Clare Ward, managing director of Clare PR, a PR agency that has specialised in raising the profile of companies in the roofing sector for 30 years, discusses how things have changed over those three decades and the core principles that remain the same.
WHEN I FIRST set up in business in June 1989, liquid applied membranes were in their infancy, single ply was still considered the new kid on the block and green roofs weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of a creative architect.
Much has changed since then, not only in the way that roofs are designed, specified, supplied and installed, but also in the way we communicate across the industry and the commercial drivers that make effective communication essential for winning business and managing supply chain relationships.
30 Years of Change
Since Clare PR first began delivering PR campaigns for the roofing sector three decades ago, with clients including Icopal, Kemper System and Firestone, it’s not only the variety of roofing systems that has changed, but also whole roof build up. Building regulations have prompted an increased focus on heat loss through the roof and roofing professionals now need to factor installation into their project planning. With the development of BUR, inverted, green, brown and blue roofs, there has been a constant need for contractors to continue developing new skills. And as building design and roof top services have become more complex, the job of a roofer is probably more demanding than it has ever been.
Against this backdrop of a need for skilled and experienced professionals in roofing, we’re constantly talking about skills shortages and the need to recruit more young talent into the sector. This is one of the areas where PR can be essential in communicating the opportunities within the industry and helping contractors build their employer brand so that potential candidates will want to work for them.
Time pressure is another challenge we’ve seen develop in the sector over the course of working in roofing industry PR for the past 30 years. Projects may be more complex but programmes are increasingly tight and the one thing that every roofing contractor would like to have control over – the British weather – is as changeable and unhelpful as it’s always been. Tighter programmes have been driven by client and main contractor requirements but the roofing supply chain has stepped in to help contractors as much as possible with faster installation systems and tools. Spray-on products, self-adhesive solutions and rapid cure systems have all been developed to help the contractor complete jobs more quickly with fewer skilled people on site.
Health & safety is another major area where we’ve seen huge change over the years, and it’s another area where communicating best practice is a major differentiator for contractors. From high profile campaigns, such as the NFRC’s Safe2Torch Guidelines, which has influenced the development of safety-focused bitumen systems, to solvent-free and low odour liquid membranes, safety has become embedded in every aspect of the industry, including company cultures and safer behaviours on site.
Indeed, the work that all the roofing industry associations are doing to support improved standards and showcase the work of the sector is another positive development we’ve seen in the industry since we first began working with roofing companies. The NFRC, LRWA and SPRA all now run awards, campaigns and other initiatives to support and represent contractors.
Five Tips from the Trade for Positive PR
It’s impossible to include everything that’s happened in the roofing sector over the past 30 years in one article, just as it’s impossible to pass on 30 years’ experience in PR, but here are our five top tips from the trade for positive PR:
- Don’t just be good about what you do, make sure you tell people about it too – case studies of work well done are a great way to showcase your capabilities and the talent within your team; you can also use them on your website, in bids and in PR and social media
- Use blogs to highlight your expertise – you can use blogs to highlight specific projects or demonstrate the knowledge in your business. If you tag your blogs with key words it will help make your company more searchable online too
- Enter awards – there’s nothing like a little third party endorsement for a great project to help raise its profile…and yours!
- Make the most of social media – Twitter and Facebook are great for pictures and videos of great work and a safety-conscious teams on site but don’t forget that LinkedIn is the perfect platform for showcasing your capabilities to senior decision makers
- Be proactive in piggybacking the marketing activities of roofing suppliers – they are always looking for case studies and testimonials so volunteer your projects; it will help boost your profile too.