My team and I received an early Christmas present this year: the privilege to tell a wonderful story of generosity and loyalty – and earn national media for doing so.
Brian Greenleaf and I spent all of Monday pitching local, state and national media on a special $4 million gift from founder and Chairman Lee Schoenherr to his 200 employees at FloraCraft in Ludington. Announced during the company’s Christmas party on Friday, the gift is based on longevity of service and will be paid in a combination of cash bonuses and special gifts to the 401(k) plans of all full-time employees.
It’s something Mr. Schoenherr has been contemplating for awhile. He and his wife, Joan, have been generous supporters of all kinds of causes in Mason County. Now’s the time, he said, to do something to my employees, who have helped us grow to be the leading manufacturer of foam products for the craft and floral industries.
Mr. Schoenherr’s announcement was met with cheers, applause and more than a few tears. One by one, his employees lined up to shake his hand and say a personal word of thanks.
We were there, along with videographer Dave MacKenzie from Stonecrest Productions, to capture interviews and B-roll for a video news release, along with photos for social media. Dave worked his magic all weekend to produce the VNR, which included footage of the event, interviews with Mr. Schoenherr, his CEO, Eric Erwin, and six employees, and production and packaging shots.
A pitching frenzy
Monday morning was consumed with reaching out with individual pitches to media across West Michigan, in Detroit and around the country. The inevitable silence that follows after hitting “send” was starting to make me nervous, I admit, when the quiet lingered a bit too long.
But then my phone started ringing. And Brian started receiving texts. And we spent late morning and early afternoon coordinating interviews, fielding media questions and sharing photos and footage.
Our media monitoring wizard, Brianna Peña, started sharing clips and screen caps of social media response from around the region – and eventually, around the world. I must admit to dropping my phone and squealing when USA Today picked up the story and shared it on Facebook. Comments, likes and shares were coming in so fast neither Bri nor I could keep up with them.
As of this morning, the Facebook post had more than 31,000 interactions, 685 comments and 6,080 shares. The comments, nearly to a one, were positive and uplifting – and so contrary to my usual experience with social media comments:
- Now this is what loyalty looks like … a great employer-employee relationship.
- Beyond blessed is what I would call it. This is inspiring and lets people know there are good, great companies to work for in this crazy world of ours. God bless you all for doing such a wonderful thing for your employees!
- Love this story… Family owned and no stockholders. Taking care of his employees in such a huge way, you don’t see that in the big companies.
- I will be buying FloraCraft foam and items next time I go to Michaels. Thank you for taking care of your employees!!
- This man should be nominated for sainthood, person of the year and any other award out there.
One commenter nominated Mr. Schoenherr for president. Other commenters asked where to apply for jobs. Still others drew stark comparisons with GM, Sears and other companies who are shedding jobs, shuttering factories and filing for bankruptcy.
Articles have appeared in major print and broadcast outlets across the state. The Associated Press picked up the story for its national newswire, so readers from Cleveland to Sacramento and points in between are cheering at the news. An especially wonderful Detroit Free Press article has been shared with Gannett properties across the country. We’ve even seen the story in Spanish and Russian.
I woke up this morning to find emails from CBS This Morning and CNN in my in-box, which made my heart flutter a bit. When I spoke with the CNN producer to confirm interview details, she said: “Love what you are doing. Merry Christmas!”
A great day
My team and I do good work every day. We share the stories of new hires, promotions, new programs, innovative services and more with local, state and trade media. These are the basics, our bread and butter, the fundamental building blocks of day-to-day communications for companies, nonprofits, educational institutions and municipalities. We deal with overworked, underpaid and cynical journalists who often don’t return calls or emails.
But every so often, we are invited to step into a story like this – American manufacturing, up-from-the-bootstraps, family-owned business, small town, big heart, good deed – that garners national media. And all of us appreciate being able to share such wonderful news in our all-too-weary world.
My favorite comment from the last several days is one that won’t make headlines, won’t show up on social media, won’t rank high on the hyperbole scale. It was an email from Mr. Schoenherr to his wife, sharing a video clip of Friday’s lunch since she could not attend.
It was a great day, he wrote to her.
Indeed. Thanks for letting us be part of it.