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In May, O2 Media, the company that produces Designing Spaces for Lifetime Networks contacted the IICRC to request a telephone meeting to discuss professional carpet cleaning and its role in providing for a more healthful indoor environment. Hank Unck and I agreed to speak with them on behalf of the Institute.
We came to the meeting expecting to provide background information about the industry and prepared to discuss the consumer benefits of hiring IICRC Certified Firms.
Scott Moss, the show’s director of programming, was intrigued to learn that the IICRC had a program that would enable consumers to locate and hire reputable companies. He liked the fact that the IICRC was an independent, nonprofit standards-setting and certification organization and that the program was open to any company willing to operate at a high level technically and ethically.
Moss decided that he’d like to do a segment of an episode featuring the IICRC Certified Firm program. He felt confident he could sell the show’s producers on the idea. A sponsorship fee would be required, as would be a significant investment of time by IICRC volunteers.
The Decision and preparations
Unck and I both felt this could be an invaluable opportunity for the Institute to promote its Certified Firms. The show’s reach was impressive, an average of a million viewers, and the demographics were perfect (homeowners, primarily women). We decided this was an opportunity worth pursuing and after seeking and receiving board approval, we prepared to move forward.
The next several months were spent on script development, determining when and where to “shoot” the segment and selecting a Certified Firm and an on-camera spokesperson. Unck, who chairs the IICRC Marketing and Communications Committee, took charge of the project. He worked with Maureen Roberts of Designing Spaces and Lindsay Ash of Edelman in getting this critical prep work accomplished.
By September, the shoot date was set: October 26 in Fort Lauderdale. Word of Mouth Carpet Restoration, a Fort Lauderdale-based Certified Firm was selected to represent Certified Firms in the segment. Rachel Adams, an IICRC-approved instructor with Indoor Environmental Management Inc., was selected to serve as the on-air spokesperson.
Everything was set and then... a problem. Three weeks prior to the shoot date, Unck received a summons for jury duty on the day of the shoot. Ordinarily not a problem, he’d just tell them he had business out of town. But twice before in the past year he had been summoned and released due to business commitments. In Arizona (his home state) they don’t allow a third time without consequences. If he begged off again, there would be a fine and possibly jail time involved.
I received Hank’s desperate plea for help via email on October 5: Could I pinch hit for him as technical advisor at the shoot? After extracting significant IOUs, I agreed. (Of course, I was secretly delighted to do it.)
Rachel, Lindsay and I arrived the day before the shoot, greeted by the outer reaches of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that would gain significantly more notoriety the following week when it made landfall in the Northeast. We had dinner with Eric, Gregg and Matt Vander Wiede, the three brothers who are partners in Word of Mouth Carpet Restoration.
As we talked I realized this company was a great fit for the segment. An owner-operator family business that started out in 1995 with a cheap portable thrown in the back of a pickup, the company offered little or no training, cheap prices and high-pressure upselling. When they began they were the kind of company that the Certified Firm program was designed to counteract. They were like many — possibly most — industry startups.
But that’s where the story began, not where it ended. The brothers Vander Wiede quickly understood that their business model needed adjustment. They took classes (Gregg is certified in CCT, CMT, RRT, SMT and WRT) and upgraded their vehicle and equipment. They embraced the business concepts at the core of the Certified Firm program: quality work backed by great customer service. In 2007, they signed up to be a Certified Firm.
Lights, cameras, action!
The day of the shoot dawned rainy, not surprising given the presence of Sandy only miles off the coast. The location was a home in suburban Fort Lauderdale. On the drive over, we worried whether the weather would allow for any outside shots of the truck arriving at the home and getting set up. As it turned out, we needn’t have been concerned. A window of dry weather of several hours opened up mid-morning.
We met the producer George Tweddle at 9 a.m. at the home. George and his crew checked out the location and quickly realized that some improvisation would be needed. Originally, Rachel Adams, our on-air spokesperson, was to be interviewed with shots of the cleaners working in the background. Because of the limited size of the location, that wouldn’t work, so it was decided to begin the shoot with Rachel’s interview and later shoot the crew at work.
It was fascinating to watch the production pros at work. Outside it was raining cats and dogs but by the way they placed and lighted the set, you’d never know it.
Rachel was a real pro, projecting calmness and competence, although we found out later that her outward projection didn’t entirely reflect her inner emotions. “Filming as the on-camera spokesperson was a little harder than I thought it was it going to be — the camera is a bit nerve racking,” she told us. She added, “This experience was very enriching. It helped me think about the IICRC from a different perspective, the consumer perspective.” And, she acknowledged, “There is a lot more that goes into a five-minute TV segment than I realized!”
Next the crew turned to outside shots of the truck pulling up to the home, greeting the client and getting set up to do the cleaning. This was probably the easiest part of the shoot. The weather had cleared, the truck looked great and natural light makes the camera work simpler.
After a short break for lunch, the crew turned to filming the actual cleaning. This was a bit more challenging, as the only rooms in the home with carpet were two small bedrooms, and the carpet was a 12-year-old olefin Berber with a very evident outline where a desk chair pad had been in one of the rooms. The Vander Wiede brothers were more than up to the task and did a superb job in tight quarters. Likewise, the filming crew.
Asked afterward, Eric Vander Wiede said of the experience, “The filming was exciting and fun to be a part of. It was more detailed than expected, but a great experience.”
Vander Wiede was also already thinking strategically about the segment, saying “We’re going to post it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and our Website.
Put on the spot
Filming for the segment was completed by 3 p.m., a couple hours ahead of schedule, when producer George Tweddle gave yours truly more than I bargained for by asking me to sit for a brief on-camera interview. Unprepared and suddenly nervous, I swallowed hard and consented. Suddenly the makeup lady descended, with powder and blush and who knows what. I was seated, lighted and fitted with a microphone.
I imagine I looked like a deer in the headlights, but fortunately my interview was not for the segment. It was, instead, for something that many readers will appreciate. I was interviewed about the show experience: why had the IICRC decided to do it and would we recommend it to others. In short, they filmed a testimonial and I was happy to oblige.
As we left the shoot and headed to the airport, I thought about the day that was. I wondered what the final product would look like and whether other Certified Firms would find it helpful and use it to promote their businesses as the Vander Wiede’s were going to do. Soon we will find out. The segment is scheduled to air on January 4 and January 31; check your local listings for specific times.
John Downey owns Downey’s Carpet Care of Granville in Granville, OH. He is a member of the board of directors of the IICRC and serves as vice chair of the marketing and communications committee.