I’ve often thought of our trade as the “silent business” full of “silent heroes.” Contractors go about their business each day, keeping customers comfortable, safe, and secure. And they do it in a quiet, orderly, and for the most part, unobtrusive manner.
Consumers don’t know too much about our trade until the temperatures spike or plummet and a/c units break down or furnace pilots won’t stay lit. And like magic, contractors become the most recognizable and popular people in town.
But temperatures aren’t the only things that get our trade notoriety.
It’s also the negative image of our trade that gets noticed, built up over years of “sting” operations and pictures in the media of “butt-crack Bubbas.” Contractors are fodder for local TV news shows, especially during sweeps months like February, when TV stations fight for more viewer rating points and advertising dollars.
Sure enough, last February in the Detroit market, there was a story about a shady duct-cleaning business that got plenty of media play on promotional ads for the evening news. Yes, the duct-cleaning business was ripping off their customers and unfortunately, the story gave the legitimate duct cleaners a black eye.
But how many stories about honest duct cleaners were there? Nary a one, if you discount the legitimate business that refuted the story. Honest businesses don’t attract viewers or sell advertising — it’s that simple.
So what can hvac contractors do to fight the bad press? Here are some of my suggestions:
- Contact your local TV or radio station, or newspaper.
Ask them to put you on a referral list for any and all a/c or heating stories. Don’t give the media a choice for their sources. When it comes time to do a feature on the trade, they will have your phone number — the number of a professional company with uniformed, neatly groomed employees driving clean, well-stocked trucks.
I cringe when I think of a local paper carrying a picture of an a/c technician with a “Jeep” baseball cap on, untucked and unmarked shirt, drinking out of a customer’s garden hose. That’s the type of business the local media might find if they are allowed to let their fingers do the walking.
- While you’re at it, send in a “feel good” story to the local media about one good thing your business has done.
It could be the sponsorship of a youth athletic team that just won the championship, or about donating new equipment to a needy family that couldn’t afford the rudimentary comfort of a warm home.
- Lastly, use me as a sounding board.
I’d be happy to receive any newspaper clippings or stories about TV reports regarding our trade, good or bad. I’d like to keep a record of how hvacr contractors are represented in the media and use the information when I write to local and national media outlets.
These shady and unprofessional businesses are really hurting your bottom line. Businesses featured in an unsavory way are often the ones that are low-balling you on price and stealing customers right out from under you.
Maybe you can function without these types of customers, but maybe you can’t.
And think about the young people and guidance counselors who view these negative reports and shake their heads. It’s no wonder our trade has a hard time attracting young people when they see so many poor examples of hvacr workmanship.
I’d like 2000 to be the year our trade starts getting good press in the mainstream media instead of the glut of negative stories. Join me and get mad. It’s time we get thanks for a job well done, rather than criticism and ridicule.