Pequea Machine chooses PR to plant brand message

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Pequea Machine is a New Holland, Pa.-based manufacturer of agriculture equipment that sells through a national dealer network. The family-owned company, whose market includes end-user producers, dealer principals and dealer salespeople, was well-known in certain circles, particularly in the Northeast, but wanted to increase its brand awareness nationally and establish itself as a thought leader in the industry, said Jim Mandes, national sales manager at Pequea (pronounced peck-way). The company had, in the past, relied on print advertising to get its message out, but had never garnered consistent results, he said. In January 2007, Pequea hired Schubert Communications, a Downington, Pa.-based b-to-b marketing agency, which recommended Pequea begin its branding effort by shifting marketing dollars to public relations. PR would establish Pequea as an authority and source of valuable information, the agency advised—a tactic that would be more effective than using print ads to target readers who'd never heard of the brand. “If [magazine readers don't] know who we are, the chance of a print ad's message getting through to the end user is very remote,” Mandes said. “If you're embedded in a story, it lends credibility, you're providing a service and you're providing value—and your insertion costs are a lot less [than print advertising].” Public relations would also enable Pequea to highlight its history and expertise, said Brent Wilson, an account executive at Schubert, a story that's difficult to tell in a print ad that's focused on equipment capabilities or specifications. “We wanted the opportunity to tell people not only about the equipment but also the people behind the equipment and how Pequea as an organization is desirable to work with from a dealer-principal perspective,” Wilson said. “[Pequea is] family-owned. They're very concerned and very courteous of their dealer relations; and they're very flexible and nimble in terms of meeting dealer and customer issues, demands and needs. That's something that you really can't capture in an ad, but that you can capture through public relations.” Pequea worked with Schubert to identify the best ways to support specific product lines, beginning with the company's manure spreaders, and eventually moving on to its hay tool line. After determining that seven out of 10 buyers of manure spreaders are women, the company launched its “Spread Hope” initiative, painting one of its manure spreaders pink and donating $10,000 to breast cancer research. Pequea took the pink spreader on the road to various dealer locations and trade shows to promote the effort. The company also focused on establishing relationships with editors at key trade publications—such as Cattle, Farm Equipment, Florida Horsemen, Lancaster Farming, Mid-Atlantic Horse, Progressive Farmer and Progressive Hay Grower—and providing valuable content to those publications. For instance, Dennis Skibo, Pequea's owner and president, published articles on hay tedding, myths about alfalfa harvesting, how to select a manure spreader and how to use feeders effectively in an unpredictable hay market. The goal, Wilson said, was to get pickups in publications that focused on regions where the company hadn't advertised before or in national publications in which it couldn't afford to advertise. “These are publications that the producers value,” Mandes said. “They lay them on their kitchen table and read them end to end; and the editors are very picky about content. They want their stories to have real merit for the producer that's reading it.” In 2007, Pequea garnered more than 130 print and online media clips as a result of its PR effort, and has received TV and radio coverage as well. It has experienced much higher booth traffic and more media attention at agriculture industry trade shows, Mandes said. “Pequea's been around for 30 years and has regularly attended industry trade shows, and had never had a booth interview,” Wilson said, referring to interviews initiated by journalists. “The first show that we had [after the PR effort began,] ... we had something like 14 booth interviews.” The company also recently began a Web marketing effort that includes online advertising and viral video, Mandes said. HOW PEQUEA MACHINE'S BOOST IN PR LED TO INCREASE IN BRAND RECOGNITION Objective: Pequea Machine wanted to promote specific product lines, build brand awareness on a national level and establish itself as a thought leader in the agricultural segment. Strategy: Working with Schubert Communications, the company launched a public relations initiative in January 2007. Results: In 2007, Pequea had more than 130 print and online media clips as a result of its PR effort, and has received TV and radio coverage as well. It has experienced much higher booth traffic and more media attention at agriculture trade shows.
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