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In 2006 that great American* success story Ford Motor Company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. 

The situation was so bleak that Ford mortgaged all of its assets – including the famed blue oval mark — to raise $23.4 billion cash to finance product development during restructuring through 2009.

The company’s relatively new CEO, Alan Mulally, and top communications executives recognized that the company needed to think creatively about how to improve its communications infrastructure to reach audiences outside of their direct sphere — the automotive world — and into communities across the country.  

That year, the company undertook a pilot grassroots marketing and public relations program in Texas and California to test whether they could more effectively deliver corporate and local messaging to drive purchase consideration and offset changing perceptions about the Ford brand as an auto manufacturer, and as a neighbor.   

Their focus was twofold. First, national messages from Detroit needed to be packaged for local consumption. Second, local dealer and community stories falling below the national communications radar needed to be told.  

Working in tandem with a leading Washington, DC-based communications firm, we took on the Texas effort.  

This program was atypical for us; up to that point our programs usually had a legislative objective of some kind.  But this program was more of what I like to call grassroots marketing and public relations — we worked to expand Ford’s reach into Texas communities, monitor developments within the automotive industry, build a coalition of “Key Influential” opinion leaders in the state, engage the Ford family of dealers, and mine opportunities to generate positive exposure in the media and among the public.  

Part of our charge was an integration of commnications; i.e. regular collaboration with Ford employees across departments, ranging from Communications, to Sales and Marketing, to Government and Community Affairs. 

Ultimately, we did get involved with the Congressional federal bridge loan debate in 2009 and rallied Ford stakeholders to influence Texas members of Congress in support of that legislation, which is credited with allowing GM to turn around (note: ironically, Ford didn’t take any federal stimulus money and probably gained more positive public relations from that decision than most others combined).  

The work building a coalition of supporters up to that point was critical to our success. 

What began as a small grassroots programs in 2006 ultimately grew into a national campaign in full partnership with Ford.  By 2009, a return to profitability was in sight.  Today, its products are considered innovative (see, the Ford Focus electric vehicle) and on par in quality with all other automakers. 

And, more and more organizations are recognizing the value of creative thinking when it comes to corporate communications. 

The grassroots infrastructure promoted seamless collaboration between the company and its many departments, outside agencies, dealers and other stakeholders nationwide, put the company on a path to profitability, and invigorated the great Ford blue oval. 

* Ford is in fact the largest family-controlled company in the world 

Craig Casselberry
C 512.762.7366 

cc@quorumpublicaffairs.com

 


Guest Editorial

Premium content from Austin Business Journal by Craig Casselberry

Date: Friday, June 8, 2012, 5:00am CDT

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/print-edition/2012/06/08/perrys-back-on-the-job.html

Gov. Rick Perry left the presidential campaign trail to lead the 13th largest economy in the world and the good news about Texas’ job-creating prowess keeps pouring in.

Texans can rest assured Perry won’t back down in the competition with other states and countries to attract the very best companies in the world and their jobs to the Lone Star State.

The governor is a tenacious competitor and will leave a legacy of significant accomplishment in economic development, and it’s clear he’s not done yet.

A couple of weeks ago, 24/7 Wall Street Wire reported that Texas led the country in job creation in 2011 and accounted for a full 33 percent of those new jobs.

It’s no accident that Forbes, CNBC, CEO Magazine and other notable publications have called Texas the best place in America for business and jobs during the last five years.

In the Milken Institute’s 2011 “Best Performing Cities” index, Texas had four of the top five in the country and nine of the top 25. Texas gained almost 28,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell again to 7.1 percent — compared to 8.3 nationally. As a state, we’ve shown positive job growth for the last 22 months.

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, announced it was expanding its presence in Austin with a $304 million dollar investment and adding 3,600 jobs over the next 10 years.

These successes don’t happen by accident. Beyond pushing pro-business policy, Perry is underestimated for his vision.

During his tenure, he’s insisted on small business tax cuts and protecting the Texas Rainy Day Fund, and he created innovative programs like the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to spur innovation and create sustainable companies that will create jobs over the long term — a model program other states have emulated.

The Texas Enterprise Fund, which makes Apple-like deals possible, has brought more than 56,000 new jobs to the state and generated $14.7 billion in capital investment since its inception.

The governor pushed for the creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute to position Texas as a world-class leader in finding a cure for cancer through collaboration among public and private institutions of higher education, academic health institutions and universities. CPRIT is also funding Texas companies that offer promising, cutting-edge treatments and pathways to a cancer cure.

While the federal government over-regulates and over-spends, Perry promotes public-private partnership and a business climate that favors low taxes, reasonable regulation, skills development within our workforce and access to capital. And he tells entrepreneurs and companies big and small to bring their jobs to Texas and we’ll leave you alone to innovate and grow.

The governor is not afraid to lead based on job creation principles from which he doesn’t waver, and has a track record to prove it. And he never backs down from a fight.

For the last decade Perry has been the right leader in the right place, and the state of our economy tells the tale. For Texas business, it’s good to have him home.

Craig Casselberry is a corporate public affairs specialist and president of the Texas Coalition for Capital, a nonprofit that supports economic development and long-term access to capital for small businesses.