I recently acquired a new employee who has been extremely proactive in learning as much as she can about the self-storage business. We spent one afternoon discussing trends in the industry and the politics of storage development. Then the conversation came around to one of my favorite subjects: public perception of the industry.
For the past year, Inside Self-Storage has included a monthly section titled “Media Monitor,” with the intent of tracking and summarizing coverage of self-storage and related news in mainstream media outlets. Sources range from national newspapers to online broadcast reports to small-town periodicals. In the beginning, headlines were few and far between, or simply representative of financial reports in business journals. These days, news stories are so frequent and varied, we can hardly keep up.
The ongoing steel crisis, crime, and battles with planning and zoning boards top the charts of media coverage. Once in a while, an article will shed a positive light on the industry, assumed by much of American society to be industrial, uninviting and full of corruption. And who can blame the public? My employee chuckled when I told her news coverage of storage often regales with tales of murder victims and drug rings. But I wasn’t kidding. Take, for example, the following sampling of headlines from this month’s “Media Monitor”:
- “Proposed Storage Raises Concerns About Terrorism”
- “Piles of Stolen Goods Found in Pacific Self-Storage Units”
- “Thieves Hit Mini-Storage Facility”
- “British Raids Foil Possible Terror Attack”
- “Missing N.Y. Women Found in Storage Unit”
- “Storage Break-Ins”
Storage owners take their security efforts to heart—not only because of their vulnerabilities to “white bread” crime—theft, vandalism, hazardous-waste disposal—but now also due to more sophisticated offenses, such as ID fraud, terrorist activity, and implication in plots subject to the U.S. criminal-justice system. But let’s face facts: Security is as much about marketing as it is about safety. All other things being equal, tenants will flock to the facility that appears to have greater defense measures, which is why you’ll read in this issue about the basics as well as revolutionary technological advances in the field.
Security isn’t “just for breakfast anymore”; it’s now a staple of the self-storage diet. That being said, owners should be cautious to offer a balanced security regime. In the advent of digital video, biometric ID scanning and computerized access, there is still no reason to scoff at gates, fences and good, old-fashioned “managing by walking around.” I arm my home with a security system; I also keep a baseball bat handy on each floor. It isn’t that I don’t trust technology to do its job. But when there’s a glitch in the system, I prefer to carry a stick, and a big one. Vigilance and responsibility will be the key. Be armed, but not uninformed. Defend your business from criminals and poor media alike.
Teri L. Lanza