Live from Liberal, Kansas, it's Sunday night!
Need to up your social media game? Let Ed Kentner, Director of Social Media for 600-truck National Carriers, help!
Ed will be a speaker at CCJ's upcoming event, Shifting the driver paradigm: Winning with equipment, technology and culture
Join us (and Ed) in person at the the 2021 CCJ Solutions Summit, Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, in Chandler, Arizona. CCJ Summit assembles fleet executives, thought leaders, industry analysts and leading suppliers to explore ways equipment, technology and corporate culture can shift the driver paradigm and overcome your No. 1 challenge: Cultivating a qualified workforce.
Don’t miss your chance to collaborate and socialize in-person with your peers at the picturesque Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.
For the past year, National Carriers – a 600-plus truck for-hire carrier based in Texas – has broadcast a Sunday evening show, What’s Up, NCI?, hosted by Ed Kentner, National Carriers' director of social media – a show which "has grown into a great way to connect with our drivers on their time schedule," he said.
"We wanted to know what our people were doing, what their thinking was, what questions they might have," Kentner added, "and that was the initial reason we started. We just wanted to interact with our people. If it's who's going to be the best teams in college football, we'll talk about that. I try to lead that conversation in whatever is on their mind, but we do talk about issues at National Carriers, but we also kind of feather that out. 'Hey, whatever you want to talk about, we can talk about.'"
What’s Up, NCI? originated as a pre-recorded video produced and featured on National Carriers' YouTube page, but Kentner wasn't satisfied that he couldn't interact with the audience via recorded message, so about a year ago the company decided to try live production.
The carrier's Sunday evening broadcast, Kentner said, "is kind of a chat time. 'Hey, what's going on? Here's what's going on at National. What's going on out in your truck? In your lives?' We include prayer and praise. When you have people fighting cancer, we have people that have heart conditions and stuff. I don't want to say it's more family oriented, but it's more to the well-being of the driver."
Kentner said he's found a need to “warm up the crowd” as people join the broadcast but within five minutes enough participants have joined to begin an earnest discussion of the session's issues – like discussing driver-facing maintenance issues with the company's vice president of operations and shop foreman, or "with COVID, issues concerning parts availability is a situation that concerns all maintenance programs," he said.
Marketing on a budget
Kentner – with a background in computer and copier sales who calls himself "kind of a geek" – is a one man show behind the scenes, acting as host and director while also interacting with comments and listeners. He broadcasts from his home in Kansas.
"A trucking firm does not have to spend lots of money on labor and equipment," he noted. "I have chosen to keep our show with an informal feel for the time being."
A few months ago the company kicked off a live program on Wednesday mornings – Hump Day – with its director of driver services featuring different departments within the company.
Hump Day, Kentner said, is more news and business programming of driver-facing issues. "'Here's what's going on at National Carriers that you need to know.' For instance, [a recent] emphasis was that getting parts for trucks right now is extremely difficult and ordering new trucks is even more so. And we want to convey to the drivers that, 'Hey, if you're broke down – whether you're in our shop or in one night on the road – it appears to take a little bit longer, or there's a few more struggles... we try to convey stuff that directly affects them and their deliveries all on Hump Day."
The company also hosts a First Friday Forum – a monthly venue for drivers to address concerns directly with management.
Kentner noted that social media and the broadcasts it enables is not the cure all, rather "it is another way to reach out and engage drivers," and it has also attracted the attention of would-be drivers.
"That wasn't the intention, but we have people that have joined us that have watched the show, and anybody can shout out. And just through that interaction, they've just asked for more information," he said. "Now, is it our best recruiting tool? No, it is not. But have we had people join us because they've seen the interaction between us and the drivers? Yes, we have. But again, it's not our major recruiting tool in any situation. It's more of a retention tool."
While there's certainly a positive intent to the programs that National Carriers delivers the Internet is a breeding ground for negativity, and Kentner said he chooses to deal with that head-on.
"If it's a personal attack on someone, I'll delete that (comment) immediately. I just don't allow a personal attack," he said. "If this is an attack on the company – 'Hey, you guys. I was there and you guys didn't do me right.' A lot of times I try to engage in a conversation. 'Hey, I'm sorry things didn't work out for you. You know, I wish things would have went better or we handled it better or what have you.' But I try to diffuse that in such a way as I'm honestly concerned that you left. I'm honestly concerned that you didn't have a good experience, and if not to help you, what could we have done better to help that next guy? And that's how I approach those."
While its broadcasts might not be a major focus in the company's recruiting efforts, the traction National Carriers has gained on social media has prompted the company to shift its marketing spend.
"We spend no money now on print ads and everything basically goes into our online presence for our advertising dollars," Kentner said, noting the age group that National Carriers is most active with online is 35 to 60 years old. "So that of course is where our audience is."