I Heart Plant Tours: Of Metals and Marketing

Touring Metallus: A Tale of Metals, Mettle and Marketing

As a public relations executive, there’s a simple truth I swear by: To truly represent your client well, you need to get your hands dirty (figuratively and, sometimes, literally). That’s why, when the opportunity to tour the Metallus steel plant arose, I jumped at the chance to swap my suit for safety gear.

Armed with industrial-sized imagination, I conjured images of flowing molten metal and immense machinery. As a child of the ’80s, raised in Canton, Ohio, TimkenSteel (now Metallus) loomed large in my psyche. Many weekends spent at my grandparents’ house, nestled in the shadow of the Dueber plant, meant that the fiery spectacle and roaring sounds indelibly etched themselves in my mind.

The Heat Is On

Metallus_Img2_400x305Upon arrival, we were decked out in what can only be dubbed “PPE chic,” accentuated by safety goggles, suggesting a spirited night at the science fair. As PR pros know, trading your Birkenstocks for steel-toed boots is practically a rite of passage.

Our first stop was the heart of the operation: the furnace. Here, raw materials like magnesium and molybdenum are melted down in a process that’s more like “conducting a grand symphony” with each component playing its critical part. For communicators, the takeaway is clear: Know your essential elements—be they facts, figures or client insights—and understand how to blend them together to forge strong messages.

Keep Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

Moving on, we encountered the rolling mill, an imposing spectacle of industrial might, where red-hot steel—glowing with intense heat—emerges from the furnace. This malleable material, softened by the high temperatures, is then fed through massive rollers that press and stretch with fantastic force, shaping it into bars, billets and other forging preforms.

One of the most impressive aspects of this process is its relentless focus on continuous improvement. Adjustments are constantly made to ensure the highest quality of the finished product. The rollers must exert the perfect amount of pressure in a balanced and controlled manner. Too little, and the steel won’t form properly. Too much, and it risks weakening the material. Like fine-tuning our PR strategies, this ongoing iteration is crucial for success.

Smooth Operators

One cannot simply walk a steel plant without appreciating the delicate dance between man and machine—a symphony orchestrated by the skilled workers who maneuver monster equipment with finesse. We’re talking colossal cranes that can lift 20 tons without breaking a sweat and straddle carriers that can look a giraffe in the eye but glide about with gazelle-like agility.

Our guide explained that despite automation enhancing both safety and the steelmaking process, human oversight remains critical. The workers’ expertise in knowing how to control the machinery and respond to any issue is invaluable. This resonated with me as it underscored the importance of the human touch in PR—while we leverage tools and technology for efficiency, individual judgment and creativity are irreplaceable.


Steely-eyed Observations

Being there helped me grasp not just what Metallus makes, but the care, the precision and the expertise that make it possible. This is crucial in our line of work because telling a story is good, but telling a true story, with all its nitty-gritty details and passion, is compelling.

Metallus doesn’t just make steel but the very fabric of society, forging the enduring frameworks that anchor bridges, buildings and countless other constructs. From planes to trains to automobiles, in defense of our nation and in pursuit of new horizons in energy and aerospace, Metallus metals move our world, shape our landscapes and push the boundaries of possibility.

For PR folks, walking the walk helps ground our narratives in reality. It turns out, experiencing the mettle of manufacturing lends authenticity to your storytelling. Who knew?

Here’s my rallying cry: Enthusiastically embrace your client’s world. Endeavor to understand their processes, products and people. It sharpens your message and builds a deeper trust. Plus, it’s a perfect excuse to escape the office and rekindle all the magic and marvel of a third-grade field trip.

Also, remember that every plant, piece of equipment and person in action is an opportunity (with your client’s permission, of course) for a great photo op. Curiosity, much like steel, is a powerful tool—wield it well.

Because it’s not just about spinning a story—it’s about forging it in the fire of genuine experiences.