Cair Lerion Blog #8: An Interview with Lisa Johnson

Give us a brief Twitter-sized history of your career so far. 

I’m a global marketing manager, who started out in government PR, spent a decade with a couple of advertising agencies, and have worked the last 17 years in the bulk materials handling industry. 

As the media and communications manager for a mid-size equipment manufacturing company, what are your primary responsibilities?

I have a wide range of duties from constructing our marketing budget to purchasing print and digital adverts, securing editorial opportunities, organising our presence at industry trade shows, and posting to the company’s social media, as well as writing and editing. 

Who/what have been the biggest influences on your career?

I still recall my second day at Premier Pneumatics (now Coperion). It was raining heavily and, unfortunately, I did not have an umbrella. I walked into the building and was met by George Korbelik, the company’s president and founder. I remember being so embarrassed, a new marketing assistant, drenched in rain with water dripping from my face and clothes, talking to this legend who emigrated from Czechoslovakia and eventually started his own company. But my sodden appearance didn’t deter him from greeting the newest employee of his company. To him, I was an employee who deserved every bit of respect as the most senior veteran. Since then, I have striven to treat everyone I encounter the same way, no matter their status or appearance.

What are your top tips for creating engaging content on niche or technical subjects?

When trying to break into a new niche for your company, I recommend developing content that highlights the solutions you bring to the particular challenges of that industry. Your aim should be to answer any questions a potential new customer might have, while your content should be SEO-rich, so your answers are easily found by potential clients via Google and other search engines. Linking to similar stories that you have written and the companies/organizations mentioned in the article(s) is also a good way to emphasize that you are an expert in the field.

In a world where marketing has many diverse avenues and opportunities – from trade shows to social media, advertising and traditional trade media – in your opinion what are now the key marketing tools within the heavy industrial space?

You should use a little bit of everything to reach your audience! The industrial manufacturing industry is sandwiched between two generations right now. You have the 40-60 age range of experienced employees, who still prefer to get their information on a physical piece of paper like a magazine or a literature flyer, but you also have your new hires that are in the 20-40 age range, who grew up in a digital world. You need to balance your marketing across both print and digital to reach everybody.

What opportunities (and challenges) have new media forms created for companies in the heavy industrial space?

The internet is amazing. When I first started working 30 years ago, straight out of college, we mailed press releases on photocopied paper. We even had to wait a day or two to receive the 4×6 glossy product photos developed from 35 mm film. Today, we can write a press release, snap a photo with our cell phone, and email it all, reaching our intended audience in a matter of minutes. I can’t wait to see what transformations occur in the next 5-10 years.

Do you have a favourite story or moment from your career?

While working at Vortex, a manufacturer of slide gates, diverter valves, and loading spouts for companies all over the world, I have been in several situations where I have had to revert to my foreign language classes from school. Thanks to my Spanish high school teacher I can easily fill out tradeshow contracts written in Spanish. One year I even had to rely on the German I took in college to coordinate a sales rep conference that we were hosting in Germany. Never underestimate the value of what you are learning in school. I’m a true testament of using foreign languages later in life. But I’m still trying to figure out when I’ll use geometry!

How do you see the future of marketing/PR for heavy industrial companies?

Heavy industrial companies have been behind the times when it comes to marketing. You don’t see the latest trends at heavy industrial shows, as you would at a gaming technology show.

I do predict augmented reality (AR) will become a valuable boost to heavy industrial companies’ marketing, however. Companies will no longer have to bring heavy equipment to trade shows or sales calls but instead demonstrate their products with life-size imaging, perhaps with cutaway views to see the inside of the product. Or they could visit a customer onsite and project images into the customer’s plant to see how their operation might benefit from the product.

If you could recommend one book (or other source of information) on PR/marketing, what would it be?

One source? It can’t be done! Marketing is continually changing. One day it is best to do it one way; six months from now, the previous way doesn’t work, so you need to change your methods. I’m constantly reading marketing trends from several sources: Exhibitor Magazine, Hubspot Academy & Neil Patel are at the top of my list.

Looking back, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self, just starting on your career?  

When faced with a life-altering opportunity that looks like a risk, view it instead as one of life’s inevitable changes. So many different outcomes are possible, but you won’t know what you can achieve until you do something different. Don’t ask, “What if I fail?”, ask, “What if I fly?”.

How do you turn off from the day job and relax?

Relaxation starts the moment I start driving home in my car. I crank up the music to whatever mood I’m in: Journey or Bon Jovi if I’m feeling nostalgic; Beatles if I need something upbeat; and if it’s a rough day, some Jimmy Buffet to help me imagine I’m on an island far away. That music continues when I enter my home and greet my family.

Based in Salina, Kansas, Lisa Johnson is Media and Communications Manager for Vortex. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.