How to use marketing photos during COVID-19

“Be conscientious with the photos you use for marketing during the pandemic.”

That is advice I would share with any marketer who is working through COVID-19, particularly if the business you are supporting interacts with people or products.

Now is the time to pause using photos from years past — images that might include employees interacting with people or products without proper personal protective equipment.

Think about it. Using older photos — even images from the first quarter of this year — no longer represents the current market conditions.

What should I do instead?

Customers are complaining about my business. Now what?

Customer feedback is an essential part of doing business. Feedback (both positive and negative) can help gather valuable insight – it allows companies to identify successes and failures. In fact, some business consultants urge companies to view customer complaints as a gift because complaints can show areas of weakness that employees and/or management can work to fix. 

Learn more.

Graphic design tips for marketing your small business

With graphic design software easily available at our fingertips, more businesses than ever are creating their own marketing materials. If you are a small business owner or manager making your own promotional flyers, postcard mailers or brochures, consider these three design tips. 

Learn more.


Copywriting & Editing

Editing 101: Proofreading vs. copy editing

An open laptop computer next to a cup of coffee and a writing pad.

Essentially, the job of an editor is to improve language. Editorial services encompass a broad array of activities, including fixing grammar issues, guiding content and direction, improving clarity and enhancing readability.

You’ll find editors engaged in a variety of activities, such as reviewing blog posts to be read by the public, guiding the direction of magazine articles or editing public speeches to ensure that the message is clear and to the point.

Wherever and whenever writing needs to be improved, editors are the people for the job.

But what is the difference between copy editing and proofreading?

Spin doctor, truth teller or corporate communications ace? Here’s why your business needs one.

Even the most incredible business leaders have felt anxiety about corporate communications – writing on behalf of a company, nonprofit or small business. For many, the process of writing is filled with roadblocks and uncertainty, which can lead to overall avoidance.

In these situations, hiring a locally based public relations pro who is experienced with corporate communications can be your best bet.

Here’s why your business needs a communications ace.

The secret to error-free marketing content

Unlike a published blog article, there is no “undo” button; you can’t edit what has already been sent via email. You get a sinking feeling knowing that hundreds of consumers have received an email from your business that had several errors.

This was not the impression of your small, local business that you wanted people to have when they received your email marketing campaign. You are embarrassed and worry that you may be doing more harm than good with email marketing, but you aren’t sure what a solution might be.

How to create error-free marketing content.

Copywriting tip: Pivot marketing messages in positive ways

There is incredible power in the use and arrangement of words.

The way you use and arrange words when copywriting for marketing can create different moods. Copywriting can make readers feel calm or irritated. Copywriting can provide clarity or cause confusion.

The way you string words together – forming social media posts, letters, promotional flyers, job descriptions and recruitment ads, website copy and blog articles – has the power to inspire or to offend.

See some examples.

Grammar: It’s all about me (and whoever else is reading)

This grammar lesson is all about personal pronouns in the form of objects. They can be tricky to parse, but a little understanding of how they’re supposed to be used should help.

First, let’s look at the word “me,” which always acts as an object, or the thing that something is done to. Consider these examples:

  • “The world seems out to get me.”
  • “She gave the book to me.”
  • “He gave a smile to John and me.”

Learn more.

Tips for better grammar and error-free writing

A hand holds a pencil and prepares to write. Pencil shavings are strewn across the notebook paper.Effective business communication is clear and concise. Whether you’re writing emails, marketing material, ad copy or blog posts, professional writing needs to be free of errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling.

When mistakes slip in, the credibility and professionalism of the writer are hurt. Errors can make clients, business owners and managers think that the writer did not consider attention to detail or was not careful enough to proofread the content before sending or publishing it.

Learn more.

The value of writing fresh content

Are you a leader or a follower? If you’re not sure, just check your website and social media. After all, that’s what your customers are doing — and it’s easy for them to tell whether you’re an authority in your field or if you’re the type to piggyback on the expertise of others.

Any company’s Facebook page or Twitter account can be filled with links to tips, resources and articles created by others — and there’s a place for that, to be sure — but those practices don’t really show that you’re knowledgeable in your industry. Ideally, you want a mix of your own content (to show that you’re an expert) and a few curated links from others (to show that you can appreciate the value of others’ work, too). 

Learn more.

Better writing for the web: Part two

Quick question: You’re writing an email to your mom. Which of these two sentences do you type out?

  • “Good morning mom.”
  • “Good morning, mom.”

Which is right? Could it be either one? Does it even matter?

It does. No matter what your friends might tell you, commas are not arbitrary.

Learn more.

Better writing for the web: Part one

Writing. It may not be your strong suit, but odds are you’re having to do it anyway. Perhaps your boss has asked you to take over the company blog. Maybe you’re running a small business and you’re in charge of all email correspondence and social media posts. However you’re writing, you surely know by now that it’s more than just dumping words onto the screen and moving on. Good writing is an art, and it takes time and focus to do well. You are doing the best you can, but perhaps there are some basic issues that you weren’t even aware existed.

Learn more.

Social Media


“Should my business take a stand on social justice issues?”

Westin hotel sign displays #GEORGEFLOYD hashtag.This is a question that has been asked many times over the years and even more so since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 – an action that spurred personal reflection, public outcry, protests and riots throughout America and beyond.

Here in Whatcom County, local business leaders and marketers have been grappling with whether they should continue to separate their business from politics and social justice issues – a practice they may have felt was important in years past.

Some have wondered whether it would be appropriate to share personal values and views through the corporate communications channels that they have access to. Maybe you have even wondered what impact using the voice of your brand to share issues related to racial equality, climate change, child welfare, poverty, economics or other issues might have on your business and on the surrounding community?

Here are some thoughts to consider in making this decision.

Is it time to quit Facebook marketing?

What would it feel like to break up with Facebook?

Sometimes, breaking up is hard to do, especially when you’ve been together for such a long time – we all used to be in love with Facebook – but it’s possible! You could ease in, considering it a trial separation for the next three months.

During that time, you can explore and test one other digital marketing platform to see if it generates more activity on your website and brings more customers to your door than Facebook has been doing.

Here are three alternatives to Facebook marketing.

How to use LinkedIn to market yourself or your business

How much attention do you pay to your LinkedIn profile? Probably less than you should. Often described as “Facebook for professionals,” the platform’s utility is obvious: Ninety-four percent of job recruiters turn to LinkedIn in their hunts for candidates. And even if you’re not looking for work, LinkedIn is a haven for professional development and networking. It’s also a place where potential customers seek out advice from others who’ve used your company’s products or services. But how do you use the platform? And what makes your profile stand out? Here are three things you can do to get started.

Learn more.

Are you one post away from an Instagram shadowban?

You’d think that with all this technology at our disposal, everything would be automated. You’d think that businesses would be able to enter a few phrases into a chatbot, flip a switch and watch the engagement happen all on its own, as if at the hands of an automated (but organic-looking!) fairy. The truth is, businesses can do all of that. It’s just an awful idea.

Learn more.

Facebook tips for building community

Facebook has always been about community, with particular focus on connecting friends and family. Now, that focus has swiveled toward connecting the world. How do businesses fit into all this? The same way as ever: by providing value. Let’s look at a four specific examples.

Learn more.



Videos: Thriving amid the pandemic

Patti Rowlson is shown being interviewed for the show Bellingham Tonight.Patti Rowlson, BPRC’s founder and marketing director, has been the guest host on multiple recent video conversations regarding how businesses can survive and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they can set themselves up for success in the “new normal” world around us.

Watch Patti’s interviews with Bellingham Tonight, Building Bellingham and the WWU Small Business Development Center.

Key to long-term marketing: Be consistent

Green leaf with a drip of water at its tip.The simple truth is that marketing happens every day, whether we mean it to or not. A stagnant Twitter account and an inactive blog can speak almost as effectively as well-crafted content that meets the needs of your customers.

What works? Drip marketing. Just like it sounds, drip marketing is the practice of engaging with your customers a little bit each day, spreading your marketing efforts evenly over a month to ensure maximum benefit without exasperating customers with floods of content. Just like drip irrigation keeps the water coming a little each day, drip marketing keeps your brand fresh in the minds of customers through small, regular effort.

Learn more.

How to save money on marketing: Be nice!

How do people describe you and/or your business when you’re not around? Do they use words like friendly, warm and inviting? Or, do they use words like arrogant, frustrating, swindler?

Your reputation impacts how much money you must spend on marketing. Have a good reputation? Pay less. Have a bad one? Pay more.

Let’s see some examples.

How to successfully outsource marketing

Marketing is hard. Knowing which tools to use is hard. Finding the right staff with the right skill set is hard. Heck, sometimes all the things feel hard, right?

You are probably reading this article because you’ve found it hard to manage marketing tasks in-house. Now may be the right time to explore new systems and resources.

If you’re on the verge of hiring a marketing partner and outsourcing tasks like social media management, blogging, graphic design, website copywriting and more, you’ll want to make the best choice possible. It’s totally worth investing time upfront to understand the options, identify your needs and consider a realistic budget.

Six things you can do:

Whatcom County networking groups

Networking can be an important tool for small businesses, and it should not be limited to simply “connecting” with people on social media sites. Word of mouth referrals come from putting yourself out there, meeting new people and then forming business relationships.

Learn more.

Benefits of getting help locally with recruitment

A man and woman are conducting a job interview across a small outdoor table.What happens when one of your key employees gives notice, or when your business is growing and you need additional help? It takes time to write a descriptive and inviting job ad and manage the ad postings for online job boards, your website and social media platforms. All of this — in addition to reviewing the resumes and interviewing applicants — can be overwhelming. Where will you find the time?

Learn more.

Stop marketing so hard, start retaining!

Many major marketing campaigns are designed specifically to grab the attention of potential customers — discounts usually are reserved for new signups, and educational campaigns focus on introducing a business to its target market. Without a doubt, these are important things to do. Ultimately, though, they’ll be as ineffective as doing nothing at all, if the business ignores customers once they’re in the door. If you don’t know how to retain customers, they’ll leave.

Learn more.

Make time today for a marketing review

Don’t do things a certain way just because that’s how you learned to do it. Always ask yourself: “Why am I doing this? What is my goal, and is this the best/most efficient/most effective way to get there?” This is a major concept in marketing, and it’s particularly important because the rules and tools are changing all the time. For example: Niche social media sites are the new “in” platform (but so were Peach, Path and Ello). Should you sign up? No matter what marketing tools you use — social media, print flyers, Facebook ads, word of mouth, skywriting, whatever — it’s important to audit your business now and again to gauge the effectiveness of your methods and to consider new methods that you might not have fully considered yet.

Learn more.

Event marketing opportunities in Whatcom County

One solid way to bring attention to your small, local business is to become involved with events — as a sponsor, vendor or participant. There are many options to choose from, including small town parades, street festivals, business trade shows and educational conferences. 

Learn more.

Business Development

Can forced change lead to business growth?

Coffee mug stamped with the word “We are standing in the midst of a marketplace disruption. We are in it; we are no longer talking about the potential of one.”

How true are those words?

Whether your small business is closed during the coronavirus pandemic, or whether your business, as an essential service provider, is experiencing unprecedented growth, the market as you know it has been disrupted. Now what?

In times of uncertainty and chaos – and even in times when I’m simply looking for inspiration – I turn to this go-to resource: EntreLeadership.

Keep reading.

How to run a small business without running yourself into the ground

Maintaining health and wellness while being self-employed takes effort!

Self-employed myself, consulting alongside local business leaders and entrepreneurs since 2009, I’ve seen that those three expectations can be quite difficult for entrepreneurs. The reality is that it can be stressful to generate enough work to pay the bills. Not to mention managing people, staying on top of taxes, making sure business-development and growth plans stay on track, keeping up with marketing—all challenging parts of entrepreneurship.

Self-employed individuals also can have trouble disconnecting from work. They work long hours and sometimes put their own health and wellness on the back burner. Been there, done that myself! For many, successful self-employment takes a continuous effort to manage work-life balance, stress levels, and our own health, because business matters often take priority over any or all of those ideals.

Here’s what you can do:

Options for free small-business brainstorming in Whatcom County

It’s a rare leader who founds a business solely to market to customers. There’s usually something more immediate on their minds: making delectable food, designing useful products or performing top-notch service.

Eventually, leaders realize that they need a plan of attack for getting their products and services in front of more people. And that usually means seeking out professional advice.

Learn more.

Pushing past fear

A small girl, alone in a dark room, covers her face in fear.Fear gets in the way of life and business.

We’re afraid of people seeing that we are not perfect. We’re afraid of trying to learn something new. We’re afraid of going to new places and meeting new people. We’re afraid of people knowing that we are not a mirror image of all things perfect as seen on our friend’s Facebook timelines, in advertising campaigns, on television and so on.

It’s time to stop that way of thinking!

Here’s how to get there.

Carve out more time with three simple tips

Sorting through unwanted emails is a huge waste of time, even if you’re just scanning the sender’s name, email subject line and then hitting the delete button. It’s a task that distracts or delays us all from taking care of meaningful activities every day.

Recapture valuable time by taming your email inbox.

Read more.

Build your team, get stuff done

As a small business leader, you wear many hats – business development, sales, marketing, accounting, and more. You’ve probably noticed that some of those tasks are challenging, like you’re not naturally good at them. That’s totally normal; you’re not alone with those feelings!

Or, maybe you have a team of employees who do the core parts of their jobs well, but there are skills they’re not quite good at. This happens all the time. It’s hard (OK, nearly impossible) to find one person who is good at everything.

If either of these situations sound familiar, now is a good time to explore expanding your team, delegating or collaborating with a local service provider who can fill skill gaps or manage specific tasks for you.

Learn more.

Recommended Books & Blogs

Seth's Blog

Patti: What I like about this blog is that the info he shares is digestible. You won’t find 800-word articles with technical how-tos. What you will find are daily thoughts and marketing concepts that are worth pondering.

The Go-Giver

The Go-GiverPatti: “Give and you shall receive.” This light, easy read helped me further dial in on the concept of being open to meeting and connecting with all types of people, knowing that everyone has something to give if you can connect with them in honest, real ways. In business and in life, people are organically drawn to those who are givers because they add value to the lives of others in some way. I want to be a life-long giver!

Start With Why

Start With WhyPatti: Three words: What, how and why. This book taught me a marketing strategy for promoting products and services with a focus on “why” and not “what” or “how.” I learned more about storytelling and how consumers respond to the “why” of a business. You’ll find yourself asking, “What is my why?”

The One Thing

The One ThingPatti: What is one thing you’d do differently next time? What is the one thing I can do today to move closer to my goal? What is one roadblock preventing us from taking this business to the next level? “One thing” questions can change your life and your business. This book opened my mind to a new way of thinking that helps break projects down into bite-sized pieces and, also, focus energies on one thing at a time.

Work the Pond!

Patti: This was the first business book I read when I started PR Consulting in 2009. It set me on a wonderful path toward networking and relationship-building; it taught me the value of being real and kind and sincere when connecting with everyone you meet because you never know how they might impact your business (or you theirs). PR Consulting’s foundation was built on the power of positive networking.

The Membership Economy

The Membership EconomyPatti: This book taught me more about developing recurring income streams instead of relying on unpredictable project-based revenue. I enjoyed reading about the companies that were early adopters in the membership economy market — think Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Costco.

Recommended Podcasts


Hidden Brain

Patti: Listening to Hidden Brain has become part of my Saturday morning routine: Coffee and NPR. This is not an industry-related info source. The trending topics that are covered in these podcasts are so interesting; the subjects they cover are backed up by science and expert insight. I literally feel smarter when I tune in. Plus, the topics are great conversation starters at networking events. “I was listening to a podcast on NPR about XYZ…” gets the attention of most people. Experts used to say that if you want to be an engaging conversationalist, read the newspaper daily. A weekly dose of Hidden Brain does the trick for me.


Patti: These business and leadership podcasts from EntreLeadership have opened my mind to many, many new ideas. They have helped me be a more confident consultant and leader to PR Consulting’s team, which is something I work to continuously improve. Tuning into these podcasts has taught me the importance of communicating clearly and having hard conversations when needed — “To be unclear is to be unkind.” I listen to them when I’m walking; I listen to them when I’m driving. If I ever find that I’ve listened to them all I will start over and listen to them all again knowing I’ll glean new and relevant info out of each episode.

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