- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

The Steel Alliance has forged an on-line outlet to showcase a renewable resource that has been around for more than 150 years.

The metal that sparked the Industrial Revolution has gotten stronger, thinner, easier to shape and even corrosion-resistant thanks in part to the alliance's 145 members spending over $50 billion on research and development in recent years.

And they want surfers and consumers to know about it.

"The whole purpose behind the Steel Alliance is that we know if we do our job right in educating the consumer, the consumer will demand steel in manufactured products," said Mark Stephenson, president of the group.

"The Web site is an important part of a pull-through campaign, an effort that pulls the demand from the consumer, through the marketplace, to the manufacturer," he said.

Through a $100 million dollar commitment, the D.C.-based alliance is running an aggressive public relations and advertising campaign to increase Americans awareness of steel.

The Steel Alliance campaign is being done over five years in two stages. The first was designed to raise awareness of steel and the second sets out to increase favorable attitudes and get consumers to take action by asking for products made with steel.

"When we began, we were alarmed by the number of negative comments we received regarding steel," Mr. Stephenson said. "After 12 months of the campaign, we saw a positive reverse in the trend and the comments ratio jumped from mostly negative to the most recent, 30 to 1, positive to negative."

The Steel Alliance Web site (www.thenewsteel.com), which went on line in April, is the latest element in the three-year-old group's campaign and is part of the second phase.

"The Internet is a tool that can be used to inform and educate the public about steel today, its uses, costs and benefits," Mr. Stephenson said.

"Research has proven what we believed and that is that once consumers are informed about the benefits of steel, they want more of it in the things they use the houses they buy, the cars they drive, appliances, even their garden tools."

One role of the Web site is to educate the consumer to look for and purchase items with the Steel Alliance logo (the four pointed "stars" seen on every Pittsburgh Steelers' helmet) leading the manufacturer to value the New Steel brand.

"The site represented a consumer branding opportunity and it was important that we develop a logo that was familiar and that could be used on all forms of advertising and communication such as letterhead, the monthly newsletters, television and print advertisements," said Marianne Malina, account executive at GSD&M; Advertising, of Austin, Texas, which worked on the campaign.

"Beyond the recognition of the logo, we wanted the site to be easy, comforting, almost low-tech in appearance so that people would feel comfortable and stay engaged with the site while they are gathering information," she said.

The site works to keep the user seeking information by providing a variety of tools that help to deliver the industry's many messages.

For example, information on how steel can be used for fireproof roofing or to create a sturdy housing frame leads to a framing material calculator. This on-line instrument allows consumers to compare the cost-effective benefits of using steel to frame their homes.

"Technically, we hope to continue to evolve the site, giving the consumers the tools that they needed to be able to see how steel fits into their lives," Mrs. Malina said.

"From the back-end we wanted a site that would technically hold those elements while interactively keeping the user returning for more information creating that all-important and elusive, sticky site that we are all striving for."

Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com).

Site of the Week: The New Steel

Site address: www.thenewsteel.com

Recommended user group: Consumers, environmentalists, manufacturers, builders and students.

What's to like? Our lives are literally surrounded by steel from the roll cage in a car to gardening tools. One of the most interesting aspects of this site is the incredible knowledge base offered.

For example, steel is about 60 percent lighter, sturdier and a more cost effective choice over wood for a home building material. Pound for pound, steel costs less than potatoes and the cost of the average steel used in a car averages between $700 and $1000.

Another interesting fact on the site is that if the Golden Gate Bridge were built today, it would take only half of the 83,000 tons of steel it required in 1937 due to technological advances.

Overall, the site presents a clean and efficient look, quick load times and a site map and search engine for painless navigation. And, most importantly, how can anyone hate a site featuring a cute baby boy on its front page?

What's not to like? The Web site overloads the brain with steel propaganda. I found myself dreaming of metallic structures after a few minutes of viewing.

Also, the floating pop-up menus which appear over the main section heads do not quite work. The menus reveal a bullet list to the section but rolling over the list, words do not highlight nor does the cursor change. For the unimaginative, it might not be obvious to click to open these areas.

Plenty of links to go around: The New Steel offers plenty of links in its Resources area including:

Click through to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) (www.recycle-steel.org/) to find a steel recycling center in your neighborhood and learn that not only is steel completely recyclable but 95 percent of the water used to make the product is also recycled.

For more information on recycling metals, visit the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (www.isri.org) which includes pages of information on recycling metals and a special area for children and teachers.

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