Smile! Google Earth is watching!

A last-minute opening in a construction magazine gave one of our manufacturing clients a spur-of-the-moment opportunity for a case study. They had one perfectly suited to the editor’s needs that showcased our client’s machine at the hands of an expert on a real-life job. But the green light to proceed came during the busiest part of the tradeshow season. Everyone who could provide a missing piece of the puzzle was unavailable. I had very little hard data to go on. Deadline, imminent.

My main problem was that I couldn’t for the life of me picture the jobsite or the operations that took place there. Heck, I didn’t even know what street it took place on. Two of my client contacts I reached didn’t know either and wouldn’t be free to help me for about a week.

When you start a phone interview with a client’s customer, you’re almost always asking a prominent company figure to take precious time away from their main concern – meeting a project deadline, or more often than not, several project deadlines. You certainly don’t want to start the interview asking for basic information. They might not mind taking time to give you information you couldn’t have known without their input. The rest you should have known before you bothered them.

Google Earth to the rescue!

I had a few clues from the job story data collection form. It was a heavily travelled four-lane corridor through the metro’s downtown area. I knew at one end of the project was a strip mall with many entrances. The data collection form said so. It also mentioned a big-box store, government agencies and institutions along the route. I should be able to instantly locate that on Google maps.

Unfortunately, the map showed three routes satisfying the description – at least from the map and satellite views. Choosing the most likely one, I zoomed down into “Street View” to see if I could match up clues from store fronts, not just the few business tags on the overhead depiction.

Sweet serendipity! The Google car had actually caught the job in progress, and the digital capture was still the most current street view. Right there on my computer display was the customer’s crew, using the equipment I was to write about! Service trucks brandishing their logo lined the street. Their heavy equipment was lined up in a parking lot.

I cyber-traveled the length of the project, noting where excavations had been made and restored, how traffic was controlled, how the project was laid out. It was the next best thing to being there.

These details condensed and focused my interview questions later that day, keeping the conversation brief and to the point. The contractor was relieved I already knew a lot about the project, saving him from tedious explanations. He called up the view himself, and we discussed the project together with a common reference.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this has happened before. Not long ago, for another story, I couldn’t grasp over the phone how a horizontal directional drilling crew had run a pipe line from one lift station to another via a small sandbar in a river. The routing defied description until I could see it for myself. I had turned to the Google Earth satellite photos on that occasion, as well, just to see how large the sandbar was, and how far it was from a direct line between the two. It wasn’t just an empty sandbar, though. I could see something on it in the satellite image. When I zoomed in closer, I saw the drilling crew at their HDD rig alongside their fluid pit. I saw them pulling pipe through and immediately understood the strategic advantage of this halfway point.

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications




Don’t miss any PR opportunities in 2018!

It’s mid-year. Time to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. It’s also time to start thinking about what you’ll do differently next year, because by the time you are juggling budgets and plans in September and October, it will likely be too late to add anything new.

One basic PR tool you should consider using next year (if you’re not already) is the custom editorial calendar. In its simplest form, this is just a big table or spreadsheet that has all your industry magazines going down the first column, and the months of the year running across the top row.

mkb_logoYou or your agency will have to obtain and then review the editorial calendars of every trade publication that matters to your business. Depending on your products, their applications, and the industries you serve, that could be anywhere from 20 to 100 magazines. (Our proprietary Media Knowledge Base has contact and other data for almost 700 trade publications from North America and around the world.)


Magazine by magazine, month by month, you will look for any editorial focus that applies to your products, and then note that focus on your custom, combined editorial calendar. When you are done, you have a basic roadmap to the new year, at least as it applies to the trade press.

Your custom calendar can help you plan articles and job stories in plenty of time to get your pitch accepted. And it can assure you that you won’t miss any product-roundup type of section that applies to your products. I know this seems like a fairly dull type of PR, but what does it say if a magazine runs a roundup of all the companies in your product category, but excludes you because they had no information from you? To a reader, interested in this type of product, you will not even exist!

If you are thinking that you can depend on the magazines to remind you of upcoming features, just ask yourself, “Whose responsibility is it to make sure my company gets noticed? Mine, or the editors?” Remember, you are not the editors’ priority; their readers are.

It is true that some publications are very good about sending reminders to advertisers, and even some non-advertising contributors. But most are not. They usually have more content than they can use in each issue, so making sure that every single possible manufacturer gets a shout-out is just not on their to-do list. And if you do not already have a very active PR program, the odds are even worse that they will remember you. Sure, if you are an advertiser, your salesperson may help out with reminders, but again—some do, some don’t. Plus, you should not limit yourself to just the publications in which you advertise. The best magazines will run appropriate content whether you advertise or not.

Add to all that the fact that you—and your agency if you have one—are the experts on your products’ market applications. I have one client whose product is, by its very nature, a multi-use platform. It truly applies to dozens of applications and many vertical markets. Some magazines will send a reminder to my client when they are running a focus on the platform, but they certainly won’t think to remind them every time an application of that platform is featured! It is my job to figure that out and communicate with the editors.

edcal2017I know that some of you are staffed well enough that you are already using a custom editorial calendar as a central and basic part of your PR program. But to those of you who are not yet using this tool, I strongly encourage you to make it a priority for your next annual plan. If you don’t have the staff, time or media database to do it in-house, let me know. We create these custom editorial calendars and then manage them throughout the year, staying on top of all the opportunities they reveal, for many clients already, and we’d love to add you to the family of companies we work with.


As always, if you have any questions or would just like to know more, please call me at 507-945-1005 or email me at for a no-obligation consultation.



Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

tagged in PR

Perfect storm– Ellcom’s site-based case studies bring it all together

JFB_0223_70ppi JFB_0146_70ppiMy favorite question is, “What is the most exciting story you’ve ever been assigned.” That’s so easy to answer: This one – that is, of course, until the next one.

This one was a last-minute rig-delivery. The story came so fast that when I received the text to go, the plane tickets had already been purchased for me. I just needed to grab my camera bag and suitcase.

There was a time a job like that would have made me panic. But the adrenaline rushing through me on this story wasn’t nerves. It was excitement. That’s because today I know the impact the story is going to have for our client, their customer and the industry.

Ellcom is a full-service public relations agency whose reputation is as content generation specialists. I am never out to get just another “customer-buys-the-product” tale. I bring back the photos and sound bites our team uses to create dynamic stories that resonate with our clients’ current and potential customers, the industry’s product engineers and project owners.

And I am the first one to see the story unfold.

Waiting for a connecting flight, I was already making calls and Googling what I could find. Product specifications and capabilities, applications – those are all a given. Anyone can report those. I am looking for more. I think of it more as being a storm chaser, looking for all the elements of the perfect storm, predicting where will strike, and racing against all other storm chasers to be the first one – if not the only one – in the best place to report it.

We aim to show the reader how this successful customer uses our clients’ products to stay ahead of their competition. What advantages made them choose our client as their vendor? How has the reliability and productivity of our client’s product lines helped this customer? Genuine, honest testimonials of product support and customer service come from their lips, in their own words. They decide the talking points, not I.

But that’s still not enough. I am vigilant for any insights that both advance the industry and increase market demand for the customer’s services, as well as our clients’ products. I want it all.

This is why so many magazines want to publish Ellcom’s stories.

Waiting for this customer to join us in his office, the sales rep and I still didn’t know exactly how this is going to play out. The rig is the most advanced on the market. The customer is a prominent drilling and blasting company in a construction consortium whose work takes them across the United States and include some of this country’s largest projects.

These were details vital to my story, but it still wasn’t my perfect storm.

The customer entered, we introduced ourselves, and BAM! It struck. Yes, better fuel economy, reduced downtime – but the customer also now had the ability to fully utilize the market’s newest, most precise face-profiling technology. If I wanted, I could go to the job right now, talk to the blast engineer and watch the surveyor using the new system before I got photos of the rig actually drilling that very pattern. So that’s where we headed.

The drilling and blasting contractor wins by showing its market that it has this new capability. The manufacturer wins by having the industry know it was their rigs and their product support that enabled this customer’s success.

Each story is a new perfect storm. That’s what I live for. That’s what the content generation team at Ellcom delivers.




Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications.

“Cautious optimism” follows CONEXPO enthusiasm

CECA-2017-RGBConstruction’s big party, CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, wrapped up in Vegas about a month ago, and I am only now getting around to writing about the experience. From the perspective of our agency, it was a great show. And the reason it was a great show for us was that our clients, new and old, told us that it was a great show for them. Enthusiasm was high—the mood was totally unlike the funereal tone in 2014 and 2011. People were buying what the exhibitors were selling and that is good for the industry and the national economy.

There were more than 2,500 exhibitors splashed over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space. During three full days at the expo I walked every single aisle in every single lot and hall in the show, and I talked to hundreds of people. I spent significant time in 36 booths, but I really focused the bulk of my time in 15 of them. Eight are current clients, and the other seven are not yet clients, though I hope they soon will be. Of those 15, only one was even a little bit disappointed with the show. The other 14 were on the spectrum that began at “Wow, we’re getting serious interest here!” to “Our problem in 2017 is now going to be manufacturing enough to keep up with orders.”

xHHconexpo xtradeshow 2Almost all of these companies are manufacturers of heavy equipment of one kind or another, and many of them reported that they sold all the units in their booth, and took orders for additional units. And that does not even begin to tell the story of the quality leads that sales and marketing managers took back with them to the office to sort through and act on after the show.

When asked why they thought buyers were so optimistic, everyone I spoke to mentioned the forecast of more federal money to support national infrastructure as well as regulation relief. New construction stats have been trending up but are still not great, so most of the optimism was based on future expectations. But as one industry veteran told me, “A depressed man doesn’t spend money. On the other hand, one who is feeling good about the future opens his pockets.”

A couple of weeks after the show, I polled several of the marketing managers I had spoken to earlier to see if their outlook had changed. Again, almost everyone said that their primary feeling about business was one of cautious optimism. Some of the Vegas enthusiasm had faded, but the overall feeling was still very positive. It appears that marketing budgets may be opening up a bit, a trend I expect to accelerate if this year ends up in positive territory.



Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

Will you be at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017?


Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


I know that this Expo does not apply to all of you, but over half of our subscribers are in fields that relate to CONEXPO in one way or another, and I know that most of those companies will have booths at this show. After CES (the computer and electronics expo,) it’s the largest convention in Las Vegas in 2017!

We will have several members of our team at CONEXPO, some supporting specific clients and some, like me, just trying to visit with all our clients and the prospective clients we’ve been talking to. We’ll also be taking the time to keep our relationships with the trade media strong as well as supporting the first-ever Construction Media Alliance Editorial and Marketing Communications Awards.

I’d love to chat with you about what we may be able to do to help you realize your own marketing goals—send an email to to set up a time to meet! I’ll be at the show the whole week.








Making the case for content marketing

I talk to a lot of marketing managers. A common thread running through a lot of these conversations is a concern that some in upper management may not understand the importance of content marketing. This tends to lead to under-funding content marketing projects, which in turn results in a severe lack of useful content online and in the trade press.

Another factor contributing to this budget shortfall is the understandable rush to replace old or outdated websites. Many companies I’ve talked to over the past few years have told me that they are totally focused on creating a new website—something they probably do need—and as a result management has said they cannot spend any money on content marketing or PR, because “web stuff is eating up the whole budget.” Then these web projects often drag out over a whole year, or even longer. Therefore, even when complete, the beautiful new website often ends up with, at best, placeholder content.


Consider this: Google says that consumers research 10 or more pieces of content online before making a purchase. Beth Comstock, a SVP at GE, recently told Google that their company has found that this online research behavior applies to both their consumer and B2B business areas.

So, does your company even have 10 pieces of content online? Let alone 10 pieces for every significant product category you sell? You can’t count puff pieces that may adorn your website, written in a style that many customers refer to as marketing… ahem… baloney. (That is, lots of words that don’t really say much more than “we’re great.” I call this “zero-content content.”) The industries we work in are famous for their no-nonsense, bottom-line people. They want facts, specs, useful descriptions, relatable application stories about problems being solved profitably.

That brings us back to the challenge so many marketers face. “How do I convince my C-suite that they need content marketing?” The answer will be unique to your industry, your products, your company, your managers, your business goals. One company’s greatest challenge may be that no one but the marketing manager believes that content marketing is important. Another might have mainly budgetary issues to answer.

A good third party resource offering a broad spectrum of answers that I’ve been recommending is the Content Marketing Institute. They have some excellent suggestions from a wide range of industry pros that can help you show the value of content marketing to your C-suite. The link I’ve provided will give you a variety of ideas— you know the individual personalities and business priorities of your own company and will recognize which strategies are suited to your situation and which are not.


Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

tagged in PR

Content Marketing Study for B2B

When you are using your vast amounts of free time (snark alert) to try to keep up on trends and updates in the PR world or the world of content marketing, a common obstacle is the way a majority of the reports are skewed towards consumer goods. Stories that deal with Pepsi’s new nutrition awareness campaign or Nike’s community outreach—and political scandals—predominate. That’s not to say we can’t learn things from the consumer goods world, but B2B marketing is fundamentally different.

That is why I was so interested to read the B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America study. This report, from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs contained a fair number of interesting nuggets, with a lot of the expected cheerleading one would expect from such organizations, touting successes and upticks overall (“63% of B2B marketers say their organizations are extremely or very committed to content marketing,” was one example from the study.) But even those points are of greater than average interest because they only deal with B2B firms. That is, they speak to the kind of business done by my clients and all the companies I want as clients. It probably speaks to your business, too!

You will want to look at the report for yourself—it’s a SlideDeck—to see what catches your eye, but one item in particular is, I know, a true thorn in the side of many marketing managers I speak to regularly in the construction, mining and pipeline industries. The study reported that only half of respondents agree that their leadership gives them enough time to deliver results from their content marketing efforts. This is particularly true when you’ve been weak in one area—let’s say application stories—and after you finally crack loose the funds to pay for a good story, management wants to know how much new business the lone article has generated. And they’re asking before the story has had time to appear in even one magazine!Finding ways to convince your upper management to invest more in content is a topic I plan to explore in a few months. Meanwhile, did some other finding of the report stand out to you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts—please send them to me at


Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

tagged in PR

SEO Basics: Write for Humans

SEO is a scary subject for some, and a lot of the “advice” and “conventional wisdom” we hear is based on misinformation from about 5 or 6 years ago. Or more.

I’d like to share a few tips which are really no more than generally accepted standard operating procedures for online writing provided by experts and Google’s own guides to SEO writing. (By the way, if you want to really dig into the nitty-gritty of SEO, I would recommend making Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide your first stop. Once you follow this link, just click on the link at the top of the new page to download the guide.) But all of these tips connect with the basic advice to write for humans, not bots.

Focus your writing on themes that interest your customers. Ask yourself what they would like to read about. This is a hard one sometimes—they don’t want to read an ad or a marketing “puff” piece or a vanity profile. That might be what we want to write, but put yourself in their shoes. What do they care about? What questions do they have? What expertise can you share that would make their life easier or their business more profitable?

Don’t trade a cheap by-the-word rate for quality content. Quality counts. There are content mills out there that will churn out 1,000 words that just regurgitate copy from your website or brochures, and will do it for almost nothing. Unfortunately, that’s about what it is worth. You want quality writing that is engaging and expert.

Don’t base your writing on keywords for robots and algorithms, but on what is interesting to, and easily read by, actual human readers. Google is getting better and better at rewarding that kind of writing.

You can learn a lot more about optimizing for search engines, and it can be helpful. But if you skip the above basic tips, it will be a waste of time—what good will it do to get to the top of search results, if the content, when clicked on, is sub-par and represents your company badly?



Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

New Tier 4 update presents marketing opportunities

Tier 3, Interim Tier 4, Tier 4 Flex… the process of bringing off-road engines up to Tier 4 standards is a story that seems to go on and on like Scheherazade’s 1,001 nights. Except it’s been going on for a lot longer. So it’s normal when “Tier 4 fatigue” sets in. When you upgrade your engines you write a press release, you add a bullet point to a brochure, but maybe you just don’t feel like it matters anymore. It’s a thing that is happening; what more can you say?

There is a new report out now from EquipmentWatch, a world leader in data for the equipment industry, in partnership with the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP,) that digs into the cost of Tier 4 to the industry at large. The 2016 Tier 4 Benchmark Report cites key trends that you may be able to use to your advantage in marketing and PR efforts.

The entire report is basically a 10-page infographic, but a nice summary of key issues from the report was written up in Compact Equipment magazine. Both sources say that the number of Tier 4 compliant equipment in fleets is still actually very low, pointing to a sales opportunity. It also supports the notion that Tier 4 products are much more ubiquitous in ads, brochures and news releases than in the field. Which means that continued educational and promotional efforts are still required. The key will be to keep finding fresh and interesting ways to present this content to avoid getting your message tuned out.

However, the report also notes that rental companies are no longer charging a premium to rent Tier 4 equipment, which is good news for manufacturers and end users alike. This should lead to a greater familiarity with the equipment, and perhaps a need to educate those individual end users who may tend to look at Tier 4 as just another expense their businesses have to support. Fuel cost savings will likely be the most touted advantage to the nation’s growing Tier 4 fleet.

In fact, for manufacturers who are eager to overcome the negative perceptions of future “increases in purchase prices, maintenance costs and training costs,” job stories, application stories or case studies that focus on significant fuel savings would be a safe bet. If you have customers who are willing to go on the record regarding fuel savings, it would help you win over the roughly 3 in 5 polled who simply don’t believe that the supposedly more fuel-efficient Tier 4 equipment will actually drop their fuel costs. That is a significant number of potential customers that the right story would win over.

Did some other finding of the report stand out to you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts—please send them to me at



Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


R in PR is ‘relationship’

Part 2: Practical application

SPE_5916The drilling job I was scheduled to cover in Ohio was suddenly replaced by an emergency job order: an Amish family’s well was bringing up sand.

The only source of water for the family and all of its livestock, the windmill-style well probably had a casing failure at the bottom. Manual labor is a fundamental tenet of Amish culture, but the community’s presiding cleric permitted modern technology in this instance.

My client and were allowed to follow along. He let me out at the homestead’s drive so I could run ahead of the rig. I saw an opportunity to show its maneuverability in confined spaces as the driver positioned it next to the windmill.


Got it!—but then I immediately recapped my cameras. They were hanging low at my sides as I watched as the Amish father stride off his porch across the frozen, rutted ground to discuss terms with the driller. He was repeatedly looking over to me. I made it as obvious as I could, I was not going to take more pictures without permission as I approached them. I waited patiently for a break in their conversation.

At a convenient moment, I introduced myself, explaining my purpose and asking what concerns he might have about photography on his property, assuring him I would abide by his wishes.

I could tell he appreciated the consideration. He bridled a bit at my humble recognition: he was in control of this property, his home.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw gratitude in the driller’s regard of me. Distracted by the sudden change in plans, he wouldn’t have anticipated the potential conflict of bringing a photographer to a camera-wary culture. My intervention, though, wasn’t simply to diffuse it. I am myself a homeowner, a father, a family man. I have genuine respect for this man, as the driller himself does. And I have years of experience working for an agency where the R in PR is for relationship. This is what I do, every job, every story.

SPE_5928 remove faces from windowThe Amish father surprised us: “I guess we aren’t supposed to allow any pictures of people, but otherwise a few of the drilling will be all right.” He looked me straight in the eye, repeating, “But no pictures with people.”

I worked fast, balancing respect for the farmer against doing the best job for my client. Within the hour the Amish father was alongside me again. Had I gotten enough?

I understood. I capped the lenses, telling him, “Yes, and thank you again. I am done now.” I stowed my gear away.

The father’s body language changed from nervousness to eager hospitality. He invited me in for coffee.

I found myself next in a warm kitchen of bonneted women in billowy blue dresses and white aprons. The coffee was a richly aromatic brew, strong and flavorful, brewed in a pot on the kitchen’s wood stove. Given more baked goods than I could cradle against my chest, a chair was pulled out for me as I was guided by numerous hands to the table. After only a few nibbles, he showed me around his home.

A little bit of respect won lavish Amish hospitality, gratitude from their driller and smiles from my customer.

Ellcom doesn’t get in your way while we’re getting the job done. Just like you, we put people first.





Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications.