Case Study – Ford

The recovering and vibrant Ford Motor Company brand of today is a relatively new phenomenon. As recently as 2006, Ford was on the ropes in California, with market share below 9% and falling. The dealer network in California was in open revolt against the manufacturer, and some wondered if Ford would survive, with its demise as a brand in California predicting an eventual collapse nationwide.

As part of a global communications restructuring, Ford purposely sought out and hired public relations companies in regional markets whose background lied in political campaigns, believing that the more results-oriented focus and local knowledge that came from winning political campaigns would translate to winning major PR fights. FSB Core Strategies was retained by Ford Motor Company in 2006 during the economic downturn as part of an ongoing national grassroots communications campaign that is built around maintaining and growing brand reputation and purchase consideration for the company.

Covering the western market states of California, Nevada, and Hawaii, FSB was tasked with a multi-tiered scope of work which included a heavy emphasis on internal communications with Ford employees, dealers, and shareholders. A company is only as successful as the people behind it, and we understand the importance of touting each and every one of their accomplishments as the real success of the business.

Ford, which once retained over a dozen PR firms in California, has turned over the bulk of its PR activity in its most important market state now to FSB Core Strategies. In that time, market share for Ford stopped dropping and is on the rise again, now back over 10%

For the past eight years, FSB has worked hand in hand with Ford Motor Company’s regional marketing offices on a variety of product campaigns and trade shows such as the Los Angeles Auto Show. Our main goal with the marketing team is to leverage the paid activities they are doing and turn them into news stories, from touting the sales success of their local dealerships to identifying purchasing trends.

In addition to working hand-in-hand with Ford’s marketing department to carry out their deliverables, FSB also serves as the day-to-day public relations team for all of the 200+ dealers in the state. Whether it’s publicizing their charity work in the community, highlighting an Employee of the Year, or helping write their speech for a local Chamber event, FSB is front and center for all of their PR needs.

Through our dealer work, FSB has also been involved in several internal crisis situations. In 2010, Ford announced that it would close its Mercury brand, which meant several combo-dealerships would be at risk of consumer, media, and employee backlash. FSB played a major role in communicating the company message to dealers and assisting them with potential harsh criticism from these audiences due to this closure. Thanks to our work, we are able to manage the messaging and keep any negative press or an internal crisis situation from happening. FSB has also dealt with individual crisis communications for our dealers including a large fire at a local service center, for which we put together a statement and managed the media coverage.

FSB was also part of a national, 24/7 media monitoring and crisis communications team that helped manage public relations during Ford’s last round of labor negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

Media Relations

One of the main objectives of Ford’s communications strategy is to maintain a high positive media presence, which allows our messages to be heard by targeted consumers and key influencers. Our extensive work throughout the state has garnered our team the top media contacts in television, radio, print and online including the Los Angeles TimesWall Street JournalNew York TimesUSA Today, and producers of all the network affiliates in top markets.

In addition to building and maintaining relationships with key reporters throughout California, our team is responsible for developing story ideas that are consumer and trade focused. When Ford started using renewable materials in their vehicles, such as wheat straw and coconut coir as an alternative to harsh materials, we concocted a morning television cooking segment utilizing these ingredients. It was the first time an auto manufacturer had been seen in this light by this new audience and it allowed us to highlight our fuel efficiency and eco-friendly messaging in a unique way.

In addition to positioning Ford in front of new audiences, we spend a lot of our time focused on the automotive trade sector and have an amazing rapport with automotive media throughout the state. While we are responsible for coming up with new and exciting story ideas for automotive, we are also proactively reaching out to them on relevant product news on a daily basis.

Through these earned media efforts, FSB Core Strategies helped increase Ford’s share of voice and media favorability from 81 percent to 93 percent in 11 months.

Latino Communications

In 2011, Ford Motor Company again retained FSB Core Strategies by expanding our existing contract to include media relations, crisis communications and grassroots activations specific to the Latino and Spanish-language community in the Los Angeles media market with special concentration in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Part of a four-media market pilot program that also included Miami, Dallas and New York City, the pilot was fully-funded in 2012 and became part of Ford’s overall communications strategy while continuously adding markets of focus such as Houston in 2013.

Over the last four years, FSB has built priceless relationships with Spanish-language media outlets including Telemundo, Univision, Azteca America, Estrella TV, Exitos, La Opinion, Hoy, Unidos en el Sur de California, Miniondas, and several top Los Angeles based Latina bloggers at blogs such as TechFoodLife, Sassy Mama in LA, Blogs by Latinas, SpanglishBaby, MOMSLA and My Life as Lizza on behalf of Ford Motor Company. As a result of the relationships that we’ve built and the coverage that we’ve garnered, our team also serves as the in-market Spanish-language spokesperson for Ford Motor Company. Members of our team have been featured in television, radio and online news segments around many key company initiatives and cultural events such as new vehicle releases, auto shows, Dia de Los Muertos and Fiestas Patrias celebrations, just to name a few.

In addition to the media relations and spokesperson work we’ve conducted on behalf of Ford Espanol, our team is also responsible for building and maintaining key influencer relationships within the Latino and Spanish-Language community with organizations such as the National Latina Business Women’s Association, Las Fotos Project, the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Para Los Ninos, Latinas in STEM, Ella Institute, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and many others.

FSB’s Latino and Spanish-language practice area consists of team members intimately embedded within the community. A combination of native Spanish-language public relations practitioners and those who’ve assimilated to the language and culture through academic education and living abroad, our team brings unique expertise and a proven track record that demonstrates our ability to understand and synthesize the diverse needs and nuances of southern California’s Latino and Spanish-language community.

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