Client: Londo Mondo (Chicago)
Client: Londo Mondo (Chicago)
PR Team: Small Business Directions (Chicago)
Campaign: Londo Mondo Offers Customers a Free Ride
Time Frame: May 15-21, 2000
Budget: dollars 2,000
Always on the lookout for innovative ways to publicize her small
business clients, three years ago Lenora Kaplan, president of Small
Business Directions, Chicago, tripped across a terrific news hook for
the inline skating store she represents. The International Inline
Skating Association (IISA) had declared an Inline Skating Week in May.
IISA had no plans to celebrate the week, so Kaplan invented her own.
The Chicago retailer, Londo Mondo, with two locations, offered free
skate rentals, lessons and a ’stopping clinic’ to bring in new
customers. With minimal publicity, newcomers poured in, and many became
customers. This year, for the week May 15 to 21, Kaplan’s objective was
to grow the campaign even more.
Kaplan had to make the most of the 20 hours she put in during Inline
Skating Week itself. ’When you work for a small business, that’s all
they can afford to pay you for,’ she remarks, laughing. So you have to
follow a couple of rules. ’Know what the media is looking for before you
contact them,’ down to what story angle each reporter wants, Kaplan
says. ’And you have to be creative, which doesn’t take any money. If we
didn’t come up with the idea of the event, the media wouldn’t cover
Inline Skating Week,’ she points out.
For the first time, a skate manufacturer, K2, donated skates to keep up
with rental demand and touring the city in a demo van with its logo
emblazoned on it.
In mid-March Kaplan sent out a press release entitled ’Londo Mondo Gives
Skaters a Free Ride During Inline Skating Week’ to the long-lead
Then she mailed the release to the 15 free neighborhood weeklies. ’In
Chicago, because there are so many different areas of the city, when I
get a story in those neighborhood publications, the clients get more
phone calls than if I got a story in the Chicago Tribune,’ she remarks.
’People read them in a more concentrated way.’
The Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times still received releases, though.
Kaplan pitched by phone straightaway to the TV stations. She then sent a
pitch letter to those who were interested. ’I’ve heard for years, ’If
you’ve got some news to tell, give me a call, a press release gets
lost,’’ Kaplan reports. Plus, TV producers expect to be reached
one-to-one. ’We had the momentum, but still had to make that personal
The best results were pieces on the top morning shows, on Fox and WGN,
which, as they usually do, covered the story intermittently throughout
their two-hour slots. The Fox show ran the Friday before Skating Week,
from 7 to 9 am, and callers began phoning the stores right away. The
second show aired on Monday. By the time a final morning program was
broadcast Tuesday at 11 am, ’my client called me and said, ’Enough
already,’’ Kaplan recalls.
Six neighborhood weeklies printed pieces, along with two Chicago-wide
entertainment weeklies, the Sun-Times and the monthly Chicago Woman.
There were 1.7 million impressions total among print and TV, which
resulted in the biggest new-customer turnout ever. Ken Londe, the owner
of the two-location store, didn’t keep traffic figures, but knows he
gave away 75 free lessons and rented 90 pairs of skates. The approximate
dollar volume of skates sold during Inline Skating Week was nearly
dollars 20,000. Good thing it rained three days, he adds: his staff was
Next year, Kaplan will focus on quality, not increased quantity. Londo
Mondo is a small retailer that prides itself on service, she points
’You can’t have too many customers if you want to continue your customer