • Sign up for a 7-day free trial to Contact A Celebrity and see for yourself how your brand or cause aligns with a potential 60,000 celebrities. See if they participate in a “gift program” where they’ll review your product. No guarantees of course, but why not try?  

 Find other Publicity Tips here that won’t cost you a dime.

I’ll add my name to the hat with a free report I’ve created called the ABC’s of Free Publicity. Discover how you can mix and match PR strategies with an alphabet of tips and tricks to choose from to maximize your visibility, credibility and expert status. Download the Report Now and Promote Your Business or Brand – Even Without a PR Budget.

Take advantage of all of these Free Publicity strategies and learn to market your business or brand on a dime.  Why not, Bora Bora might beckon you too!

This morning, I got up at 6:00 am to launch my Q2 PR and marketing strategy and attend a Boston University Alumni breakfast networking event.  It’s part of a heavily promoted month-long career month to bring alums and professional together – and connect recent grads with seasoned professionals. (Did you like how I said that)?

It was my first networking event sponsored by BU, other than going to cheer on the Terriers in hockey, and I’m glad I went. Why?

Networking Opens the Doors for Opportunities

  • First, how great to see someone who knows and respects your work. A genuine smile and hug in a room full of strangers is almost always welcome. I’m a hugger, but if you’re squeamish, keep in the comfort of your own boundaries.
  • Networking gives you a chance to hear what others are doing in the marketplace and notice opportunities to connect, partner, refer, work or collaborate together. There were quite a few COM (communications) grads there and possibilities are brewing!
  • Meeting face to face with a brand new circle extends your promotional reach in ways you can’t imagine. It also reinforces your expert status with a whole new group that may one day –become raving fans.
  • There are no rules to revising your elevator pitch. Modify your message according to what you need in the present moment, and the crowd. The elevator pitch police won’t have a warrant out for your arrest if you change it up.
  • Talk with people who may not be your target audience, because they might know someone who might be the perfect fit. Profiling isn’t always in your best interest.

My colleague, who I met while speaking at the Small Business Expo and at the Boston Business Journal enthusiastically endorsed me in front of a room full of strangers. Love that! Thank you, Joy! She’s involved with a new venture working with entrepreneurs and small business owners, and it happens that I’m speaking with her mentor on a national level this week.

From my meeting this morning, I already got invited to speak on a panel in early April and begin preliminary discussions of a potential world-wide tour.

If I didn’t get up at 6 am I would have missed this. Will other opportunities to increase my PR and marketing expertise show up?  Definitely.

Say yes more often than you say no and see what happens.

Oh, and set your alarm clock.

PS:  Sign up now for the Digital Marketing Weapons Event at  Sleek Marketing University on Saturday, 3/26. I’ll be speaking about How to Get Free Publicity for Your Business and Grow Your Brand. Use the code CONTACT for 50% off – since many of you were at the Constant Contact event where I spoke on March 1.

Want more info? Read these other articles on improving your online presence. 9 Cool Free Publicity Tools and Tactics,7 Easy Ways to Get Attention Without Selling Your Soul and How Do I Get More PR and Online Visibility  We’re all experts in training!

Having a solid intention lights a fire of purpose and power.  And, in PR and marketing, it’s no different. How you do anything is how you do everything, so why not start strong at the get-go with PR that will help you build your brand and business, make a real difference in the way you’re presenting yourself and bring in results!

I love this article by Cheryl Conner, The 7 Keys for Purposeful Public Relations in 2016. She refers to her friend and colleague Val Hale, who’s written a book, “Living a Life that Matters” and uses his same principles as it applies to public relations. Here are a few that make total sense and are rules to live a life by: Be a doer not a spectator, make a difference in other’s lives and be a lifelong learner. The others are here. (worth a read)

Marijane Funess, gives us her recommendations for a masterful LinkedIn strategy in Top 10 PR Best Practices for LinkedIn. Even if you think you’re a superstar, you may want to skim the article. Are you telling journalists who you are? Are you asking questions and answering them for others? Are you seeking recommendations from others? According to the author, recommendations beget more recommendations.  Check out her other tips to get out there purposefully.

And finally, are you using your own team and employees to maximize your brand? How often do we all forget that communication leads to consistency – and ultimately more business! Read Maurizio Tiberi’s article for Online Branding Best Practices and check out your Brand Smarts.

PR on Purposes starts with making a decision to get involved.

It doesn’t have to be a chore, make it fun!

PS – Are you interested in learning in a group setting?  I’m thinking of starting a PR mastermind of six (6) entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to take their business and brand to the next level. Let me know if you’re interested or know of someone who is. Write me at or call (617) 921 – 3448. More details to come.

Talking with small business owners and entrepreneurs as often as I do, I’m interested in their plans to promote and market themselves.

There may be a vision for a year at a time – or what they’d like to accomplish in 2016, but it often grows to a stage of overwhelm. It’s easy to do – especially when you are in charge and want to “do it all.”

News flash. You can’t do it all and certainly not all at once.

My recommendation is that you map out a general strategy for 2016, where you want to go, where you want to be seen, heard and noticed, and where you see your business coming from. Then in 90 day increments, plan it out.

Sure, highlight important conferences, meetings, deadlines, speaking engagements on an annual calendar – but work on chunks at a time. Even if that means focusing on 10 items a day to get your work done to meet your short term goals. Short term goals don’t create as much overwhelm as long term goals and worrying how you’ll get there.

We choose to worry. We choose to dream. We choose to focus on the next step.

Your next step is Firing Up your 90 Day Marketing and PR Plan. I can help with that.

It’s the beginning of December. Where will you be on March 1? I’ll be speaking at Constant Contact headquarters with Jeannine O’Neil and Christina Inge.

Let’s face it. We all want attention. Some more than others.

But, if you’re a small business owner or executive on the rise, you want to be sure to get attention — to boost your image, gain credibility and be noticed for the expert you really are.  Here’s how:

7 Easy Ways to Get Attention without Selling Your Soul

  1. Make your email signature count. Whether you send 10 or 200 emails a day, your email signature tells a story – of who you are and how you think of yourself. Do you include multiple forms of contact, Skype information and time zone?  Are you offering your latest free report or a chapter in your newest book? How about logos of top associations you’re affiliated with? Put together your signature and personalize it to your brand and story. Stand out!
  2. Have a favorite reporter or editor in your industry? Why not set up a Google Alert to see what top reporters are up to? Once you get the ‘heads up’, you can decide the next course of action. Send a personal note? Small gift? Or, a Congratulations email?  Better yet – “I just saw this article (add link) and wanted to let you know I think it’s so on point“ (or however you feel). You’ll make an impression!
  3. One size doesn’t fit all. When writing to reporters, make sure your pitch is unique – at least the first paragraph. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but take time to research who you’re pitching and the types of stories they write. Customize each email as best as possible so they don’t look like they’re canned. Even if reporters don’t use your story, a well thought out and targeted pitch often goes in a file to be saved, not the trash.
  4. Spread good news. Been featured in the media? Awesome! Now share the love and use your own social media platforms to tell your audience. Use the same articles or excerpts in newsletters, presentations, notes to prospects, online media kits …and the list goes on. Market yourself as an expert and be a good promoter too!
  5. Be a Guest Blogger. If you like to write, consider being a Guest Blogger for other websites where your opinion counts. Say you’re an image consultant. Your expertise can be valued on a banking or real estate website as well as your own.  And, once is contact is made there are opportunities to connect even deeper. Don’t forget as an author that you’ll need a 50 word byline and bio – and hey, what about adding a link to your free report?
  6. Keep your website up to date. It’s been said we’re 9 months ahead of our website, and some of us lightyears! If you have a word press site, it’s easier to update more often – and by ourselves – with recent awards, testimonials and photos. Make sure your ABOUT page sings your praises. Note to self, include a monthly maintenance check too for those annoying broken links.
  7. Give attention without expecting it in return. I’m amazed at my community of giving professionals, small business owners and entrepreneurs and all their friendship. Giving comes in kind words, referrals, opportunities and forwarded emails, and everything in between. Givers get noticed, and chances are – that one time gift isn’t a random act.

I hope these tips help you as you build your business and get recognized for who you are.

There are hundreds more I talk about and teach to small business owners just like you!

Life is sometimes a surprise and when you put yourself out there – to promote a brand or yourself using PR, you really never know what the outcome will be – or where you’ll be seen.  You just have to believe!

Surprise on me/us, when we heard this weekend that my friend Steve and I would be on a billboard in the Boston DMA to promote the Nova Star cruise ferry from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia. How did we get there?  We were featured in a TV commercial last year for the NovaStar promotion and one of our photos was chosen for the ‘fall’ digital billboard campaign.


Now, we aren’t part of SAG-AFTRA; we’re two entrepreneurs who decided to take part in the commercial shoot on Steve’s birthday while we were celebrating in Kennebunkport. We never knew when this kind of experience would present itself again, so we said YES!

You can stay in your same old/same old over and over again until you are bored to tears with your life.

You can get PR and promte yourself and your business in the same old way, but, you’ll never get different results. So, shake it up!

This is PR and promotion at its best.

It’s fun! It’s unexpected, visual and shareable.

When you take advantage of PR opportunities like this, the path is unknown. If you move forward with intention and positive energy, life will respond in kind, almost pixelating.

We had breakfast with Carly Fiorina this past Sunday and heard The Donald (pumped up and rearing to go) at a party a couple of weeks ago.

Your life and business can be as full as you want it to be, and as BOLD as you choose.

Ditch the fear and get on board.

When you celebrate who you are, then everyone else will get on board too!


PS – I’m offering a 3 Month PR Intensive to 10 small business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs who want to boost their brand and income. Write me at   if you want to create a PR Roadmap that will take you from where you are now, to where you want to go!

PR, Promotions and Publicity aren’t a one size fit all strategy to get you noticed.  And, that’s a good thing.  Variety is the spice of life! In creating a PR roadmap, you want to customize the outreach experience and connect the dots from where a client is now – to where they want to go to be seen, heard and remembered. So the road less traveled is not the journey of choice!

For a handful of our Fortune 500 corporate clients, Partner Promotions is the go-to source for Brand Ambassador work in Boston. Companies like Comcast and CBS hire our marketing teams to promote their brands and actively engage with prospects and customers — to showcase new services, demonstrate products and turn loyal followers into raving fans.

After 15 years of hiring Brand Ambassadors, I’ve concluded that for me, hiring is primarily intuition based. Is the Brand Ambassador believable or not? Do I trust him/her? Would I give them the keys to my car? Eye contact is important too, or lack thereof, and I can’t discount appearance.  If my gut tells me to move forward, I almost always do, followed by a reference check (gut usually wins).

So, how does an eager and responsible college student or professional of any age — who wants to make extra cash get into the Brand Ambassador business?

Here’s An Insider’s Look – How to Get a Brand Ambassador Job at Any Age  

  1. Google Brand Ambassador companies in your area and check Facebook Groups or Craig’s List for event/gig postings; Better yet, make a connection with other Brand Ambassadors and get WOM (word of mouth) referrals.  They’re worth their weight in gold.
  2. Apply online with a headshot and resume. If you don’t have a headshot, use an attractive and recent photo of yourself — with no arms or plants sticking out of your head. Please don’t be half naked unless you’re looking for a swimsuit model job. No experience? Highlight your sales, marketing and customer service skills.
  3. Score an interview by writing a clear, concise and friendly email. Use proper English and provide contact information. This is not the time to be lazy or sloppy in your writing or coy in your contact details. Impressions count to those reading your email and hundreds of others. Trust me. Delete is an easy key to reach.
  4. Meet in person ASAP.  Be early, well dressed and groomed. Bonus points for confirming your appointment by email and text. Remember to mention a personal referral if you have one and highlight that connection. You really could earn thousands of dollars from this one meeting.  Make it count!
  5. You are unique so accentuate the positive. Have an awesome smile? Flaunt it! But, you’re not on stage giving a one person show. Be mindful that if you’re hired, you’re representing not only the client who considers you a reflection of their brand — but the Brand Ambassador company too. It’s OK to stand out, but not like a sore thumb.
  6. Highlight your experience and own it. Why would a company want to pay you double minimum wage or more?  Not sure? Make a list. You’re outgoing, friendly, worked in sales and marketing, love people, sold credit card upgrades – plus you’re flexible. State the facts, show your resume, hold eye contact and be genuine. You can be sincere and still own your power.
  7. Don’t force a square peg in a round hole.  If there’s not a connection with the hiring manager or if you don’t like the brand, let it go. There are better opportunities out there. Follow your gut to see if the fit is right. If integrity is one of your core values, honor it. You’ll be a lousy Brand Ambassador if you’re not all in.
  8. When you’re hired, give thanks. Thank your hiring manager with an email. Read the study guides or marketing materials more than once. Follow directions. Check in frequently to show you’re interested, but not needy. Get more experience, rinse and repeat.
  9. Build a referral network so you can take a team with you. Want to make life easier for a hiring manager? Bring an established team with you to your next assignment. You’ll save your boss time and aggravation, plus be a shining star. There’s also negotiating power here as a manager, which is paid at a higher rate.
  10. Keep business business and personal personal. Don’t overlap the two. News travels fast and not always to the right places.

Side note: My kids, their friends, friends of friends, strangers and people from every walk of life have helped with the many clients and Brand Ambassador positions we’ve had over the last 20 years and counting. PR, Promotions and marketing isn’t just for entrepreneurs and small business owners – it’s for anyone with a message to share.

Share a message in your voice. That’s what makes it authentic.