History Smiths and
Hurd Smith Communications
Helping you tell your story in ways that attract attention and business
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The Business of History: What it is, and How it Can
Benefit Your Business or Historical Organization
These days, when people ask me what I do, instead of rattling off the
numerous services and products I provide, I simply say, “I am in the
business of history.”
Eyes glaze over.
“What does that mean?,” my inquirer asks.
“Well, it can mean many things,” I respond. “But what it boils down to
is using history as an effective marketing tool for businesses,
communities, and organizations, and making sure that those who “do”
history are marketing themselves effectively.”
The fact is, people are interested in history. Look no further than
David McCullough’s predictably huge book sales or at Ken Burns’
consistently vast television audience.
The challenge for those of us who “do” history is to present our stories in engaging ways — to make them relevant and fun.
The challenge for businesses, communities, and organizations that are
trying to grow and thrive during “these challenging economic times,” is
to find new ways to reach their markets.
I submit that history is an untapped marketing tool, and that’s where I can help.
Because of my “street cred” in history as an independent scholar and
published author, whatever I provide for my clients is grounded in
documented research. We create historical content, and apply it to
existing and new marketing efforts.
The “products” we create together could take the form of a special
event, display, walking tour, video, audio, website section,
publication, media placements – the possibilities go on and on.
The results? You will add prestigious value to your brand, to your
reputation. You will gain the approval and interest of existing
customers, and you will attract new ones because you will stand out
from the crowd.
Fans of history tend to be well educated and well off. That’s not a bad customer to have!
I recently worked with the Town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to plan and
promote their 375th anniversary. The yearlong celebration engaged
residents and visitors alike. We were able to start re-branding Ipswich
as “America’s Colonial Town” because of its early architecture — more
colonial houses than any other town in America. You’d better believe
that Ipswich’s cultural attractions, restaurants, and downtown
businesses — all of whom participated in some way — saw a boost to
their bottom lines! Tourism was up from spring through fall, and people
Another project involved an insurance agency in Salem, Massachusetts,
which was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Rather than just throw a
party, which would be over and done with, I researched my client’s
family business and created a display, brochure, and media materials.
His customers were delighted to learn his company’s story and felt
emotionally attached to their insurance agency, and new customers
Still another small business story involves the manager of a cosmetics
company, also in Salem. When I told her what I did, she said, “Well,
that sounds fun, but it doesn’t really apply to me.” “Oh really?” I
said. “What do you know about the history of women’s make-up? Women
entrepreneurs in the field? Trends? Make-up in the movie industry? With
the advantage of March as National Women’s History Month, what if I
could get you a speaking engagement and invite all of my women’s
history friends?” (As it happens, I “do” women’s history in my “other
life.”) She was elated. She happens to be very knowledgeable about all
of these subjects. She is also attractive, articulate, and engaging. I
do believe we are about to launch her speaking career, and don’t you
think she will attract a whole new wave of customers to her store?
Finally, I have been coaching historical societies throughout
Massachusetts on creative ways they can promote their collections.
These organizations tend to be underfunded, understaffed, and they face
real challenges that can only be met these days by thinking
differently. I coach them to “think like public relations
professionals,” to be alert to and take advantage of opportunities that
cross their path. Just one example out of dozens I give in my talk
involves George Washington. Anyone who has anything in their historic
house or collection about George Washington should jump all over
President’s Day, I tell them. The same holds true for other presidents,
of course, but Washington and Lincoln are the two most popular. Create
a special exhibit with the items, host an event, and publish text and
images in the local newspapers, websites, and in your own vehicles. The
response? “I had no idea they had that stuff.” “I should go.” “I should
join.” “I should donate.” “I should give them some of my stuff.”
Does it work? Back to my history “street cred,” I not only work with
historical societies as clients, I was the executive director of the
Ipswich Historical Society and the board president (and volunteer
director) of the Sargent House Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
These methods work!
What about you?
Now that you are suitably intrigued about “the business of history,” let’s talk!
Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and
their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status.
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where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve
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