Clarity Brings New Beginnings


Melissa Davidson

Being a public relations writer means you are the voice of the client. You share their successes, innovations and ideas through a clever and delicate balance of words and phrases, creating a simple and concise message that entices readers beginning to end. It’s this exciting challenge of word play that defines my role on the IRONCLAD Marketing Team.

We are all faced with challenges daily, whether as individuals, small businesses or Fortune 500 companies. It’s not these challenges that shape who we are, but rather our reaction – how we respond to the circumstances, experiences, accomplishments and tribulations — that molds us. I write about how others have overcome, so I share with you a few of my curve balls that have impacted who I am and brought me to today.

I grew up in a small North Dakota town of about 2,500, surrounded by coal mines and power plants. My dad was a police officer, which, as you can imagine, made me very uneasy when I became a teenager. My mom (more…)

??Open Your Mind to Open-Source??

Mitchell Wagner – Art Director – IRONCLAD Marketing

Mitchell Wagner

Never have there been more options for designing a website, from the $5.99/month services to open-source, blog-like platforms to fully custom-programmed behemoths. You can get great results regardless of which direction you go, so a little research is required to see what meets your immediate and future needs. You may run into developers that call WordPress and similar sites little more than glorified blogs. But while many of them began life as blog platforms, they have since grown into more complete CMS solutions.

The site you are on was built using WordPress. Having said that, don’t for get about the open-source option if you are looking to have a website built.

As for me, and for IRONCLAD, we have found open-source platforms are the way to go. We can offer a robust set of features tailored to any budget. The best part is you are not tied down to a proprietary CMS system. A custom-programmed site can have great CMS capabilities, but if you end your relationship with the company that built it, the company will export static pages and you lose ALL ability to edit – unless you go into the code. Open-source is different. You have a framework that any developer can edit so you can take the site wherever you want while maintaining all of its CMS capabilities.

Plugins are available to accomplish virtually any task from stocks and weather to making your site a secure online shopping cart. There is also an abundance of themes out there that cost from nothing on up. Need mobile capabilities? No need to build a second site (more…)

Seal the Leaks in Your Marketing Plan

Back in high school, coaches, parents and teachers had a common expectation of my peers and me: “Don’t sandbag.” In other words, don’t slack off, cheat, or rely on the person next to you to do your job or hide your lack of effort.

Then I moved to Fargo, a.k.a. Floodville.

Now, “sandbagging” has an entirely new meaning, and, actually, it’s the complete opposite. In the literal sense, sandbagging requires trust and dependency on everyone nearby. You could say ‘round these parts, the phrase “don’t sandbag” has been wiped out along with our ever-expanding riverbanks and hundreds of homes.

If you’re unfamiliar with sandbagging, first of all, feel lucky, and secondly, let me clue you in to what goes on:
First, a flood prediction is made and announced. After a good amount of grumbling and groaning, professionals haul in sand by the truckload to places with unique, catchy names like “Sandbag Central”. Volunteers of all ages step forward in herds to fill bags, seal them correctly and efficiently stack them onto pallets, which are then loaded onto other trucks. Finally, hundreds of people meet near the sides of area rivers and drainage ditches, form seemingly endless lines, and begin passing each and every bag to the end of the line where it gets added to the stack of bags that will grow to prevent water from leaking through. Ufda.

It sounds like a total disaster, but quite honestly, when everyone fills a niche and does his or her job, it’s a smooth operation and the ideal model for team effort. And, frankly, only a team can make it work.

As our community gears up to make another gargantuan mound of sandbags this year, I’ve taken time to reflect on how amazing the process really is. Not so much the fact that we have to sandbag every year, but rather that a group of people can collaborate to devise and implement a plan almost flawlessly by working together toward a common goal.

The process is comparable to formulating a marketing plan. Similar to (more…)

Create the Vision

The ultimate goal of any marketing piece should be to create a vision of a solution in the mind of your prospect that points him or her to your product or service. I say ultimate because the sales process often can be long and complicated, with multiple contacts, marketing pieces and negotiations required to close the deal. Well-written case studies can go a long way in moving the process along.

Here at IRONCLAD we do two kinds of case studies. There are longer narrative case studies, what we call job stories, that feature one of our client’s customers using our client’s equipment or machinery to solve a problem, meet a challenge, improve efficiency, boost profits, etc. These generally appear in trade publications. Then there’s the shorter case study that gets down to the nitty-gritty in a hurry. These are one-page to one-and-a-half page pieces that can be referenced online or used as sales sheets in the field.

Your company might benefit from one or the other or both. Either way, here’s (more…)

Honoring an Original Ironclad

Last week the United States buried two sailors who manned one of the most famous ironclads in our country’s history, the USS Monitor. On March 9, 1862, the Monitor engaged the confederate ironclad, the CSS Virginia (formerly the CSS Merrimac), in Hampton Roads off of the coast of Virginia. Neither vessel could claim a victory in that first clash of ironclads, but as multiple sources put it, the battle marked “a turning point in military history” and that “a new era of naval warfare had dawned.”

All of the Monitor’s 16 crew members perished when it sank in fierce seas off of the coast of North Carolina about eight months later. In 2002, the remains of two of those sailors were recovered when part of the ship was raised. And last week they were finally, appropriately, buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

While IRONCLAD wasn’t named after the ironclads, (more…)

Meet Lisa Altice, IRONCLAD’s Project Manager/Writer

The most common question I get when I meet new people is, “Where are you from?” That’s a loaded question for me and I almost feel obligated to tell my whole story. So for your benefit, here’s my story…

I’m originally from Hawaii and most of my extended family still lives there. While I loved growing up wearing flip-flops everyday, the education system wasn’t the greatest. My parents decided the best place for me to get a good education and have options for college would be Virginia Beach, Va. located 5,000 miles away.

It took a couple years for us to actually move, but when we did it was in the middle of winter. I traded in my flip-flops for boots and saw my first snowfall within a week. Aside from the weather, the culture was also completely different. I went from the laid back mentality of the islands to the strict rules of the South. Luckily I found an escape in music and started playing the oboe in the band.

I loved music and when it came time to apply to colleges, I wanted (more…)

The Black Friday Experience

Lauren Stonehouse

Lauren Stonehouse

Thanksgiving; it’s a holiday where an elastic waistband is key to a successful feast, filled with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and homemade pumpkin pie. As you sit around the table with friends and family carb loading, your anticipation and excitement for the upcoming Black Friday chaos grows. Your “zany” relatives sift through the ads strewn on the floor forming a game plan for their shopping festivities. And for those who work in retail, it’s the most dreaded day of the year. Crowds of people flood the stores hungry for the door busters, dividing into teams and (more…)

Positivity in a Negative World. I’ll Vote for That.

I spent a fair amount of time watching football on Sunday. You won’t be surprised to hear I saw a political ad here or there. It felt like hundreds. All negative, of course. So-and-so voted to cut health care. So-and-so gave themselves a pay raise. So-and-so can’t do anything right.

Sprinkled between the slew of political ads were a few others, featuring more positive messages.

Nissan re-designed its Pathfinder to offer a more family-friendly vehicle – a mini-van in disguise.

You can now play “Heart and Soul” on an iPad mini.

Kia is finally offering attractive vehicles. In fact, the company’s advertisement makes the Optima look like a Lexus. I’ll be taking one for a test spin soon.

Finally, Papa John’s gave me an offer I literally couldn’t resist. Order now, get a free pizza later. Sign. Me. Up.

These ads were missing one thing that was common to all the political ads. They didn’t say a peep about what’s wrong with (more…)

C4 Communication

Just like the concussion of an explosion hitting the body – BOOOMMM! – strong messaging should hit the mind. At it’s best it just about blows you over, takes your breath away, makes you open your eyes wide and want more.

Getting that impact is easier said than done, and even the best writers don’t burst into that kind of effectiveness every time. But every time we sit down to a blank page, we already know the elements that need to be mixed together to get the big bang we want for our clients.

I call the concoction C4, just like the military-grade plastic explosive. And when you get it right, it’s a blast. So here’s the recipe. (more…)

Hard-Working Companies, Working-Class Agency

There’s just something about work boots.

The impressions they leave behind are sturdy, tough-looking. They’re marks in the dirt that speak to honesty, hard work and reliability. They conjure an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and the end results of “our word is our bond.”

IRONCLAD Marketing recently sent out three-month planning calendars to our clients, companies we’d like to do work with and friends. They’re a reminder that the goal of any advertising, marketing or public relations effort is to create a lasting impression, and that impression is only a stepping stone to the greater objectives of better leads, stronger sales and greater customer retention. In short, every marketing piece or effort should help build a stronger company or organization. Overall, the message is that success requires planning, and planning with IRONCLAD leads to a step-by-step path that will help you build a more formidable company today, next month and throughout the coming year. (more…)