4-3-09 Denise M. McClearey, CEO, PRPSD Michael Plaxico, Associate Consultant Public Relations Consulting Recommendations I represent Ford Motor Company, which is one of the major names mentioned when it comes to the economic bailout of the auto industry. The members of my public relations group are Michael Benson, Jacob Feasby, Lesa Hafford, Fiona Hamilton, Sarah Hubbs, Kelsey Marlow, Tim Mass, Chris Mata, and Matt VanDril. When it came to public relations Lisa, Fiona, and Tim used their specialization in the subject to give informative input. Jacob, Sarah, Kelsey, and I gave our perspective from our specialization in advertising. Michael specialized in journalism, while Chris gave his view from television production, and Matt specialized in education. I will be looking at the current state of the auto industry and how they got to this point from a public relations viewpoint, but my recommendations and what I think needs to be done in the future will be looked at through my specialization of advertising. Statement of the Problem Our country is now facing a time of harsh economic recession due to many factors outside the auto industry. The auto industry along with my client Ford Motors are now in a downturn because of major decrease in sales. The leaders of these auto companies have requested an economic bailout for their respective companies. The amount of the money requested differs based on the fiscal state of the motor company. Even though Ford is making larger strides than their peers at being more economically responsible, they still are grouped with the auto makers that need a bailout. My client has requested the least amount of money from the
government and is even cutting back on the amount they are paying executives. Spending is a major issue when it comes to the bailout because the management of funds within these companies sometimes comes into question. The overpaying for high price executives and continuing to produce overwhelmingly large vehicles that do not sell gets them an unflattering reputation, when it comes to budgeting. The problem my client faces along with most of the other companies involved in the auto makers bailout is the lack of public trust. A reason for this is the saturation of information given to the public and only informing them of what they think they need to know. An example would be General Motors hiring a public relations advisor to go on shows on major television stations and tell the public how much the American economy needed to bailout the auto industry. “Letting the big three fail would be like ten Katrina’s.”(Detrick) This would contribute to public distrust because the advisor or public figure never mentioned his affiliation with the General Motors. These types of actions leave the people with feeling of discomfort proving how they could be misled. The lack of trust given to the automakers probably goes along with the lack of trust the public has for its government. Many people hold contempt about the two factions because of the amount of irresponsible spending done on both sides. Living in a period of economic hardship such as today the public is angered and almost hurt when they witness the leaders of the auto industry living lavish lifestyles and still needing assistance from the government. A government in which they help sustain and support. The citizens of this country grow tired of the allegiance between the wealthy and government. “The root cause of the problem is the alliance between big corporations and government” (Zeese)
Another factor that gives the public a bad image of the automakers is their relationship with the labor force. Many of the leading auto makers including Ford have started a trend of downsizing and even cutting pension plans. On top of that, the idea that many of these hard working peoples jobs are being taken over by a machine does not sit well with the American public. The unions and the leaders of the auto industry often disagree trying to come to an agreement on the status of the labor force during the economic recession. Public Relations Theory and Practice That Clarifies the Problem The main goal of public relations is to “maintain a mutual understanding between an organization and its public” (PR p.6), which immediately reveals the problem that our client faces. Done through lack of communication and withholding of much information Ford Motors does not have an understanding with the public. My company has lost the faith of the consumer and in turn has lost much if not all of any positive public opinion. Due to many of the high profile events my client has been involved in they have been highly publicized in the media along with the rest of the auto industry. Since it has been mainly focused on bailouts, layoffs, or other negative subjects the power of the media has made public opinion low. “Mass media effects also are increased when people cannot verify information through personal experience or knowledge.” (PR p.221) This tells us that Ford Motor Company would do better in coming forward and informing the public rather than only being viewed through the media for overspending and undercutting. Given that the public opinion of the leaders of the auto industry has gotten so bad it has probably has affected their “source credibility”. This is something we must clear up and make sure the public opinion is changed about the leaders of Ford Motors. The leaders at Ford have gone so far as to cut their own
salaries and the public never heard of this. Since this information has not been pushed harder to the public they are unaware of any efforts being made. Public opinion is very important when it comes to public relations which in turn should be the main focus going forward.
Recommendations The objective we have put into place for the Ford Motors is to successfully gain back the public support. For my client Ford Motor Company I recommend a public relations advertising campaign where the goal is to inform or remind the public that the company is here to stay and would always have the better interest of the consumer in mind. The company must go into recovery phase and make a major change in their reputation management. The automaker must display their social responsiveness first even though they have hurt all the aspects of their reputation. This should be done by running commercials in different setting of the auto industry. One should be in the manufacturing plants showing actual people working which would remind the people that Ford is still a major employer, which would give it the human effect. The emotion of the viewer should be reached to give Ford a chance at image repositioning. Another ad would illustrate a new family buying a new Ford vehicle and representing the “American Dream”. These commercial will go far in informing the public that Ford is still a strong force in this country. The advertising would explain to the public that they are still a major part of the workforce and have not turned to computerized labor. The commercials would give the audience the sense that Ford is going to be her tomorrow and is still a part of the “American life”.
When it comes to the financial aspect of the situation Ford must pledge to become more economically responsible. Even though, they are working harder than most they too still have to attempt to change. It would also be mandatory to inform the public of the strides Ford is making financially. The public should know about them cutting down on spending and being ahead of much of the competition. Public awareness should be raised in a more positive aspect to help move the plan along forward. When this plan is put into effect the public opinion of Ford Motor Company should drastically change. Now with strategic planning and the proper management of funds Ford Motor Company can make it through these hard economic times and continue to be one of the leading auto makers in the world.
Works Cited Bunckley, Nick. "Ford Executives Cut Own Pay 30% for 2 Years." The New York Times. 3 Mar. 09 <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/business/25auto.html?EXTKEY=I72RSC0>. Detrick, Paul. "GM PR Adviser Appears as 'Auto Analyst' to Argue for Bailout." Business and Media Institute. 29 Feb. 2009 <http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2008/20081218125815.aspx>. Detroit Associated Press. "UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger backs Ford contract concessions." Mlive.com. 20 Feb. 2009 <http://www.mlive.com/auto/index.ssf/2009/02/uaw_chief_ron_gettelfinger_bac.html >. Flammang, James M. "State of the Auto Industry Today." Automedia.com. 25 Mar. 2009 <http://www.automedia.com/State_of_the_Auto_Industry_Today/dsm20070301si/1>. Zeese, Kevin. "The Causes of the Auto Crisis." The Counterpunch. 02 Mar. 09 <http://www.counterpunch.org/zeese11242008.html>.