<![CDATA[JACOBSON COMMUNICATION - Stories & Advice]]>Sat, 13 Aug 2022 22:47:50 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[7 Mistakes Startups Make When Hiring Their First PR Director]]>Thu, 28 Apr 2022 21:25:29 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/7-mistakes-startups-make-when-hiring-their-first-pr-director
Your PR Director can mean the difference between success and failure for your startup. They can help you get noticed, which may lead to future funding, lucrative business partnerships, and more customers. Good PR can open doors that were previously closed for your brand. It’s important to hire well.

As a PR Professional, I’ve worked with hundreds of startups and heard many stories. I’ve also seen a lot of PR mistakes that I want you to learn from. Here are some of the most common.

1. They Hire Someone From a Big Company or PR Agency
Hiring a PR person from a large company is a gamble. I’ve seen several startups boast that their PR Director was from Google or Facebook or even a large PR firm, only to let them go six months later when they realized that person wasn’t able to function without a larger budget and team.
Many startups pay top dollar to acquire this new employee, assuming this one person was responsible for their department’s PR success at the previous company. Unfortunately, this person probably had dozens of people on multiple teams responsible for their combined success. Startups need people who can think for themselves and wear many hats. Hiring from a large company is not a guarantee of success for your startup.

2. They Let The Intern Do It
Deterred by the cost of hiring a professional, some startups believe they’ll save money if the intern learns how to do their PR (yes, I’ve seen this happen). If your startup is serious about getting regular features in the media, this is not an advisable strategy. Interns typically lack the skills of a qualified PR professional, and they’ll take much longer to get any significant PR traction. If your startup has time to waste, you can try this but it’s not advisable.

3. They Require The Employee To Work On-Site
Good PR can be done from anywhere with a good internet connection. When you only hire locally, you’re limiting your workforce. The perfect PR person for you might not even live in your state. 

Unless your startup or brand only exists in one place, or unless you have another really good reason, there is no logical reason to tether this position to your location. Instead, look for other indicators of future success, such as; is this person fluent in the language of the market we are targeting? Does this person have experience with the market and region we are targeting? Can I use remote work tools and regular virtual meetings to make sure we stay on target?

4. They Only Want A Full-Time In-House Employee, Not a ConsultantDepending on your startup’s needs and growth-stage, your PR Director doesn’t have to be a full-time employee. Some startups who have smaller budgets will be better served hiring a PR consultant part time, as opposed to paying for a salaried employee. 

Hiring a consultant gives your PR person the option of having additional clients and making a wage more suitable to their skill-set and needs. This lets you have a highly-skilled PR person at a fraction of the cost. As you grow, you may opt for an in-house position, but by then you’ll have a better idea of what works and hopefully a larger budget.

5. They Don’t Offer Competitive Compensation
Good PR isn’t cheap. If your company truly needs PR now, good PR is a worthwhile investment. Yet, many startups look for ways to cut costs by lowering compensation in exchange for “perks,” such as shares in their company, free lunches, or additional time off. Some even offer a pay-per-placement commission, (don’t do this, it’s a great way to have news outlets blacklist you permanently). 

Offering lower compensation means you’re less likely to hire top-level talent. Do your homework. Pay people what they’re worth. This person is going to show your company to the world. Have a compensation offering that reflects the market rate.

6. They Expect Results Too Soon, or Too Late
I’ve seen startups that expect results from their PR Directors within the first week and I’ve also seen startups that let half a year go by with only one or two results. Neither of these extremes are healthy.

Generally, a skilled PR person should be able to start getting results within the first month of pitching. It’s not because they don’t “know reporters.” It’s because reporters often take time to recognize and get comfortable with the new correlation between your PR Director and your brand. 

For startups who aren’t already widely known, regular media pickup (weekly or monthly stories) usually takes three to six months of active pitching and multiple stories to establish.

7. They Think A Press Release Is Enough
Press releases are for reporters, not the actual public. Publishing a press release does not replace the fact that you need a PR Director. A press release is a great place to house all the important details of your product’s launch. They’re a great way to say, “at this date and time we were here and we did a thing.” They are not great for getting the public to stop what they’re doing and covet your brand. Do not confuse press release impressions with genuine customer engagement. A press release is only a starting point. It needs to be coordinated with a customer-facing blog post, social media engagement, and public statements. A good PR Director can help you do that.

The Bottom Line
Finding the right PR Director is going to take time. You may have to hire a couple different people until you find a good fit. You may have to adjust the compensation you are offering. But, in the end, it’s worth it to find someone who knows how to show your brand to the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer L. Jacobson is a communications strategist specializing in life-changing PR engagement for startups, nonprofits, and creative brands.  Jennifer's clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME magazine's "Best Sites of the Year," FastCompany's "Best Nonprofits," on the front page of USA Today, Popular Science, The New York Times, the Today show, PBS Frontline, and thousands more. Jennifer is also a creative professional who draws on her two decades experience as an entrepreneur, creator, author, and musician to help clients with one-off creative needs such as songwriting, storycraft, world development, and more.

For more about her work, visit: 
jacobsoncommunication.com
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<![CDATA[Springtime Marketing and PR Activities That Prepare Your Theme Park For Peak Season]]>Mon, 31 Jan 2022 08:00:00 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/springtime-marketing-and-pr-activities-that-prepare-your-theme-park-for-peak-season
For many theme parks Spring is a dormant time of year when the worst of the weather passes. But all should not be quiet in your marketing and PR departments. Spring is a great time to jumpstart many activities that will pay off in the busy season.

Here are 12 activities you can start now to prepare your park for peak season.


1. Map Out Your “Big Announcements” and stories for the Year
Do you have a fantastic summer music lineup you’ll need to promote? How about a new ride opening or attraction? Whatever it is, map it out and put it on your editorial calendar now so you have time to plan for and promote it.

2. Put Park Events On Public Community Calendars Now
Community calendars are everywhere. AARP.com has a great one, and so does your local radio station and newspaper. Community calendars are usually are free and they can help your park get regular exposure in local markets.

3. Reevaluate Your Sponsor Program and Start Outreach
Dust off and look at your sponsor program. Are you charging enough? Is the client getting enough value? Can you get case studies or references from your favorite current sponsors? Now is the time to bring your sponsor pages and supporting materials up-to-date. Once this is done, start reaching out to new potential sponsors while it’s early in the season.

4. Review Your Printed Marketing Material
From business cards and name-badges to flyers and signage, this is a good time of year to review your printed marketing material. If it’s faded or out of date, replace it with something better.

5. Plan Seasonal In-Park Guest Engagement Activities
Whether it’s a simple scavenger hunt or immersive in-park quests, this is a good time of year to plan seasonal engagement activities to keep your guests engaged and coming back.

6. Start Implementing This Year’s Theme in Your Flagship Entertainment
If you haven’t already, this is a good time to pick a “theme” for the year and update your entertainment to reflect this. You don’t have to go as far as Disney and make multiple new themed parades and shows throughout the year. Even small aesthetic reflections of a communicated theme can go a long way to making guests feel like they have a unique experience year after year. Your theme might be something as simple as, “Celebrating Nature,” or as complicated as "Building Better Friendships Together.” Whatever it is, make it catchy and give a solid nod to it throughout all park entertainment.

7. Reevaluate Your Merchandise
This is a great time of year to take inventory of what worked last year, what didn’t work, and plan accordingly. Be sure to go outside the theme park space and check out new trends in toys, clothing, accessories, and general merchandise. Be sure to have a variety of merchandise for guests with different interests and budgets. Budget-conscious families with children might be the most obvious choice for your park but also consider additional audience segments like collectors or grandparents who might want to spend more money on longer-lasting, high quality souvenirs.

8. Make a List of Your Reporter Friendlies
Reporter Friendlies are the reporters who know you, and recognize your pitches. They’ve written about you at least once, if not multiple times. Put these reporters and their contact info into a spreadsheet and be sure to pitch them at least a week early on relevant future stories. They’ll appreciate the early head’s up and you’ll be sure to your story goes to a receptive audience.

9. Find a PR Firm or Person
If you don’t already have one, this is a good time to start looking for a good PR firm, PR consultant, or in-house PR person. If you don’t have a large budget, consider hiring a consultant part-time, or a boutique PR firm who specializes in entertainment. Make sure to find one that understands the marketplace your park represents and who has good traction with similar brands.

10. Make a List of The Social Media Influencers You Want to Target. Start Outreach Now.
Have your social media person reach out to social media influencers early (popular influencers line up promotions months in advance). Offer the influencer and a select number of guests complimentary tickets to the park. Be sure to send them your media kit so they’re prepared with information about the park. Coordinate when they’ll arrive and follow up with them after their trip to ensure the best coverage possible. Be sure to amplify and re-share their stories on your social channels.

11. Tie Your PR Stories Into To This Year’s Trends
Look for 4 to 5 hot trends in national and local media and do your best to tie your park’s PR stories into them. If people are concerned about high gas prices, highlight a story about how you’re giving discounts to people who carpool. If health-food is a hot topic, write a story highlighting your park’s delicious healthy food options. Look for stories that set your park apart and while tying into national trends.

12. Update Your Park’s Media Kit
This is a great time to take a few days and update your park’s media kit. A “not too big” PDF that can be read on a phone screen is a great choice because it forces formatting and is relatively easy to make. Be sure to include the basics like a link to browse and download high-rez park pictures, park history, what’s happening in the park nowadays, the park's social media accounts, and any additional facts or frequently asked questions reporters have.

Embrace Springtime
These are just some of the activities you can do to jumpstart your park's peak-season-success. Even implementing a handful of these activities will go a long way to helping your park not just survive, but thrive in the months to come.


By Jennifer L. Jacobson, Founder of Jacobson Communication

Jennifer L. Jacobson is a PR professional and communications strategist specializing in life-changing PR engagement for startups, nonprofits, creative companies, and theme parks. For clients who require strategy, creative services, and advisement, Jennifer draws on her two decades experience as an entrepreneur, creator, author, and musician. Jennifer's clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME magazine's "Best Sites of the Year," FastCompany's "Best Nonprofits," on the front page of USA Today, Popular Science, The New York Times, the Today show, PBS Frontline, and thousands more.

For more articles by Jennifer, visit: https://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog.html
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<![CDATA[Hiring a PR Firm: 7 Myths Startups and New Brands Believe]]>Mon, 31 Jan 2022 04:14:34 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/hiring-a-pr-firm-7-myths-startups-and-new-brands-believe
Hiring a PR firm is a big step for any new or growing brand. If you've reached this point, congratulations, you’ve gotten farther than a lot of other brands ever have. Here are seven common myths to avoid when considering hiring a PR firm.

1. The Best PR Firms Are Really Big
Choosing a big PR firm that works with big clients can be a bad choice for new and emerging brands for several reasons. Big PR firms are expensive for cost-conscious brands. Unless they have a “small brand” department big PR firms are mainly focused on their big, name-brand clients, because they look good, and they bring in most of the money. Most big PR firms don’t specialize in the nuances of startups. While they may have fancy reports and a fleet of underlings to meet with you regularly, big PR firms don’t usually understand the specific needs of budding entrepreneurship associated with startups. You’re better off looking for PR firms that specialize in, and have results for companies of a similar size and focus to yours.
2. Paid Celebrity Promotion Works When You Pay Enough
The PR needs of celebrities and established brands have little in common with the PR needs of startups. Endorsements, damage control, product launches within an established brand, and ongoing brand maintenance should be your brand's primary focus. Startups usually need PR that introduces them to the world and establishes them as a thought leader in their industry. Popular celebrities may seem cool, but the PR strategies that make them successful have little in common with the PR strategies that make new startups successful.

Also consider that celebrities and big brands spend millions annually on communications, marketing infrastructure, market research, endorsements, and public relations. The work of their PR firm only plays a small part in their success.

3. A Good PR Firm Should Work Without Much Input from Me
PR is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting your startup noticed. Each startup is unique, and a good PR firm will need to spend time with you and get to know your brand, your goals, your industry, and more, in order to identify what makes you special and help you stand out from the competition. Expect to meet with your PR firm regularly and don’t be surprised when they ask questions about why your startup exists, what problem you solve, and how you’re different than others.

4. My Startup Is Too Secret To Talk About With a PR Firm
PR firms need to know what your company does, how it does it, why it exists, and how it’s better than the competition. While you may not need to disclose each of the secret sauce ingredients directly, your PR firm needs to be able to talk with reporters and make a solid case as to why your product is better than the competition. Warning: Reporters can see through vague marketing speak, so get specific. If your startup has a secret product or solution still in development, and not yet ready to be made public, be sure to tell your PR firm when it can be made public.

5. My PR Contract Should Be Cheap Because I’m a Startup/New Brand
Public relations is often the first thing people see when they meet your startup. While you can save money on things like office supplies and company lunches, public relations, can be an embarrassing place to scrimp because it’s so very “public.” It’s like wearing a ragged dirty shirt to a demo pitch. Sure you can do it, but it’s not a good idea. Think of a PR firm as you would a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant. You want good results, which come from experience, intelligence, and the ability to get the job done right. Price is a very small part of what is truly important when hiring a PR firm. According to one article: “Retainer fees for startups tend to range between $5,000 and $10,000.” 

6. I Should Only Pay for Placements
Many startups hesitate to pay for public relations work, as it is not a guarantee of media placements. As a result, some startups consider a pay-to-play option. Pay-to-play means a firm only gets paid for the media placements they get a client. Most publications frown on the practice. Some publications will even blacklist PR people who get paid per story, so don’t ask your PR firm to do it. If you need eyeballs, consider straight-up advertising or paid placements. The downside; the audience will know you paid to get the story and control the message, so it won’t feel as genuine as real PR.

7. The Intern Can Do It
Don’t ask a fish to climb a ladder and don’t ask an intern to pitch your startup. Interns can be great for getting coffee and some even have the capacity to contribute to well-envisioned, well-guided, well-monitored campaigns. You may find an intern that is so good they eventually become a valued employee. But would you really trust an intern to be your company’s sole ambassador, pitching your startup to Fortune, or TechCrunch, or Gizmodo? Keep in mind, most reporters get hundreds of pitches a day, the odds are slim that your intern knows who to approach a reporter and what to say to make put your company in the best light possible.

The Bottom Line
Finding a good PR firm is an important step in your brand’s growth. With a little planning, and a willingness to work together, your startup will be well on its way to better publicity.

By Jennifer L. Jacobson, Founder of Jacobson Communication

Jennifer L. Jacobson is a PR professional and communications strategist specializing in life-changing PR engagement for startups, nonprofits, creative companies, and theme parks. For clients who require strategy, creative services, and advisement, Jennifer draws on her two decades experience as an entrepreneur, creator, author, and musician. Jennifer's clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME magazine's "Best Sites of the Year," FastCompany's "Best Nonprofits," on the front page of USA Today, Popular Science, The New York Times, the Today show, PBS Frontline, and thousands more.

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<![CDATA[A Santa’s Village Christmas Carol: Bringing an Abandoned Theme Park Back to Life]]>Thu, 09 Dec 2021 02:54:12 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/a-santas-village-christmas-carol-bringing-an-abandoned-theme-park-back-to-life
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Santa's House at SkyPark as it stands today in San Bernardino.
​Santa’s Village in Scotts Valley California is the abandoned amusement park of my dreams. It closed the year I was born, but that didn’t stop my lifelong obsession with it, nor did it stop me from working for Santa’s Village today, but let’s not start with the end of the story just yet. By the time I first found out about the enchanting Bay Area Christmas theme park, it was only a memory, and someone else's memory at that.

    To put it in Dickensian terms; Santa’s Village was dead to begin with; ​as dead as an abandoned theme park could be.

It was one of three Santa’s Villages across the country; the first franchised amusement park. But the heydays of mid-century modern luxury dissolved into the gas crisis and economic despair of the 1970s. The Santa’s Village Corporation dissolved in the late 70s. The parks went their separate ways and eventually all closed. And you might assume this is where the story of Santa's Village stops, but you'd be wrong.
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The 1950's Welcome House at Scotts Valley
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Santa's House in Scotts Valley, fifteen years after the park closed
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The 1950's Welcome House at San Bernardino
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Mrs. Claus' Kitchen in Scotts Valley in the 1950's
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The abandoned Pixie Pantry eating area in Scotts Valley
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The abandoned Mill Wheel Toy Factory in Scotts Valley
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The Pony Cart Ride and Doll House at Scotts Valley in the 1950's
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The abandoned Good Witch Bakery in Scotts Valley
​As a child, I saw the ghost of Santa’s Village every time my parents drove home. It sat across Highway 17, across from my kindergarten. I could look out from the playground and see the twenty-foot-tall candy-cane, the log-cabin Welcome House, and the brightly colored concrete mushrooms that children used to play on. Beyond that, the trees grew tall, hiding what must have been a magical fairy world, just out of reach. The park was surrounded by fences and no trespassing signs, yet every night, as if by some lingering theme park magic, the lights still came on outside the Welcome House. It was in these times that the park called to me most.

    Even in its dilapidated state, the park was still magical.

​Over the years, I collected newspaper clippings, souvenirs, and stories from locals who remembered the park. My elementary school was lucky enough to inherit three of the concrete mushrooms which strengthened my resolve to salvage whatever was left. By fourth grade, I had commissioned my friends to write the city to reopen the park. The city politely but promptly refused.​
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The Welcome House in Scotts Valley before the fire. The lights still came on after the park was abandoned.
​​Then one night there was an orange glow in the sky on the way home. My parents stopped the car. We looked across the freeway in horror as the Welcome House stood, surrounded by flames. Even the neighboring abandoned log cabin Santa-themed gas station was in flames. The little white plastic reindeer on its roof were melting as the fire reached high into the sky. Part of me has never recovered from that night.

​    I was born too late to save my Santa’s Village, but my obsession turned into a passion for parks, storytelling, and a drive to preserve history and wild places.

I have collected the stories of Santa’s Village employees, Frontier Village fans, and the family that started The Enchanted Forest. I’ve gone on tours behind the scenes at Disney World and talked with Cast Members and engineers about immersive environment theory, what ride control surfaces are best, and the history of the carousel (fun fact; in Europe, it was made to train lancers for war and it means “little war” in Italian). I earned my master’s degree in Broadcast Communications. I wrote my thesis on Puppets in Prime Time, a book on social media, and another on PR for startups. I am currently drafting a four-part young adult novel series about a magical theme park that comes to life.

I went on, living my life with a Santa’s Village-sized hole in my heart driving me forward. Then, in 2014, an unexpected ray of hope shone through the clouds. That hope came in the form of a real estate listing in the San Bernardino mountains, the Santa’s Village that had been abandoned since 1998; one of Glenn Holland’s 3 original parks. That’s when Bill and Michelle Johnson, Lake Arrowhead locals, decided to buy the Santa’s Village park and its surrounding forested acres. The couple spent the next 24 months renovating and reimagining the park, adding a professional bike park, zip-line, and many other attractions, cutting through red tape and doing everything in their power to re-open the park. I watched with bated breath, hoping against hope that their plans would work. After many struggles and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, Bill and Michelle and their amazing team opened their park under the name SkyPark at Santa’s Village. Their park had all the charm of the old winter-themed park and more.
In December of 2020, I gathered my courage and all the luck I could find and reached out to Bill and Michelle Johnson, pleading my case, telling them how I knew all about the park and wanted to make sure it thrives for generations to come. “I was born under the sign of the Candy Cane,” I told them. “I’ve spent my whole life telling people about this place. I was born to do PR for Santa’s Village.”
PictureMe at the Gingerbread Bakery!
Today I am pleased to report that dreams do come true and I am now working for SkyPark at Santa’s Village as the Director of PR, offering my storytelling and creative services.

After a four-decade wait, I finally got to experience Santa's Village in person and it went above and beyond my expectations. “We want you to experience the park,” Bill and Michelle told me. So I booked a flight to San Bernardino, rented a car, and drove up the windy mountains.

But before checking into my hotel, (like a normal person would have), something called to me, and it felt like that Ghost of Santa's Village Past.

    I knew the park was close without looking at the GPS. I drove along the highway by instinct, ignoring the turnoff for my hotel. After four decades of waiting, I hadn't come all this way to be normal.

I had studied these hills for so long, I could feel where the park should be, and I was right. The car rounded the top of a hill and I saw it. My heart caught in my throat. It was really there, shiny and new, nestled in a field against a forested hill. All at once my mind's eye saw the park in all its stages of existence; past, present, and future. There it was, as it had been in pictures from 1955, surrounded by a full forest. And there it was in 2003, with burned trees around it, after the mountains had a historic fire that burned 91,000 acres but somehow spared the park. And there it was now, and somewhere in the distance, I saw it as it would someday be. It was magical.

​My vision became blurry in that moment and I had to pull over in the parking lot to cry. It was a dream come true. The park was thriving. The parking lot was almost full. There were guests queuing up to get into the park. Families were unpacking bikes from their vehicles. The park was alive and well, and for the first time ever, I got to be part of its story.

That weekend was spent with some of the most dedicated, amazing people I have ever met. Bill and Michelle are so dedicated to the park and the team, and their team shares the same vision. Bill and Michelle and Arrow the timberwolf-malamute (and the park’s mascot) took me on a hike through the Northwoods and along the back end of the property through the forest and meadow. We saw what was once the Heneck family homestead and a grove of apple trees, grown from the seeds and grafts of the original homestead trees. Putnam Heneck was the general contractor that built the park and later purchased it when the Santa’s Village Corporation dissolved.

I couldn’t help but think of how much this park and the forest reminded me of the park near my house, which now only lived in memory. Even though it was my first time to this park, I felt like I had been there my entire life.

This is the 66th year since the first Santa’s Village in San Bernardino opened. Against all odds it not only survives but thrives. Despite previous years surviving squatters, a historic fire, a global pandemic, and decades of abandonment, the park still stands, and I intend to help it do so for as long as I can, and at long last, I have found others who share that dream.

The memories of my long-gone Santa's Village in Scotts Valley are still with me. They follow me, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, and I have learned to sit by its side and listen to the stories it has to share. But now there are two more spirits that drift around me; and they offer hope. The Spirit of Theme Parks Present, and the Spirit of Theme Parks Future encourage me to keep learning, and keep finding joy, and to make good use of my time.

    Together the spirits of the past, present, and future, create a powerful magic, one which the most successful theme parks have learned to honor.


I wish I could go back to my childhood self, to the little girl watching the fire destroy my park's Welcome House. I would tell that devastated little girl, “It’s going to be ok. There is still magic in the world. You will find it someday, and you will be one of the people who helps it grow.” In this, good things can never die, so long as they have someone to remember them and share their stories with the people of the future.

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<![CDATA[How I Came To Work For The Abandoned Amusement Park of My Dreams]]>Thu, 27 May 2021 01:01:58 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/how-i-came-to-work-for-the-abandoned-amusement-park-of-my-dreams
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The Good Witch's Bakery (AKA The Gingerbread Bakery) as it looked when Santa's Village in Scotts Valley opened
Santa’s Village, my favorite theme park in the entire world, closed the year I was born. This minor inconvenience however didn’t stop me from spending a good deal of my life obsessing over it, tracking down stories, and looking for signs of life, no matter how impossible. I’m not your normal theme park fan; I go deep into stories and personal histories collecting forgotten memories, pictures, and trinkets from independent parks, many of which no longer exist. Santa’s Village has always been at the center of my curiosity. Frontier Village of San Jose and The Lost World, of Scotts Valley have also been on my list of curiosities, but if I had to pick one to bring back, it will always be Santa’s Village.

Now, on a recent Friday in May, after years of waiting, I am happy to report that I finally ventured into the park’s Welcome House and spent a weekend in the actual Santa’s Village. Not only did I visit, I now work for the park, offering my public relations and creative services, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
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In front of Santa's House at the thriving SkyPark at Santa's Village in the San Bernardino Mountains.
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Scotts Valley's Santa's Village shortly after the park opened
People that run and own theme parks, especially independent ones, have to be a little on the wild side. They’re dreamers but they’re also hard workers. They’re visionaries, but they also have their fingers on the pulse of every ticket and every customer experience. They walk the grounds seeing the park in all its realms of existence at once, from history, to present, to permutations of what the future could be. I’ve seen this while on the board of the Happy Hollow Foundation, and while interviewing the owners of The Enchanted Forest in Salem Oregon, and Train Town in Sonoma. I've even had the honor of documenting the former cast of Frontier Village as they gather for their annual reunion picnic, despite the park having been closed for thirty years. Little parks make an impact on people's lives in a big way.
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Former cast members of Frontier Village at the annual reunion picnic
Theme park owners and their biggest fans (such as myself) have to believe that anything is possible. You have to be able to speak to the bones of forgotten places, and see them rise again. You have to be willing to look at a dilapidated attraction and find the parts that are worth saving. It’s part practical magic and part alchemy and a ton of hard work. And sometimes you get really lucky and the stars align, and your dreams come true and you find yourself in the middle of a park that once only existed in memory.
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Santa's House and the Alice in Wonderland Maze (behind) at Scotts Valley's Santa's Village about 15 years after it closed
Santa’s Village; A Little History
Santa’s Village, in the Santa Cruz mountains opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1958, the second of what was to be three winter-themed franchised amusement parks. Southern California developer Glenn Holland created the first park in the San Bernardino mountains in 1955 (six weeks before Disneyland) as a place where families could lose themselves in a fantasy forest for the day. The park featured reindeer, a baby animal petting zoo, puppet shows, elves in workshops making toys, a life-size gingerbread house, and of course, Santa himself.
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The Welcome House at Santa's Village in Scotts Valley after the park had closed.
​Searching for Ghosts
By the late 1970’s however Baby Boomers were grown, gas prices were soaring, and roadside attractions across the country were hurting. The Santa’s Village Corporation dissolved and the three parks went their separate ways, each eventually closing. I never got to see any of it. I only saw the abandoned thirty-foot tall candy cane, colorful concrete mushrooms, and Welcome House across the highway, every day when my parents drove home. And every night, as if by some theme park magic, the lights still illuminated the welcome house and mushrooms, and even in its dilapidated state, the park was still magical.
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The gas station at Santa's Village in Scotts Valley
​Then one night on the way home, my parents stopped the car. We looked across the freeway in horror as the Welcome House stood, surrounded by flames. Even the tiny log cabin Santa-themed gas station next door was in flames. The little white plastic reindeer on its roof were melting as an ominous orange glow illuminated the sky. Part of me has never recovered from that night.

I longed to go to the park that had always been closed to me. As a kid I gathered my friends together and wrote to the city, asking them to re-open the park. I collected stories and anything I could find from the park. On my thirtieth birthday I finally walked the abandoned, bulldozed grounds of my park, which had been gone for thirty years. I still have a piece of an original mushroom I found that day. Today, my park is a few dozen multi-million dollar tract homes,  never to be open again. 
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Looking toward Santa's House (SkyPark at Santa's Village as it is today)
​Santa’s Village Reborn
Even in the hardest times, somewhere in the universe, there has to be hope. That hope came in the form of a real estate listing in the San Bernardino mountains in 2014, for a park that had been abandoned since 1998 called Santa’s Village. That’s when Bill and Michelle Johnson, Lake Arrowhead locals, decided to buy the Santa’s Village park and its surrounding forested acres. The couple spent the next 24 months fixing up the park, adding a bike park zip-line, and many other attractions, cutting through red tape and doing everything in their power to re-open the park. I watched with bated breath, hoping against hope that their plans would work.

After many struggles and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, Bill and Michelle and their amazing team opened their park under the name SkyPark at Santa’s Village. Their park had all the charm of the old winter-themed park plus a mountain bike park, medieval-style games, high-end gastropub-style food, a full bakery, venues for weddings, new characters, and more.
Picture
Outside the Gingerbread Bakery at SkyPark at Santa's Village
In December of 2020, I gathered my courage and all the luck I could find and reached out to Bill and Michelle Johnson, pleading my case, telling them how I knew all about the park and wanted to make sure it thrives for generations to come. “I was born under the sign of the Candy Cane,” I told them. “I’ve spent my whole life telling people about this place. I was born to do PR for Santa’s Village.”

Today I am pleased to report that I am now working for SkyPark at Santa’s Village as the Director of PR, offering my storytelling and creative services. It is a dream come true. I wish I could go back to my childhood self, watching the fire tearing apart the Welcome House at my park, and tell that devastated little girl, “It’s going to be ok. There is still magic in the world, and you will find it someday.”
Picture
The Welcome House at SkyPark at Santa's Village
Visiting the Park At Last
After a 41 year wait, I was recently able to see the park in person and it went above and beyond my expectations. “We want you to experience the park,” Bill had told me. “Come check it out for the weekend.” So I did; I booked a 2 hour flight to San Bernardino, rented a car, and drove up the windy mountains. But before checking into my hotel, (like a normal person), I drove along the highway, past my turnoff. Because after 41 years I didn’t come all this way to be normal. I knew it was close without looking at the GPS. I had studied these hills for so long. The car rounded the top of a hill and then I saw it; the turnoff to the park. My heart caught in my throat. There was the park, looking shiny and new, nestled in a field against a forested hill. All at once I saw the park as it had been in pictures from 1955, surrounded by a full forest, and then in 2003, when this park had its own fire that had burned 91,000 acres but spared the park. I saw the park as it was before me, and as I hoped it would be for years to come.

​I turned into the parking lot and my vision became blurry. I had to pull over and cry for a minute. The parking lot was almost full. There were people, actual people, queuing up to get into the park. Families were unpacking bikes from their vehicles. The park was alive and well, and for the first time ever, I got to be part of its story.
Picture
Guests entering the Welcome House
That weekend was spent with some of the most dedicated, amazing people I have ever met. Bill and Michelle are so dedicated to the park and the team, and their team shares the same vision. The park itself is not only well-kept, but re-imagined and re-designed to cater to a modern audience and also comply with ADA accessibility.

SkyPark at Santa’s Village is a place where you can put down your screens and just enjoy a hike, or ride the little train in the park, or practice throwing an axe. The characters in the park are well-designed and acted and their presence is very natural as they chat with guests and blow bubbles for children.

And don’t get me started on the food. If you only come here for the food, it will be worth it. From BBQ to burgers to pub food, and a full bakery where they make their own cookies and wedding cakes, this place offers more than traditional park food.
Picture
Inside the Gingerbread Bakery
Bill and Michelle and Arrow the timberwolf-malamute (and the park’s mascot) took me on a hike through the Northwoods and along the back end of the property through the forest and meadow. We saw what was once a family homestead and a grove of apple trees, grown from the seeds and grafts of the original homestead trees.

I couldn’t help but think of how much this park and the forest reminded me of the park near my house, which was also off a major highway, in an area where tourists frequent. Even though it was my first time to this park, I felt like I had been there my entire life.
Picture
Santa's Village in San Bernardino as it was when it opened in 1955.
This memorial day marks 66 years since Santa’s Village in San Bernardino opened. Against all odds it not only survives but thrives. Despite previous years surviving squatters, a historic fire, a global pandemic, and decades of abandonment, the park still stands, and I intend to help it do so for as long as I can. I’m so grateful for the parks new owners and team, and beyond thrilled that I get to be part of this exciting new chapter in its history.

Not everyone grows up next door to an abandoned winter-themed amusement park, and very few people get to see that park reborn. As far as I’m concerned, I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I like to think that was part of Glenn Holland’s dream; for more kids to live near such a park. Glenn envisioned Santa’s Village after growing up during the Great Depression. His parents died when he was a teenager and he had to look after his sister. Glenn never really had a childhood and he made up for lost time with the creation of the Santa’s Village parks. I think he must have known that such a place changes children’s lives for the better. I know it changed mine.

I promise you that dreams do come true. There is still magic in the world, and sometimes you will be lucky enough to find it. And if you get a chance to go to the childhood amusement park of your dreams, don’t let it pass you by.
Picture
Me, reunited with a concrete mushroom.


​Note: Many of the vintage pictures above are from the generous people who share memories of the Scotts Valley Santa's Village Group on Facebook.
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<![CDATA[My North Star: The Abandoned Amusement Park That Guided Me Home]]>Wed, 07 Apr 2021 21:57:21 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/my-north-star-the-abandoned-amusement-that-park-guided-me-home
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Santa's Village, as it once looked, from Highway 17 in California.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with a theme park that now, only exists in memory. Before I had words to describe it, I saw its ghost, every time my parents drove home. The abandoned relic with twenty-foot candy canes and giant colorful concrete mushrooms waited, faded and forgotten, to beckon travelers to an empty Welcome House and a hidden enchanted forest beyond. But the cars no longer stopped as they sped along the highway through the Santa Cruz mountains and the children's laughter that once encompassed the park gave way to a lonely wind.

Not everyone grows up next door to an abandoned winter-themed amusement park. As far as I was concerned, I was one of the luckiest kids in the world. I like to think that was part of the founder’s dream; for more kids to live near such a park. Glenn Holland envisioned Santa’s Village after growing  up during the Great Depression. He never really had a childhood and he made up for lost time.
I think the founder must have known that such a place changes children’s lives for the better. I know it changed mine.
Picture
The Welcome House as it looked when the park opened in 1958.
The first Santa’s Village park opened in the 1950’s. It was the first franchised theme park in the United States. For decades, there were three nearly identical parks across the country and more planned. But baby boomers grew up, gas prices soared, and road trips became less common. The Santa’s Village corporation dissolved in the late 1970’s around the time I was born.
Picture
"Beyond the Trees," after the park closed, circa 1990.
The fact that my town’s park had closed did not stop my curiosity. I wanted to know what was just out of sight, behind the Welcome House, behind the trees. I wanted to know what it was like to spend a day at Santa’s Village in its heyday. I collected newspaper clippings, souvenirs, and stories from locals who remembered the park. My elementary school was lucky enough to inherit three of the concrete mushrooms which strengthened my resolve to salvage whatever was left. By fourth grade, I had commissioned my friends to write the city to reopen the park. The city politely but promptly refused.
Yet, every night, as if by some lingering theme park magic, the lights still came on outside the Welcome House, and even in its dilapidated state, it was still magical.
Picture
The themed Standard Gas Station next to Santa's Village
Then, one night on the way home, an orange glow filled the sky. Flames had engulfed the Welcome House and the nearby reindeer-topped gas station, which had managed to survive for many years. I watched in horror as the fire consumed the beacon I had always looked to. The white roof-reindeer melted, one by one, until the last of them was gone and the building was a shell of what it had been. The lights never came on again.
​I was born too late to save my Santa’s Village, but my obsession turned into a passion for theme parks, storytelling, and a fierce drive to preserve history and wild places. I have collected the stories of Santa’s Village employees, Frontier Village fans, and the family that started The Enchanted Forest. I’ve gone on tours behind the scenes at Disney World and talked with Cast Members and engineers about immersive environment theory, what ride control surfaces are best, and the history of the carousel (fun fact; in Europe, it was made to train lancers for war and it means “little war” in Italian). I earned my master’s degree in Broadcast Communications. I wrote my thesis on Puppets in Prime Time, a book on social media, and another on PR for startups. 

​​
In my career, I’ve helped grow hundreds of brands. I’m passionate about storytelling, music writing, character design, and the art of making people believe in an idea, and in themselves. I believe stories are some of the most powerful forces in the universe, with the power to win hearts and convince minds and we must care for them as we care for ourselves.
Picture
The Audio Animatronics Department at WDW
My park is gone forever, but its story is far from over. It lives on, every day, in the surrogate memories I have made of it. I use those memories as a catalyst to fuel my creative work and bring impossible things to life.
Picture
The remains of the last concrete mushroom, on the site of what is now a housing development.
UPDATE: Since writing this post, I am happy to announce that I am now the Public Relations Director for SkyPark at Santa's Village in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California, (the first of the three Santa's Villages). The full story is here.


For more on the history of Santa's Village visit: www.santasvillage.net/santas.village.scotts.valley.html
To join the community of memory-makers, visit: www.facebook.com/groups/59858968506/

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<![CDATA[OK Google Why Are You Trying To Get Me To Buy A New Nest So Early?]]>Wed, 21 Oct 2020 08:31:24 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/ok-google-why-are-you-trying-to-get-me-to-buy-a-new-nest-so-early
"People trust Google Nest with their lives. The fact that Google, the third largest tech company in the world (only behind Apple and Microsoft), is alerting Nest customers about replacing their life-saving products one to two years before they actually expire, is unconscionable. Especially during a pandemic, when so many working-class Americans are unemployed, trying to be prudent about what little money they might have left to spend.​"

Earlier today, the Nest Protect in my bedroom started flashing yellow and, when I logged into the app to see what the alert was about, I was struck by the words, “expiring soon.” The alert was telling me I would need to replace my Nest, but the alert was early. Really early. The alert was for a generation one Nest, which is about five and a half years old (about how long I’ve been living in this house). Here’s the thing; the Nest generation one has a seven year warranty. 


​The alert is a year and a half early. Was it a simple mistake? Had Google accidentally pushed a notification to generation one devices early? The alert persisted throughout the day, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed, which led me to wonder how many other people were getting the same alert. Many of those people probably have a lot on their minds right now. They may not know the Nest generation one warranty is for seven years–not five and a half.

This matters because, with the world going through a pandemic, and so many people out of work and in one form of crisis or another, this is not the time to be worried about an expensive life saving device that doesn’t yet need replacing, from one of the largest tech companies in the world.

The app says it will notify Google Nest customers three months, one month, and seven days before the product expires. These are reasonable, laid out timeframes. But a year and a half early? Ok Google. Riddle me this; If it’s not a money-grab and an attempt to get people to needlessly upgrade their products early, what is it?


By Jennifer L. Jacobson, Seattle-Area Resident, Founder of Jacobson Communication.

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<![CDATA[10 Quick Media Training Hacks for Startups]]>Fri, 11 Sep 2020 18:51:10 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/10-quick-media-training-hacks-for-startups
You’re busy running a startup. You don’t have a communications “team” of 50 people to help you prepare for conversations with the press. You personally don’t have time for an intensive 2 week course on media training. What you DO have is an interview or media opportunity in two days that you’re scared to death about.

Fear not. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

​1. Know The Show
Familiarize yourself with the show or venue you’re going to be on. Do your homework. If it’s a blog, read previous articles. If it’s a TV show, watch previous episodes. If it’s a podcast, or radio show, listen to a few episodes. If it’s available, read over the list of episode titles and guests over the last few months. Try and get a sense of why the show exists and what it’s about.

​2. Know The Target Audience
Figure out what kind of organization this is, and who they appeal to. It’s important to estimate who a target audience is. It’s very different speaking to a magazine aimed at parents versus one aimed at chemical engineers. Once you’ve identified their audience as best you can, try and connect that audience with elements of your brand. What about your brand or industry might these people find compelling? What challenges might there be? Knowing this ahead of time will help you give better answers and stay focused during the interview. 

3. Know How Long They Need You
Ask ahead of time, how long they need you for, or how long your segment, or article will be. Are you doing a 2 minute interview? Do they need you on-set for two hours? Will they interview you for two hours and cut it down to two minutes? Highly polished weekly shows, like Sunday Morning for example, shoot hours of interviews and on-site b-roll for a final segment that might only be 10 minutes when it airs. Livestreamers may want you to sit on the air for 4 hours and chime in occasionally when the subject arises.

4. Don’t Overschedule The Day
The day you have a big interview is not the day to go to your kid’s soccer game, hold a board meeting, or start remodeling the kitchen. Sure, big company executives might be able to do that because they have several interviews a week, but you’re with a startup. Startups typically get less media interviews and each one really matters. Media interviews are important. Schedule time beforehand to do your homework and internalize the topics you’re going to cover. Get a good night’s sleep before, and be sure to eat and hydrate. Schedule reminders on your cell phone and smartwatch so you actually get to where you need to be on time. After the interview, take a little time to pause and reflect internally or with your team on what went well and what you’d like to change in the future.

5. Practice Your Quick Pitch
This is what you say when a reporter asks what your startup is or how it came about. It incorporates your elevator pitch, but it’s not word-for-word, and it includes a little about the founding. Write it down. Rehearse it. Keep it short. Keep it interesting. Test it on family members if you need to, and see if they find it engaging.

6. Keep a Notebook
If you have a tendency to freeze, keep a little notebook next to you with “at a glance” points. The show’s name. The host’s name. If you’re talking about a study, the key statistics, etc. Depending on the show, you may not be able to have it right next to you, but it’s good to make your own notes ahead of time to practice key points.

7. Know The Reporter’s Interviewing Style
Most interviewers won’t throw a “gotcha” question out of nowhere, but some do. Know which kind of reporter you are working with. Some reporters will talk with you for a long time, and the show gets edited down later for time. Some reporters need just a 20 second answer. Once you know what kind of interview you’re going to have, you can be more prepared.

8. Get or Come Up With Possible Questions Ahead of Time
Reporters working at print publications and online publications typically don’t mind giving you questions ahead of time. Some reporters for TV and radio can also send you a sample list of questions. When that’s not an option, look at previous interviews the reporter has done and imagine what questions they will likely want to know about your startup, or the industry.

9. Be Industry Current
Sometimes interviews are booked months in advance, but then something groundbreaking happens the day of your interview that changes the industry landscape. If this happens, you may be called on to talk about it, after all, you’re the industry expert. Research your industry the day before (and the day of) going into your interview and be able to talk about specific trends if the need arises. The last thing you want to do is learn about a breaking story in your industry on the air.

10. Prep for the Hard Question If It Happens
It’s always good to be ready for an unexpected difficult question. Imagine what that could possibly be, and practice answering the question as best you can. Remember, you’re never obligated to reveal secrets about your company (in fact, don’t). But you should be able to sidestep the question like a decent human being and still carry on a good interview. You can always say something like, “That’s not something I’m able to talk about at this time, but what I can tell you is…” You could also say, “what I think is more interesting to your viewers right now is… “ but you want to be sure you’re right if you use this tactic.

The Bottom Line: A little preparation goes a long way. Pay attention to your industry and to interviews you find compelling. You’ll get better with practice and paying attention. You can do this.


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<![CDATA[Financial Survival for Small Businesses and Startups: Understanding Your Rights to Relief and How To Navigate The System]]>Thu, 23 Apr 2020 21:18:47 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/financial-survival-for-small-businesses-and-startups-understanding-your-rights-to-relief-and-how-to-navigate-the-system
Guest Post by By Amanda Plank, Founder of Merch Minion

With the recent temporary shutdown of many small businesses and startups during the COVID-19 pandemic, many financial relief programs are now available. The difficulty is knowing what’s out there, and how to navigate a system that, frankly, was never meant to deal with this kind of pressure. Fear not. It is possible, with a lot of patience and persistence to get help. Here’s what you need to know.
Part 1: Understanding The Various Programs and Eligibility
There are many different financial relief programs that have sprung up to help small businesses and startups during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Others are programs that have existed for years but have been expanded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Here is an overview of what’s available in the U.S.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue as the result of a declared disaster. The CARES Act sets out new rules that make it easier for small businesses that were damaged by closures, or had other losses, due to the coronavirus to apply for and receive loans. Keep in mind, these are loans which have to be paid back.

EIDL Advance - A borrower can apply for an EIDL loan and receive up to $10,000 as an advance in the form of an EIDL Grant. Typical turn around Pre-COVID-19 was 3 days, but please note that because of high demand, turn around on the EIDL Advances, at the time of writing this, are about 3-4 weeks. The EIDL Advance is currently capped at $1,000 per employee up to the $10,000 max. The borrower will not be required to pay back the Grant funds, even if the EIDL loan is later denied. The borrower will be required to certify to the SBA, under penalty of perjury, that it is eligible to apply. The EIDL Grant funds can be used for maintaining payroll, providing sick leave to employees, rent or mortgages payments, and paying other obligations that cannot be paid due to lost revenue.

EIDLs are available from January 31, 2020 – September 30, 2020. The EIDL Grants are backdated to January 31, 2020 to allow those who have already applied for EIDLs to be eligible to also receive an EIDL Grant. 

Who’s Eligible for the EIDL
  • Sole proprietors (with or without employees), independent contractors, cooperatives and employee owned businesses, and Tribal small businesses with 500 or fewer employees are eligible for EIDLs.
  • Also, small business concerns and small agricultural cooperatives that meet the applicable size standard for the SBA are also eligible, as well as most private non-profits of any size. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) allows businesses to apply for a SBA backed loan specifically for payroll and employee retention during the COVID-19 Shutdowns. Funding amount is 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs determined during the one-year period before the date on which the loan is made up to a maximum of $10,000,000. If the business was not operating during the period from February 15, 2019 until June 30, 2019, the relevant measurement period is January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020.

Please note that for seasonal employers, as determined by the SBA, the measurement period is either the 12-week period beginning February 15, 2019 or March 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019, at the election of the borrower. To apply for the PPP you must go through a banking institution you already have a financial history with, you can not apply directly through the SBA. This DOES include companies like paypal, square, and stripe. 

Covered Payroll costs include:
  • salary, wages, commission, or similar compensation
  • payments of cash tips or the equivalent
  • payment for vacation, parental, family, medical or sick leave
  • allowance for dismissal or separation
  • payments required for the provision of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums
  • payment of any retirement benefit
  • payment of state or local tax assessed on the employee

Who is Eligible for the PPP: 
  • the borrower was in operation on February 15, 2020
  • the borrower had employees for whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes; and with respect to loan deferrals, the borrower was adversely impacted by COVID-19 (although this requirement is presumed).

I Heard The PPP Was A Grant, But You Say It’s a Loan. What gives?
While the SBA may be issuing further guidance on loan forgiveness, the CARES Act states that the loan obligations eligible for forgiveness include amounts expended for those obligations and services listed below that are incurred during the “Covered Period” (which means the 8-week period beginning on the origination date of the covered loan), but only where such obligation or service (in the case of mortgage obligations, rent and utilities) was an existing obligation as of February 15, 2020. (AKA you can’t go get a shop space tomorrow and then use the PPP to cover it.)
  • all payroll costs excluding cash compensation for any individual employee over $100,000; plus
  • any payment of interest on any mortgage incurred by borrower
  • any payment of rent obligated under a leasing agreement
  • any utility payment (electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet access

To be entirely forgiven at least 75% of the PPP loan must be used toward payroll costs, and no more than 25% can be used toward the other approved expenses in the list above. 

PART 2: Tips For Navigating The System

Find Regional Small Business Grants
There are hundreds of programs and organizations offering one-time small business grants to help businesses stay afloat during and immediately after COVID-19. Check with your local SBA groups, LinkedIn Connections, and online meetups for events specifically for small businesses. They will have a better handle on what is available in your specific area. 

Have ALL Paperwork & Information Ready:
While the SBA and many banks have streamlined the application process for COVID-19 Relief funds, it is still critical that you have all your information handy when they ask for it. All business related COVID-19 Relief programs will require your:
  • EIDL
  • Number of years in business
  • Names of any owner with 20% or more stake in your company

When applying for programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL) you will need your federal Employer Identification (EIN) number as well as personal information of the business owners (including social security numbers) that have 20% or more interest in the company. Keep in mind, they will also have you ‘state under risk of perjury that no person within the company has committed fraud, a felony related to payroll, or extortion.

Some programs will want to know your profit and loss statements for last year, others will just want to know net revenue. The PPP specifically wants your i940 for 2019 or your i941 for Q1 of 2020  if you didn’t have payroll in 2019, to prove payroll expenses as filed with the IRS.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Many of the COVID-19 Relief programs are not limited by income, or the amount of relief you have already received or applied for. Apply for everything you think you qualify for. Some programs limit what the funding can be used for, (like the PPP) or the amount funded is based on the number of employees you have (EIDL Advance). Apply for as many grants, forgivable loans, and other programs as possible to make sure you get as much of the money you are entitled to.

Trim Extra Expenses Wherever You Can
Reducing your monthly expenses can help you survive the shutdown. Some expenses are easier to get rid of than others. Take a look at both business and personal expenses and cut out things you don’t use or want anymore. Gym memberships, subscriptions to a phone app you don’t use are a good place to start. 

Next look at expenses you don’t need during the shutdowns but will need once business starts up again. These can include software services and service subscriptions. Even if you don’t want to cancel, reach out to the companies and see if they have any discounts, or account credits for business shut down during COVID-19. Put as many of these costs on hold that you possibly can. Doing so extends the amount of remaining capital you have, and any funding you do receive. 

On a personal level call the companies that service recurring payments you have such as student loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Some are offering no penalty deferrals, forbearance programs, and anti-loss (mortgages) programs right. Now is NOT the time to refinance your house, even though the FEDs reduced interest rates, most lenders either locked or raised interest rates. If you have a good relationship with your bank, speak to their mortgage specialist, and tell them you’d like to monitor the interest rates, and when they do go back down (and they will) you’d like to know. It typically only makes sense to refinance if you can lower your interest rate by at LEAST 1%. Otherwise the fees eat any savings you made in the long run. 

Be Patient & Kind
While the application process for funds has been largely streamlined, there are still millions of people applying for funding. The process of applying is slow and systems are overloaded. Many loan officers are also working from home. 

Keep in mind that those working for the SBA took a budget and personnel cut both last year and this year. These people are handling a nationwide economic disaster with a team working from home, that is only large enough to handle emergencies on a “small scale,” such as regional tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods.

Your hold time will likely be exceptionally long. Interactive Voice Response (IVRs) are overloaded and buggy (you might accidentally get hung up on by the Voice Prompts). When you do FINALLY reach a person please remember they are human too. They are working long hours, often without breaks to try and help as many people as possible. They may not have the answers/news you are looking for. 

About the Author
Amanda Plank is an entrepreneur and small business advisor. She is also the founder of Merch Minion, a custom merchandising and brand promotions company in Seattle Washington.
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<![CDATA[Branding in a Brave New World: How To Market in a Time of Isolation]]>Wed, 22 Apr 2020 22:48:15 GMThttp://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog/branding-in-a-brave-new-world-how-to-market-in-a-time-of-isolation
No product sells itself without help–not even in the best of times. So how is your business supposed to market itself when, as they say in Hamilton, “the world turned upside down?”

On the marketing and PR front, a lot has changed. Ads from “the before time” featuring large crowds or one-on-one interactions can be downright triggering. Regular marketing and PR cycles have been disrupted, major events have been canceled, and seasonal trends that worked last year just don’t make sense now. 

On the homefront, Americans face problems that keep people up at night. More people are working from home, if they’re lucky enough to still have a job. Kids are “learning from home,” putting extra strain on parents and caregivers. Unemployment in the United States is at a historic high. Many have lost loved ones. Many are wondering how they’re going to get through this time.

So what’s a marketer to do? It doesn’t seem right to try to get people jazzed about your product when the world is so very different than it was mere months ago.

Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines to help you keep your company’s brand as stable as possible, despite this most unusual and difficult time.


​1. Speak to the New Need
People still have needs, though those needs are decidedly different for many than they were before self-isolation. Take a step back from your traditional marketing and PR efforts and ask yourself; what keeps your customers up at night, and what your product can do to help. Look for ways your product fills some of their most important needs. Even if your product only offers a little consistency for your customer, that’s still something people need. If your product can help them with bigger problems, even better.
​2. Connect with a Cause
If you haven’t already, dedicate a portion of your revenue, to a cause that is helping people get through this pandemic. Don’t pick a small pet-project that your customers won’t know, or relate to. Pick something that helps those directly impacted by the pandemic. If you can, tie it into something related to your business. For example, if your business makes exotic decorative collars for cats, consider donating to a cat rescue that is rehoming animals from people who are no longer able to care for their pets. If your business makes an education app for kids, donate the proceeds to an organization working to help parents get the support they need through the pandemic.
​3: Look for Complimentary Partnerships
This is a good time to think creatively about companies that you can partner with. If your company addresses a need that people have right now, what are some other companies you could partner with to expand that reach? Whether it’s an article exchange on your company blog, social media boosts, or inclusive stories for the media about how multiple companies are coming together to help people, there is a lot of room for opportunity when you think creatively.
4. Be Respectful
Don’t assume everyone who normally does business with you is in the same place they were a month or two ago. This is not business as usual. Read the room and retool your messaging and campaigns accordingly.
​5. Don’t Bother Your Customers
Don’t join the trend of sending emails reminding people how things have changed, or how difficult life has become, and that your company cares. This is the time to show customers what you are doing to improve their lives. If you can’t do that, and you don’t have another good reason to reach out, don’t reach out at all. Just stop.
​6. Don’t Bury Your Benefit
Don’t lead with Covid-19, (AKA the pandemic, the apocalypse, Aliens, etc). Even though everyone else is doing it. It’s tacky. Your email should get to the point quickly. How quickly? In the subject line, and then again in the opening paragraph, and don’t forget that call-to-action link. If you’re offering your customers a discount or a no-cost trial, lead with that. No one has time to read paragraphs of fluff. Life is short. Get to the point.
​7. Accept Your New Customer Base
The demographics of your customer base may change radically. Accept that some of your customers can no longer afford to be your customers. Empathise with them, they’re going through hard times. These are real people (remember, no one thinks of themselves day-to-day as a customer of anything). Some customers might just need to pause until their lives get back to normal. But some customers may need your product more than ever and it is your job to find them and help them.

The bottom line; don’t be afraid to get creative and look for new ways to help people with the problems they are facing today. What you do today matters. Figure out how to connect with your customers in meaningful ways. This will help, not only your brand, but also your chances of being a brand that survives and thrives.

By Jennifer L. Jacobson, Founder of Jacobson Communication

Jennifer L. Jacobson is a PR professional and communications strategist with two decades of experience growing brands stand out in competitive industries. Jennifer delivers outstanding results to brands, startups, and nonprofits who often have limited budgets, time, and resources. For more articles by Jennifer, visit: https://jacobsoncommunication.com/blog.html
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