Answers provided by Bonnie Hurd Smith, President and CEO. More questions? Please contact us!
How are you different from other marketing and PR firms?
History Smiths takes the time to do what other agencies probably won’t do or can’t do – we pour over archives, we dig through dusty boxes and file drawers of historical materials, we tap into our network of archivists, librarians, and historians to ferret out historical information. We apply the same level of “historical intelligence” when we look for ways to connect a client with their community history. This is where our stellar reputation, built after many years of work in the historical community, serves our clients well.
Where we really excel is by identifying the marketing and PR opportunities that come out of the historical research. We know how to help businesses gain momentum from the information. We offer our specialized services to clients directly, or to leading public relations agencies.
Where did the idea for History Smiths come from?
By popular acclaim, really. In the course of marketing, PR, event planning, and fundraising work for communities and nonprofits over the past fifteen years, we’ve developed dozens of relationships with private businesses. What began as consulting relationships evolved into project-based assignments; these yielded such great results for the businesses we worked with that History Smiths was born.
History Smiths benefits from both sides of what we call the historical marketing equation: Business + History = Incremental Market Share. In a sense, our former company, Hurd Smith Communications, worked from the inside out. History Smiths works from the outside in – we start with the businesses.
Who are your clients?
Our clients tend to be firms that benefit from high-trust positioning, meaning those firms for whom the trust factor plays a major role in successful client relationships. For this reason, our business-side clients tend to be professional services companies. A current client is the auditing accounting firm Wolf & Company of Boston, for example. Banks, credit unions, insurance companies, lawyers, investment counselors, and realtor/brokers also benefit from history marketing. Since we work both sides of the equation, we also continue to work with leading organizations on marketing and PR, most recently the Institute for Public History at Gordon College and the Longfellow National Historical Site (National Park Service).
Before I started History Smiths in May 2010, clients included the Town of Ipswich (MA), Peabody Essex Museum, City of Salem (MA), National Park Service, Simmons College, Harvard University, Soucy Insurance
Agency, Cummings Architects, and Mersky, Jaffe & Associates. I have also served as the executive director of the Salem (MA) Partnership, Ipswich Historical Society, Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, and board president of the Sargent House Museum.
You may read the complete list here.
If I’m a PR agency, what’s in it for our customers, if we
refer people to you?
Three words: Customers, loyalty, reputation. The kinds of customers our work delivers tend to be well educated and well off. These are the people who are engaged in their local history, and who are often “missed” by normal PR and marketing channels. Loyalty comes from
establishing trusting relationships, which is especially essential for professional service businesses. While “loyalty programs” have become old and tired, “trust programs,” such as what we can develop, have not. By engaging our clients in their own history and their community’s, we also help boost their reputations as caring, high quality, trustworthy businesses.
Can you give some examples of success stories?
My two favorite examples both involve 100th business anniversaries. For Soucy Insurance Agency in Salem, MA, based on our business and family research (this is a family-owned business), we developed a PR campaign that included media placements, a brochure, and lobby display that resulted in high visibility, great enthusiasm, delighted customers, and new clients.
Our work for Wolf & Company is still playing out, but we have uncovered a long list of ways for them to reach out to new audiences through targeted press releases, special events, and their existing marketing/PR channels. We can’t wait until our results can be shared! And they ALL come out of the historical research.
Does History Smiths only provide hands-on services as you have described?
No, we also create information products to enable businesses to try our
methods on their own. While an individualized plan carries the biggest punch,
time, budget, and location often preclude our ability to provide direct
services. The first two products we made available are the Ebooks Go Beyond the
Party: 11 Simple Ways to Achieve Business Momentum (on making the most out of a
business anniversary), and 10 Easy Steps to Create a Women’s History Trail in
One Year (which shows how to derive the highest economic benefit for everyone
involved, businesses, communities, and nonprofits). We also produce special reports
and articles that provide free information about what we do and how it works.
What is the one take-away you’d like people to have?
That “history” really can be a powerful marketing and PR tool if it's matched strategically to the business involved, and grounded in authentic research.
And I need to add a second. History is also a source of inspiration, and there's a deep, personal satisfaction that comes from being involved. My passion on this has led to dozens of engagements as a public speaker for businesses and organizations. People get hooked!
And especially for women and girls, my talks on women's history where I tell very inspiring stories really hit home.