Did you know that Minnesota is home to essentially the “Amazon” of electronic components – those pieces and parts that make up the technology in your cell phone, laptop, car, smart home devices and more? DigiKey is the global leader in the cutting-edge commerce distribution of electronic components and automation products, and they are located in Thief River Falls, Minn., about five hours north of the Twin Cities.
Bellmont Partners has partnered with DigiKey since 2019 on all things external communications, including media relations, trade show support, content development, crisis communications and much more. We are thrilled to work with one of the largest private companies in Minnesota, and recently sat down with Laura Stengrim, public relations & marketing communications manager for the company, to chat about her first year at DigiKey, their recent brand refresh, and what she thinks about working in the innovative electronics industry.
Congratulations on one year at DigiKey, Laura! How has the transition been from the tourism marketing space to the electronic components distribution space?
Thank you so much! The transition was bittersweet. I absolutely loved my job with Visit Thief River Falls, and I was fortunate enough to be the executive director for 14 years, so it was very familiar. The processes, projects and campaigns flowed like a well-oiled machine. I had the pleasure of being very tied into the community, so I had a giant support system I could count on and leaving that was scary. But I was ready for a new challenge, and I have definitely been challenged moving into a completely different industry with a fairly steep learning curve. However, with that challenge, has come growth, and I consider myself fortunate to have been given this growth opportunity – both professionally and personally.
What has been the most surprising part of moving from a mostly B2C marketing role to more of a B2B role?
My biggest surprise while stepping into this role has been the technical knowledge that is needed to feel fully confident in the role. Some may say that “marketing is marketing,” no matter what you’re promoting; but I don’t think that’s true. I came from a position with Visit Thief River Falls promoting our city to overnight visitors and it was quite simple to learn about all of the great things that drew people here.
But DigiKey is a complex, global tech company that sells products to companies that literally change the world in industries such as medical, aerospace, automotive and military. Since day one, I’ve been learning technical engineering terms, electronic product classifications and acronyms that I had never heard of before. The comfort zone that I stepped out of is long-gone and I’m expanding my brain every day, which is exhilarating.
Have there been any challenges along the way?
I’ve been challenged to humble myself and ask for help… a lot. I’ve probably asked more questions in the last year than I have in the last 10 years, but the subsequent knowledge that has followed is invaluable. Jack Canfield said, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” That is one of my favorite quotes and summarizes this last year perfectly.
The Bellmont Partners team has been there to help with every question or request I have had. They are a wealth of knowledge in the world of PR, but also regarding DigiKey as a whole. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from our account reps., Shelli, Megan, Angela and Johanna! And no, they didn’t pay me to say that.
What has been the highlight of working at DigiKey this past year?
It’s difficult to choose just one highlight, so I’ll mention my top three. DigiKey broke ground on their Product Distribution Center expansion (PDCe) in 2017 and when it was ready to officially open in 2022, I was honored to serve on the event planning team for the ribbon cutting ceremony. It included a luncheon and program from dignitaries such as MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and our executive team. DigiKey provided tours of the PDCe and ended the day with a press conference. We are thrilled at the excitement the community and industry showed around this huge milestone.
The second highlight was traveling to Munich, Germany in November 2022 for electronica, the world’s largest electronics expo. Our team coordinated over 20 press interviews at the event, so I was able to meet the EMEA editors that we have such a close working relationship with. I also had the opportunity to gain so much knowledge about our company and the electronics industry by sitting in on the interviews that week. It was an experience I’m very grateful for and won’t soon forget.
The final highlight was in January 2023 when I was able to meet someone I look up to immensely – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. We invited Senator Klobuchar to the PDCe ribbon cutting ceremony last year, but she was unable to attend, so while she was in the area visiting other major projects she stopped by and toured the PDCe. Our team worked hard (and swiftly) to create talking points for our executive team who met with her after the tour, and we also provided briefing documents for her team.
What’s brewing at DigiKey this spring—what’s next?
Things move quickly at DigiKey, and with over 5,000 employees, there’s always something brewing. Our team is currently assisting with our brand refresh, coordinating press interviews for a few upcoming trade shows, writing press releases, submitting award nominations and everything “PR-related” in between. One of the things I love most about this position and this company is that there is never a dull moment.
To wrap it up, what’s brewing in your glass these days?
Summer is finally here in northwest Minnesota, so citrus beers are frequenting my glass lately. My current favorite is Cider Boys Grand Mimosa, but Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is always a classic this time of year.