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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meet Bethany Richmond, CRI Communications Manager

Bethany RichmondI met Bethany Richmond, Carpet and Rug Institute [CRI] Communications Manager, at Surfaces 2009 when we got to talking about writing and communicating stories, particularly as they related to flooring and carpet.

In the back on my mind, I thought I might convince Bethany to get involved in the Carpetology Blog... as a break from the technical writing she was doing. I never imagined that she would become my client.

I'm not surprised, though, that she is as critical a content creator for the Carpet and Rug Institute Blog - which just celebrated its 6 month anniversary [see The Carpet and Rug Institute Blog: 6 Month Case Study]. She has a knack for story telling, certainly in writing and also on video. I'm delighted, then, to introduce you to Bethany Richmond, who truly is a Woman In Flooring!

C.B.: Bethany, tell me about yourself.

BR: I am a Southern girl from a family with deep Southern roots. I love the South, and it saddens me to see the region become paved-over and homogenized. I went to high school in Richmond, Virginia and college at the University of Virginia. After graduating, I worked as a TV news reporter, producer, and scriptwriter for a small market network affiliate. I’ve written for a newspaper, trade journal, and at an advertising agency as a copywriter. Besides my work at the Carpet and Rug Institute, I still do occasional TV and radio voice-overs. I have two sons in college – one about to graduate. I love to cook, read good books, and go to movies. You can read my complete profile on the CRI Blog.

C.B.: How did you get started in the flooring business?

BR: I’ve lived in Dalton since 1984, but my first involvement with the carpet industry wasn’t until ten years later when I started writing stories for Floor Covering News. When my kids got older I started writing for Shaw Industries’ employee newspaper, In the Loop. That’s when I really started to learn about the carpet industry - writing everything from profiles of retiring executives to a feature about an employee who hadn’t been absent or even late for work in almost forty years with Shaw. As the copywriter for an advertising agency, I learned about product marketing and promotion on both the residential and commercial sides of the business. Now, at the Carpet and Rug Institute, I deal with more technical issues, like Indoor Air Quality, Cleaning and Maintenance, and sustainability. I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to gain experience in so many aspects of the business.

C.B.: What do you like most about the flooring industry?

BR: I like living in “The Carpet Capital of the World”. This little town has a fascinating history of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the people who built the carpet industry are, to a large extent, still here. I love the stories of boom and bust, and the adventures of some of the early industry’s more colorful characters [like Said Shaheen, Bud Seretean, Mose Painter, and others]. You can drive through the older parts of Dalton and still see the remnants of the Crown Mill village – the company-built houses and store where Dalton’s original cotton mill workers lived and did their shopping. There’s a lot of history here – of an important American industry that is still made in America.

C.B.: What do you like least about the flooring industry?

BR: What I like least about the carpet industry right now is how much it has been affected by the current economy. It also bothers me that carpet gets a bad rap on issues like sustainability, Indoor Air Quality, and carpet’s alleged connection to increased asthma and allergy symptoms. Some people just aren’t listening to reason.

C.B.: What five things would you do to improve the flooring retail experience?

BR: I’d like to see consumers get the correct information about cleaning and maintenance right at the point of purchase. I think addressing proper cleaning before the carpet leaves the store is a proactive step that consumers will regard as good customer service. To use one of CRI President Werner Braun’s analogies, you know about your service plan before you drive your new car off the lot, so why should carpet be any different?

The Carpet and Rug Institute has a booklet called Carpet Cleaning Tips for Dummies that was published for us by Wiley, the company that puts out all the other “Dummies” titles. It was written by Elizabeth Goldsmith, a professor of family resource management for Florida State University, with input from CRI, The Housekeeping Channel, and the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification). The thing I like about it is that it’s everything consumers need to know in one handy-dandy little reference. And it’s easy to use – like all the other Dummies products.

CRI sells the CCTfD books on our website, but CRI also has a series of downloadable fact sheets on our website that are free to anyone who has a use for them.

C.B.: What carpet trends and concerns are strongest? Does it vary much across the country?

BR: Without a doubt, I think one of the most important trends in the next few years is going to be an increase in demand for carpet recycling. For a very small annual fee, retailers can join CARE [Carpet America Recovery Effort], and participate in the dramatic growth of consumer interest in environmental issues and recycling. CARE represents, among other things, a network of 65 entrepreneur/collectors who are spread out across the country. Largely through their efforts, approximately 300 million pounds of carpet were recycled or diverted from landfills just last year. Wouldn’t it be great to offer consumers the option of diverting their old carpet from the waste stream at the same time they bought new carpet?

Some parts of the country, like the Pacific Northwest and California, are more enviro-conscious than others, but the trend is growing everywhere.

C.B.: What about blogs, social media, etc.? How do you see them affecting the flooring industry and consumers?

BR: Obviously, I’m a fan of blogs. Consumers are forsaking advertising and conventional marketing channels and getting more and more of their information from their social network – blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

The CRI blog is a valuable resource for all the audiences we address – consumers, retailers, the professional cleaning industry, and the carpet industry itself. The most remarkable thing about a blog is that is a two-way conversation. Anyone who reads one of our blog posts can leave a comment, ask a question, or engage CRI in conversation.

And the CRI blog is one of the only places where consumers can read information that balances the often horribly incorrect and sensationalized information that is out there about carpet and indoor air quality. I recently discovered a slew of websites that all “quoted” the same made-up statistic about how a baby crawling on carpet was exposed to pollutants equal to that baby smoking four cigarettes a day. The mud is being flung largely online, and I think that’s where CRI needs to address it – and what better way than by using social media?

Thank you, Bethany!

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Jeff Branch said...

Just as Bethany says, consumers are sufing the net for information about carpet like never before. Blogs are so much more personal than a website.

CB Whittemore said...

Jeff, you are absolutely right! Thanks for being part of this conversation.

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