Telling the Public Relations Story within Dental Instrument Manufacturing

Product manufacturers of all types can easily get consumed with focusing on product features and benefits for their news stories. Hu-Friedy, a leading dental instrument manufacturer, was no different. Most of its news generated by public relations centered on the launch of a new or upgraded instrument for use by dentists, hygienists and specialty practitioners. However, all the adjectives in the world couldn’t relay the true story behind those instruments and why Hu-Friedy’s premium products were worth every penny.

Going beyond product features, customer testimonials or case studies, Burdette Ketchum’s public relations team sought to explain the story within the 107-year-old, Chicago-based manufacturing company. The launch of the company’s new apprenticeship program was the perfect opportunity.

Public Relations Tip #1:
Mine for story ideas, they may not always be obvious.

Our media relations team interviewed key Hu-Friedy executives to fully understand the apprenticeship program, its purpose and selection process for applicants. We determined that publicity about the program was better served with methodical media outreach instead of Hu-Friedy’s traditional approach of distributing a press release to multiple media outlets at the same time. Therefore, we drafted custom pitch angles for prioritized national business, dental trade and local Chicago media.

Public Relations Tip #2:
Custom pitches provide reporters/editors context as to why their audience should care about your story.

One of the first reporter’s who responded to a pitch forced us to put the brakes on our efforts … in a good way. It was the Wall Street Journal. A site visit, in-person interview, photography session and a few months later, a feature story on Hu-Friedy’s apprenticeship program appeared on the front page of the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal and online.

Public Relations Tip #3:
It’s okay to put proactive pitching on hold for one great story. The result can be worth more than dozens of pick-ups in lower priority media.

We used the WSJ story as background information about Hu-Friedy to trade and local media, as we continued our media outreach. This helped us secure interest from reporters to take a tour of Hu-Friedy’s manufacturing facility and resulted in multiple feature stories: Dentistry IQ, The Dunn Show, and Made in Chicagoland.

Public Relations Tip #4:
When appropriate, leverage existing media coverage to obtain more.

The stories about Hu-Friedy and its manufacturing process provided a glimpse of the people behind the company and showcased why how dental instruments are made is important to product quality. It also helped to position the century-old company as one with an eye to the future.

Over the course of two years working with Hu-Friedy, mainly focused on industry media and blogger relations, Burdette Ketchum helped the company secure 272 placements reaching an audience of nearly 36 million. The media relations return on investment (ROI) for Hu-Friedy was 1,153%.