My previous post "Fords Lost PR Focus" generated some attention from Ford. A Ford representative emailed me shortly after my post appeared asking to speak to me on the phone to clarify some things I alluded to about the Ford Focus event in downtown Grand Rapids.
I had thought the Ford PR team was on top of social media monitoring to respond to little ol' me so quickly. But it turned out that a friend of mine who works in PR in Detroit, and used to work for Ford, forwarded my blog post to a VP there and it eventually got to Dan Pierce, the Global Environmental Communication Manager, who contacted me.
Chris Knape, meanwhile, told me no one from Ford had followed up as promised to answer his questions.
As Pierce explains it, the event was not intended to be a consumer event. The Ford Focus Electric is not out of production yet and they don't want to offer consumer test drives until it is and they can make the right first impression. Those invited to the event were representatives of utilities, governmental units, and other early adopters such as hybrid owners who are interested in the concept and prototype before the release. While they didn't stop Grand Valley students and others who happened by from looking, they did not have a drive-able car at this event. The consumer events will come later this year when the car is out of production.
As for Knape's questions going unanswered, apparently there was one official spokesman at the event and that person was surrounded by TV and other media in the scrum that followed the official remarks. Still not good for first impressions to ignore the local business editor in any market in my opinion, but I'll let you decide for yourself.
Meanwhile, the discussion I had with Pierce proved productive and a good example of PR fence mending. He's offered to come to GVSU next month with a prototype car and an engineer to talk about it. Then he will address a group of PR students about promoting an all electric vehicle, sustainability and environmental communication. My students from last winter's Fundamentals of PR courses are already getting out their plan books to show their own ideas on promoting the Ford Focus Electric to a college student market.
More to come.