Skills Gap Awareness: Are We Making Progress?

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman It’s been a while since we talked about one of our hot buttons: the ongoing skills gap in manufacturing and the trades. It’s good to see that the topic is very much alive and getting continual, positive coverage in the media. Are we slowly experiencing a shift to bring young people back into skilled traded positions? Is the stigma for blue collar positions slowly lifting? Plenty of industry leaders are doing their part to help bring awareness. Lincoln Electric recognizes this issue and is leading the challenge to change the perception of manufacturing jobs, which as CEO Christopher Mapes points out, “When people think about welding, they typically don’t think high-tech. Instead, they picture workers with their heads enveloped in welding helmets. That’s not what welding is today…Welding is robotics. It's metallurgy. It’s software engineering.” Read more about Lincoln’s initiatives for tackling the skill gap here. Skilled trade’s biggest proponent, Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe, who recently published, “The Way I Heard It,” believes, “The skills gap today, in my opinion, is a result of the removal of shop class and the repeated message that the best path for most people happens to be the most expensive path.”   While 40 years ago we needed more people to get into higher education, the pendulum swung so far in the direction of promoting higher education, that it has alienated an entire section of the workforce, skilled trades. With 7.3 million skilled jobs unfilled in our country (and 1.6 trillion in debt from higher education), we desperately need the pendulum to swing back. It seems the messaging is starting to get through. This recent article articulates how trade schools are now touting how blue-collar professionals such as plumbers, electricians and mechanics make more money than workers whose roles…read more >

Influencer Relations: Is It Right for Your Brand?

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman Recently, you’ve been hearing a lot about “Influencer Marketing” or “Influencer Relations.” But what exactly is it, how does it work and is it right for your company’s marketing strategy? Sometimes referred to as the “new media,” a comprehensive marketing communications strategy often will include influencer relations as a tactic for expanding a brand’s awareness. What is an influencer? An influencer is someone that has a large social media following and actively engages with its audience to “influence” them on his or her opinions. While “influencer” might conjure up ideas of Kim Kardashian touting the latest waterproof eyeliner or designer handbag, there are influencers in the industrial, manufacturing and contractor space, as well. While some of these influencers might not boast the same Instagram audience numbers as Kardashian’s 149+ million followers, their audiences can be very significant for the market they are in. A large social media following can be relative. Nano influencers, with 1K to 10K followers, have small, niche and highly engaged audiences. Micro influencers, the next tier up, with 10K to 50K followers, are often the most informed opinion leaders in their niches and typically have a very engaged community of followers who rely on (and trust) their content. If you are a nano/micro influencer in a niche market such as woodworking, developing relationships with companies that are promoting the tools or supplies you use can be mutually beneficial for both parties. For the influencer, it provides the opportunity to be the first to experience innovative products and share their experiences and opinions with their followers, providing appealing content that keeps their followers enthralled and looking for more. For the brand marketing products, it provides an authentic, engaging opportunity to get your products or services endorsed by an opinion leader and visibility…read more >

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman, Sonnhalter We're in the midst of back-to-school season--which prompted us to update our vocational education database. And with the ongoing concern about our nation’s skills gap, the option for choosing an education to pursue a vocational career is certainly an attractive one. With plentiful skilled labor jobs to fill, trade jobs pay very well (sometimes better than four-year college degrees) and don’t saddle students with hefty student loans. We originally released our extensive vocational education database in 2015 after conducting extensive research on thousands of vo-ed programs across the country. When we updated the list in 2017, we added about 1,000 new programs, separating them out by state tabs and standardizing the descriptions to make it even easier to search, sort and use. Our most recent update features nearly 980 schools across the country, not including satellite or branch locations of each. There are almost 4,700 programs, offering different types of degrees or certifications. The types of programs include construction, electrician, robotics, welding, HVAC, plumbing, machine tool technology, among others. A separate tab for national programs and resources is also included. Why would a marketing communications firm take the time to create and update such a resource? We hope our tool helps to bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a useful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. There are numerous ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. Here are a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you. 14840read more >

Sonnhalter and Viega Honored with PRSA Rocks Award

Marketing communications firm wins silver award in the “feature article” category for its article on the subject of water quality. CLEVELAND – May 2019 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, received a silver award in the “feature article” category at the 16th Annual Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Cleveland Rocks Awards competition. The feature article, “Go with the Flow: Best Practices for Maintaining Water Movement in Plumbing Systems,” was written in collaboration with Viega, a leading manufacturer of pipe fitting installation technology. In 2018, Sonnhalter targeted and reached out to a top trade publication in the plumbing industry and pitched a feature article on the subject of water quality. Once accepted, Sonnhalter interviewed and collaborated with Viega personnel to develop an article that focused on how to reduce the spreading of water system-related illnesses. The winning feature article outlined a number of best practices for maintaining water flow and temperature with the intention of informing plumbing system designers and installers of some of the new ways to combat the risk of waterborne diseases. 14605read more >

Spring Clean Your Social Media

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman Since the social media scene developed years ago, it’s become cluttered. There are accounts on all social platforms that sit, gathering dust for years. Do any of those accounts belong to you or your company? Thanks to Marie Kondo’s recent popularity, we’ve become obsessed with decluttering and organizing, so we thought it might be a good time of the year for a little spring cleaning of your social media. By now, most companies have several social media accounts that have been running for quite some time and even a few accounts that have shut down (Google+) or become less relevant as a social media platform (Flikr). It doesn’t take much time to conduct a quick audit of your social media platforms and get back on track, if you know what to do. Here are a few pointers to get you started. 14552read more >

New Year’s Resolution: Review Your Content Marketing Efforts

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman It’s a new year, and a perfect time to take a quick review of the past year. Before we start doing the same old thing, we should take a minute to make sure what we’re doing is getting us the results we want. We’re cleaning, purging and issuing new challenges in our personal lives, why not do it for our marketing lives? Makes sense, doesn’t it? As we are making these evaluations, it doesn’t hurt to check on industry predictions that can help us adjust our strategies to respond and align with recent discoveries. Heidi Cohen’s blog post makes 10 predictions for content marketing success in 2019 that we find valuable as we navigate the shifting landscape. Here are a few highlights: Content saturation continues to increase, which is raising the cost of content marketing necessary to break through and get acted upon. Instead of creating new content, improve and transform pre-vetted content and use content audits to keep content relevant and increase traffic. Customers expect more personalized content experiences. Segment your email and other communications to deliver targeted messages. Post sales experience increases in importance. While customers may buy from you once, if you don’t gain their trust, they won’t stay customers. Content formats continue to diversify. Due to the use of more devices and screens tailored to personal and environmentally relevant needs, content consumption patterns continue to change. Influencers including brands remain relevant for content creation and distribution. Work with micro-influencers who have deeper connections with their followers. Heidi has more predictions and recommendations, but the idea is to take the time to evaluate what you did last year, so that you can improve on it this upcoming year. Happy New Year! Let’s make 2019 a successful one.read more >

The Scary Side of Public Relations

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, Public Relations Foreman It's that spooky time of the year -- so it seems like a good time to rehash some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print.   2. Negative comments on blogs and social media.  Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 14043read more >