The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA) partnered with a third-party market research firm in 2017 to conduct generational pest control research and found that although consumers do not immediately associate pest control with protecting public health when asked unaided, they quickly made the connection when prompted. As human cases of vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease have increased and spread, so too has public awareness of the dangers posed by pests as well as the necessity of professional pest control. The public has increasingly begun to understand that pests like ticks and mosquitoes aren’t just a backyard BBQ nuisance, but rather are dangerous vectors capable of transmitting sometimes chronic and fatal diseases.
The New Year poses a great opportunity for the industry to more fully integrate pest control into the public health conversation. As demonstrated by a national pest control usage and attitudes survey commissioned by PPMA in 2016 which found 78 percent of Americans believe pest control professionals protect public health, great strides have been made thus far but there is still more work to be done.
Pest control companies have the perfect opportunity, as well as an inherent responsibility, to spread awareness about the threats posed by pests and the industry’s role as protectors of public health. Face-to-face interactions with customers are a daily part of the job and provide companies with the ideal circumstances to educate homeowners and promote the industry as essential to public health. Furthermore, when it comes to pests and the diseases they spread, pest management professionals should serve as experts and trusted resources for curious consumers. Whether you’re engaging in more traditional marketing or daily on-the-job customer interactions, these are the messages the public needs to hear:
• You are protectors of public health and experts in your field: According to the World Health Organization, the quality of life we enjoy today is credited to three things: better health care, better medicine and better pest control. Companies need to position themselves and their capabilities as essential to keeping the public safe from pests and the diseases they’re known to spread. Consumers need to understand that DIY efforts around the house or a few sprays of bug repellent are not enough to keep themselves, their family and their property protected. In order to properly handle a pest problem and ensure wellbeing, partnering with a professional is a must.
• You are the authority on pest behavior and biology: To help people make an easier cognitive connection between pest control and public health, they need to better understand what you are protecting them from. A mosquito bite might itch or a bee sting may swell, but people need to learn more about pests such as ticks, rodents and cockroaches, which are capable of spreading bacteria and disease. Generational consumer research from PPMA found public health concerns related to pests differed by generation. Although all age groups considered mosquitoes a public health threat, Millennials and Gen Xers were also highly concerned about ticks, while Baby Boomers worried more about rodents. When addressing and educating different audiences, consider focusing on the pests and public health issues most important to them.
• You are educators and experts: When people have questions or concerns about a pest issue in their home, you can be their trusted partner and resource for accurate information. On-site visits and inspections are the perfect opportunity to educate homeowners and share insights, establishing yourself and your company as a trustworthy and reliable source by providing information and alleviating their concerns. So often, consumers can get bombarded with stories, inciting hysteria or fear, and your knowledge and advice can give them peace of mind.
But how do we all work together to bring pest control into the public health conversation? Here are a few specific ways to get involved and spread the news:
• Work with local media: Readers are more likely to trust an article from a news source than an advertisement. Offering expert insights or a newsworthy press release to your local media outlets can help you gain traction in the news cycle and develop lasting relationships with reporters and journalists. This requires providing useful information and reaching out to relevant reporters and outlets. Journalists always value expert opinions for their pieces and are constantly on the lookout for what is happening and trending in their local communities.
• Establish an online presence: In today’s communication landscape, a lively social media presence and a professional company website are essential. Utilize both to share information about your company and its services, as well as the importance of pest control to public health. Whether it’s an informative Facebook post or an educational website article, online marketing and communication will allow you to promote your business and the industry.
• Develop shareable collateral: Talking about the importance of pest control is one thing, but providing consumers with visual and tangible materials leaves a lasting impression. If you don’t have the time or resources to create these materials from scratch, PPMA Mainframe offers a wide variety of professionally designed assets that can be used for customer collateral, as well as online content for social pages, e-newsletters and websites.
Companies large and small can get involved and help bring pest control front and center when it comes to public health. Human cases of vector-borne disease are on the rise, and there is always work to be done in sharing news and driving public awareness. Perception of pest control as essential to public health is beneficial to the wellbeing of the industry as a whole and educating people about the dangers posed by pests will help them understand the need for professional pest control services and your company.
Cindy Mannes is the executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. Visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma for more information on how you can become involved.
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