[Cover Story] 21st Annual Professional Of The Year: Cindy Mannes

PCT’s first female honoree is a leading advocate for the pest management industry.

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December 11, 2003
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For 20 years Pest Control Technology magazine has named a Professional of the Year who exemplifies the qualities that mold and uphold the pest control industry. This year’s winner, Cindy Mannes, is the executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA), the nationwide consumer awareness program that promotes the pest management industry. As an industry awareness initiative, PPMA is comprised of several sectors of the pest management industry (pest management firms, suppliers, distributors and other stakeholders) that serve as a unified, proactive voice of the industry.

Mannes is also the director of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. As an industry spokesperson, she is responsible for educating consumers about all facets of pest management, from the benefits of selecting a professional to understanding IPM. She has been instrumental in enhancing the image and value to consumers of pest management professionals through her work with the local, state and national media. In addition, she continually works to publicize the organization’s efforts to affect public policy with regard to pesticide usage.

"Cindy embodies what it is to be a professional and to have all with whom she interacts respect her. She continues to show a level of commitment and talent that has brought PPMA and our industry to new heights," says Judy Dold, PPMA board member and former NPMA president.

Behind her title and responsibilities, however, Mannes is a woman who is an advocate for the pest management industry wherever she goes.

"Cindy has shown a tremendous amount of drive and commitment to the program and to the industry. I really believe that Cindy eats, sleeps and breathes PPMA," says Bobby Jenkins, past NPMA president. "The value that PPMA brings to the industry is something that everyone will benefit from and having Cindy running the program will ensure the success of both the industry and PPMA."

With years of experience in the industry and a passion for both the pest management industry and for proactive public relations, Mannes took on the challenge of a fledging initiative in 2001. "Our biggest concern with PPMA before Cindy took over as executive director was sustainability," explains Tom Fortson, PPMA executive committee chairman. "She brought instant credibility to PPMA because of her creativity and leadership. We are fortunate because her background is in pest control and she truly believes in the industry."


HISTORY OF PPMA. The process of PPMA began in 1997 through leadership of the National Pest Management Association, as the Industry Awareness Council. After several years of management changes and funding challenges, the IAC officially became PPMA. IAC’s mission was to gather a group of pest management professionals, distributors and manufacturers who would "join forces to create a marketing campaign designed to grow the customer base of the industry and to put out positive messages about the benefits of professional pest control services."

"The foundations for PPMA were well in place when I assumed my role," Mannes says, "so my task was to carry forward and enhance those plans with funding options, media contacts and lots of activity to create momentum and ensure success. Without that initial work by the IAC leaders, PPMA would not have happened."

IAC conducted valuable market research and discovered some interesting information about the public’s perceptions of the pest management industry. Probably the most interesting finding was that there was a lack of perception. For the most part, homeowners didn’t have a negative perception. Rather, they had no perception at all.

This information was the foundation upon which the PPMA Board and Mannes began to build the PR machine that, today, continues to operate. "We are at the point now where we have credibility with the media as a third-party advocate for the industry and are usually the first group they turn to when they need expert information. During the industry’s busy season, I receive an average of three calls a day from the media, sometimes local, sometimes national media like ABC, CNN, etc.," she says.

"Cindy was the right person at the right time. PPMA had many successes since its inception. However, it needed a boost to get it to the next level," said Rob Lederer, executive director of NPMA. "Cindy used her passion for the industry, her experience and knowledge as well as her contacts to lead PPMA into the future. She has done a great job in a very short time that has reinforced the importance of this organization in the minds of the industry and secured a bright future."

As in all voluntary initiatives, funding was a major challenge. Currently PPMA uses a pledge card system. Pest management professionals make a pledge to PPMA, which is "evergreen," and send in payments monthly, quarterly or annually. There are no percentage requirements although there is a "Guardian Program" of which more than 100 companies are members. Those companies donate one-tenth of 1 percent of their annual revenues to PPMA. "We wanted the dollars from pest management companies to produce tangible results for those companies. With all administrative costs supported by the basic manufacturers, every dollar contributed by pest management companies actually goes toward getting the word out to the public that this is a professional, knowledgeable and helpful industry," Mannes explains.

Mannes spends much of her time speaking to pest management companies locally through conferences around the country about PPMA, the activities and results achieved so far and the activities for the future.

An initiative of this magnitude does not happen without strong leadership. Andy Symons, president of Whitmire Micro-Gen and a member of PPMA explains, "Cindy’s role brought dynamism to the group. She communicates well with everyone involved and really gets to know the companies involved."

"PPMA is the product of a team effort. This is not a one person initiative. The PPMA board of directors, NPMA and others in the industry who continued to believe in this initiative are behind the success of PPMA," Mannes explains.

Victor Hamel, J.C. Ehrlich, is a long-time supporter of PPMA and of Mannes. "Cindy has one of the finest combinations of skill, enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment to our industry that I have had the good fortune to work with. She has almost single handedly made PPMA one of the most important forces for positive improvement for the pest control industry."


PPMA TO DATE. Mannes understands that the result of a massive PR and marketing campaign requires slow acceleration, building momentum as it goes. The results of this momentum become evident when you look at all that’s happened as a result of PPMA.

The overall goals of PPMA include shaping the public’s perception of the industry by creating a positive image, presenting the industry as protectors of public health, creating value in the minds of consumers and growing the entire market.

These goals are being realized every day as more and more media relationships are developed. "We have had to assume some formidable challenges, some that we really didn’t want to face. For example, we’ve received opportunities to go on live radio with consumer advocate groups and we did it because, if we didn’t, someone else would. By doing things like this, we’ve been able to improve perception of who we are and what we do," Mannes said.

When pest management professionals contribute to PPMA, they expect tangible results, according to Mannes. "We have taken $500,000 and turned it into over $4 million in ad value in 2003. That means that had we paid for that much media coverage, it would have cost over $4 million. When I explain this at industry association meetings, it’s not unusual for people to ask ‘where do I send my check?’ It’s just such an exciting message and one that I’m deeply committed to."

Larry Treleven, Sprague Pest Solutions, who serves with Mannes on the Board of PPMA remarks, "I have had the pleasure to work with Wonder Woman (alias, Cindy Mannes) when she was employed in the manufacturing end of the pest management business and now I serve on the PPMA Board. She has demonstrated on numerous occasions that 1 + 1 = 6 when she is trying to get the biggest bang for the buck with the advertising dollars that she has at her disposal."


THE FUTURE OF PPMA. One of the most difficult challenges pest management professionals face is finding and retaining quality employees. PPMA focuses on acquainting the next generation of employees about the pest management industry, its professionalism and future. A Web site for children has been developed that not only will be a resource for children, but for teachers as well. The site, located at www.pestworldforkids.org, was designed by experts in children’s Web sites and involves games, facts, pests and fun activities. (See related story on page 40.)

"We plan to send the industry back to school next April as we’ll have CDs, video tapes and more for professionals to take into schools and present to children," Mannes said. "Instead of waiting for customers and future employees to come to our door, we’ll go out to them!"


CINDY, THE PERSON. Mannes is the first of five children (she has four younger brothers) and grew up on the East Coast. She has been married 23 years and has three children, Emily, 19, who attends Penn State University; Kevin, 17, a senior in high school; and Kelly, 14, in 8th grade. When she’s not working, Mannes is involved in her children’s passions of soccer, basketball and equestrian sports. Other hobbies include cooking and entertaining, reading, golf and traveling with her family. Her main priorities in her life are her three children.

In addition to the whirlwind of the PPMA activities and an active family, Mannes finds time to give back to her community. She has been active with such civic organizations as her local school district, an organization dealing with hunger in the Philadelphia area and an industry children’s health task force initiative.

When asked how she feels about being the first female Pro of the Year, she replied, "I am humbled. If it helps to point other women into the direction of this industry, it is positive. We need quality people in the industry and we have so many good women in this industry who can make valuable contributions."

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine. She can be reached at jvanklaveren@pctonline.com.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PPMA’S 2003 MARKETING AND PR ACTIVITIES

Below are some examples of the media exposure that the Professional Pest Management Alliance has achieved this year:

TELEVISION EXPOSURE

• History Channel “Modern Marvels: Exterminators,” 1-hour program • CNBC “Closing Bell” Interview with Rob Lederer

• ABC PrimeTime Live – Bedbugs in the Hospitality Industry

• ABC Good Morning America – Promo on PrimeTime story

• CNN — Bedbugs in the Hospitality Industry

• KHOU, Houston – Bedbugs • WWL, New Orleans – Public Health Pests

• Video News Release on cockroaches and asthma: aired 36 times for more than 3 million impressions, media ad value $350,000

• 2003 Public Service Announcement – “The Children”: aired 1,433 times for 11,535,271 impressions, $535,522 ad value

• Spanish “Cockroach” Public Service Announcement, aired 1,041 times for 8,980,000 impressions, ad value more than $150,000

RADIO EXPOSURE

• Media Tracks “Viewpoints” program — 200 stations/markets nationwide

• Marion Joyce radio show reached listeners from Connecticut through New York

• WTOP Radio, Washington, D.C. — radio interview on bedbugs resulted in call from ABC PrimeTime

• Madison, The Black Eagle – 13-minute segment on public health pests

• Miami’s #1 rated Spanish show “Voz de la Communidad”

• 2003 Public Service Announcement – “The Children”: aired 12,736 times for 31,025,850 impressions, $468,978 ad value

• Spanish “Cockroach” Public Service Announcement: aired 2,336 times for 2,170,400 impressions, ad value more than $87,405

MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPER EXPOSURE

• Letter to the Editor campaign appeared in 14 newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times

• Real Simple magazine

• Wall Street Journal

• New York Times

• San Francisco Chronicle

• Palm Springs Desert Sun

• Wall Street Journal

COMMERCIAL TRADE JOURNAL EXPOSURE

• Provided bylined articles from NPMA to trade journals, including Hospitality News, Food Safety, Food Manufacturing and American School Foodservice

WEB EXPOSURE

• ABCNews.com

• WebMD.com

• msn.com

• msnbc.com

CONSUMER MEDIA ADVERTISING

• 30-second campaign ran April-May

• 15-second campaign ran 2nd and 3rd quarters; 204 airings on CNN, HGTV, Discovery and Weather Channel.

PPMA INTRODUCES NEW VIDEO SERIES

Have you been looking for a presentation that would educate the public about the role our industry plays in enhancing the quality of life for all? Would it be helpful to show your new or potential employees a video that makes them feel good about choosing a career in pest management? How about a presentation for your local college and high school fairs to attract high caliber people to our industry? Maybe you’d like a motivational industry video for your company meetings? Or, how about a video for all of the home shows around the country?

The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA) has answered the call with the recent development of “Pride and Professionalism, The Pest Control Industry as Protectors of Public Health and Property.” The video is available in two versions, one for consumers and one for the pest control industry.

According to PPMA Executive Director Cindy Mannes, the PPMA board of directors approved the creation of this video presentation to underscore the value and professionalism of the pest management industry in today’s society and attract new, qualified high caliber employees to our industry. “Whether you are a prospective customer or employee, or a current member of our industry, after viewing this presentation we’re confident you’ll come away with a better understanding of the role professional pest control has played in enhancing the quality of our lives,” Mannes said.

The overall concept of these videos emphasizes the role that pest control plays with the residential customers while also addressing the importance of services in restaurants, food processing plants and hospitals. It goes on to highlight the significant investment in research and development made by product manufacturers, the evolution of pest management products and techniques, and the overall quality of the professional pest control operator.

“It is important for the industry to realize the far-reaching impact of their professionalism,” Mannes said. “This video will present a unified front to employees, potential employees, consumers and prospective customers.

“This presentation not only demonstrates our pride and professionalism, but will help all of us deliver the message to consumers of our role as protectors of public health and property,” Mannes said.

The video is free to PPMA contributors. For additional information, visit www.pestworld.org

PPMA LAUNCHES PESTWORLD FOR KIDS WEB SITE

In early January, the Professional Pest Management Alliance will launch a new children’s educational Web site located at www.pestworldforkids.org. The goal of the site is to serve as an educational resource for teachers throughout the United States.

"The site commands frequent re-visits, is worthy of national media attention, and is informational — not commercial," said Cindy Mannes, PPMA’s executive director. "The site was created by educators, for educators. They will help us market it to teachers to incorporate in their curriculum."

The site contains games, lesson plans for teachers, insect ID sections, a glossary of terms, Internet postcards that can be mailed via e-mail and more.

"What we want to do during National Pest Management Month (April) is send the entire industry back to school," Mannes said.

That will include pest control professionals taking these messages to community schools through fun and interactive presentations. These kits, available online to NPMA members, would include:

• Letters to school principals, teachers and PTA presidents

• Script/presentation outline

• Video of Web site highlights for use during presentation

• News release about presentation to customize for local news media

• Talking points for responding to local media coverage of presentation

• Web site training

• Certificates/giveaways

• Suggested timeline

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