Shure's history helps lure a new audience

A quality reputation and smart product tie-ins are proving to be a powerful outreach combination

Despite its rich 83-year history, including periods as a leading microphone, radio parts, record needle, and military equipment maker, sound equipment manufacturer Shure decided to reintroduce itself to consumers about five years ago.

The occasion was the dawn of the iPod age. The company saw an opportunity to brand its products as a high-quality and durable alternative to the earphones provided by Apple and other MP3 makers. The company's leadership already had test consumers in place: the musicians using Shure earpieces and earphones at work, says Mike Lohman, global PR manager.

"We found that a lot of the artists and entrepreneurs that we were working with weren't just using [Shure equipment] on stage, they were using them with their [CD players] or iPods," he says. "And it really took off like gangbusters and
went hand-in-hand with the MP3 players like the iPod."

The privately owned Shure's sale of microphones, wireless systems, and other sound equipment used by musicians and at concerts, political speeches, and other events remains core to the company's business. However, the booming consumer accessory market created a fantastic opportunity for Shure, whose manufacturing capabilities often offer an advantage over competitors newer to the accessory market.

The company's longstanding reputation for quality also helps ease media outreach, says Laureen McGowan, EVP at Greenough Communications, Shure's AOR
since 2003.

"[The iPod's popularity] is one of those weird gifts you're given as a communications professional, where you're at the beginning of a game-changing device or technology," she says. "We just happened to sign on at the right time and said, 'Hey, this is an area where we can really take advantage.'"

Because Shure does not have hefty advertising and marketing budgets, it relies on its PR department to turn consumers' attention to its products, according to Lohman. The company generally emphasizes media outreach as one of its most effective PR strategies, tying its products to ultra-popular gadgets that require earphones, he adds.

"We have tried our best to attach ourselves and our products to the iPod, the iPhone, and other MP3 and portable music players, and I think we've done a fantastic job," he says. "We've been very successful at getting our products into the hands of the media. We do desk-side briefings and use those to establish relationships."

Much of Shure's outreach centers on working with experts on product reviews featured in b-to-b and some consumer magazines. The promotion of its products is also a source of great pride for Shure's employees, many of whom are in bands or play music, according to McGowan. Shure often targets women's and fashion publications, playing up the aesthetic qualities of the equipment, she adds.

"There are a great deal of hands-on reviews," says McGowan. "Shure's earphones have, as more devices have been brought to market, been reviewed on a regular basis in PC Magazine and on CNET. There are a ton of [reviews], and it's not just the technology publications; it's the audio publications as well. It's one of the elements of the campaign and it's part of the industry that is so near and dear to people's hearts. It's a passion for a lot of people."

For a company that less than a decade ago was best known to musicians or people who work in recording studios and other areas of the recording industry, strong media outreach to periodicals and Web sites targeting consumers is a key and largely successful approach, says Lohman.

"Five or six years ago in the consumer electronics space, no one knew who Shure was unless you were one of those die-hard, home-stereo people who loves vinyl and its sound," he says. "We've gotten to the point where so many people know about us as an earphone company, and we are so much more than that and our history is so much more than that. Our quality testing is second to none in the industry and I think that the products reflect that... We take a lot of pride in the fact that all of our products do sound very good."

At a glance
Company: Shure

President and CEO: Sandy LaMantia

Headquarters: Niles, IL

Key trade titles: Stereophile, Sound and Vision, AVGuide, Home Theater

Revenue and comms budget: Undisclosed

Communications team:
Mark Brunner, senior director of brand management;
Mark Karnes, CMO;
Mike Lohman, manager, global PR

PR firm: Greenough Communications

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