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A little PR can go a long way. (Editorial).

I marvel at the image of molten metal being poured. The vibrant orange stream of iron illuminates a room. The cascading silver shine of aluminum sparkles like stars in the night sky.

These are million-dollar images. These images make today's media drool. Where are they?

In January, the foundry industry experienced a PR seesaw of sorts with two separate news stories that hit the presses. On one side, the New York Times in conjunction with the PBS TV series Frontline wrote a three-day newspaper series (January 8-10) and a one-hour investigative TV report (January 9) discussing OSHA- and employee safety-related issues at the McWane Corp.'s foundries. To say the least, the newspaper and TV coverage were not positive looks into the metalcasting world.

On the flip side, on January 6, the American Cast Iron Pipe Co. (ACIPCO) was named to Fortune magazine's list of the "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America." In fact, ACIPCO has climbed to number six on this list, and this is the seventh time the firm has been so named. The scoring for the national survey is based on answers provided by randomly selected employees and Fortune's evaluation of pay and benefits, life-balance programs, opportunities, job security and pride in the company.

Which news story do you think has had a greater effect on the image of the U.S. metalcasting industry? Which story do you think has ingrained a stronger image in the minds of our customers, government officials and general society?

We can argue that the media always focuses on the negative stories, giving them more air time or ink than the positive ones. But there is a second factor at work here.

If a media outlet was to look for something positive to write or say about the U.S. foundry industry, it would have to look long and hard to find anything that is part of the public record (newspapers, magazines, television, etc.) from the last 20 years. That doesn't mean something positive hasn't occurred. It just means that it hasn't been publicized.

In the case of the January PR seesaw, the effect of the negative story on our industry's image is strong because it could be viewed as the norm instead of the exception. If our industry had consistently received positive publicity prior to the story, then it would have been viewed more as an isolated negative case (the exception). For the ACIPCO story, the opposite is true as it is now considered a benchmark for all American business.

What can we do to change this situation?

We must learn to "play the game." Playing the game means focusing on public relations (PR) and the effect it can have on our customers, government officials (OSHA and EPA specifically) and society in general--the groups we need greater support from to make our jobs easier.

The idea is that when your operation--foundry or supplier--has positive news, share it. This positive news can include new casting supply contracts, management personnel changes, awards and certifications (plant or personnel), milestones and achievements (100 years in operation or 100,000 work hours without a accident), expansions (equipment or capacity) and acquisitions. These positive events should be detailed in a press release and sent to your local newspaper and national foundry industry trade magazines.

A portion of your local economy revolves around your casting operation. Why not remind your neighbors of that by publicizing your success? They in turn will remind our government officials that foundries are a vital part of the fabric of our nation.

To better assist in media relations, the AFS Marketing Services function needs actual company examples to bolster the industry's image and counter misinformed generalizations by the media. If you are looking for assistance in PR, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) offers a great guide, Media Relations in Your Spare Time: A Step-by-Step Guide for Anyone in Business by Laura Narvaiz.

All I am asking is that you make an effort. While the benefits to your firm won't necessarily be measured in dollars and cents (although NAM believes it can be), they can make a big difference in you doing business.
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Article Details
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Author:Spada, Alfred T.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Words:693
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