Friday, January 16, 2009

Supplier PR at Auto Shows?

In the chaos and buzz that is social marketing in 2009, often lost is the idea that PR—especially in “old school” industries like automotive—is still fundamentally about helping clients tell their story to their most important audiences. For B2B in automotive, the wires (Dow Jones, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, et al.) are still a big deal. Our Honeywell client was jazzed that we were able to pull this together:

Honeywell sees more demand for turbochargers Reuters

Of course, Honeywell had no real news hook. But they had a real story thanks to Ford's turbo news. I’m not normally a fan of trying to move supplier stories at auto shows: media are there for cars, not car parts. But high-value, highly-differentiated technologies like turbochargers or advanced lithium-based batteries can earn coverage if positioned as pieces of larger stories and trends.

By the way, where were the battery guys making news? Could have been like batting practice on Wii sports.

Friday, January 9, 2009

We can do it for movies . . . why not batteries? Or business in general?

Here in the D, there's been a serious uptick in movie making over the last year or so. Why? The State has been serious and aggressive about soliciting movie makers to come here, and moreover, adding serious tax incentives to make Detroit and Michigan a more attractive place to shoot films. The new Clint Eastwood movie that looks awesome (anyone who pulls an M1 Garand instead of a shotty out for home protection is not to be fussed with in my book, great gun) and was shot in and around Detroit because of it.

Is anyone else thinking that, "Hell, if we can get movies made here through tax incentives, how about doing the same--if not more--for advanced battery research and production." Or if full employment, and higher paying employment, is a goal of state gov't, how about incentivizing the whole state somehow? I'm told Michigan's business climate is one of the worst in the county. Let's change that.

I'd vote for L. Brooks Patterson. Would you?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

B2B and Social Media: Yes We Can and Yes You Should

Quick: should social media be of interest to the old school world of automotive B2B public relations?

For about a year, I’ve struggled with this question, but now I think the answer is yes. My earlier doubts were only one-layer deep: were the powertrain purchasing folks at OEMs, for instance, really hanging out on Facebook? No, I concluded. But I may have been wrong in two ways I’d not thought of before.

1. The powertrain purchasing exec, in this case, may very well not be on Facebook, but maybe his direct reports are. Maybe the engineers who are technology consumers are. Maybe his boss is because his kids urged her to get on Facebook to stay in touch, which leads to . . .

2. Maybe in the last year, or just the last three months, he did finally get on Facebook in order to keep up with family, his kids, or just because he has other friends that he actually can keep track of (I think of my retired dad who went to Rose Hulman . . . he asked how I could find these people, and my brother and I over Christmas said, “Find them through Facebook’s Rose Hulman alumni groups.”)

But others who’ve thought more about this have five interesting reasons why this works for B2B. Read them here. This is by far the final word on this topic, and I suspect I’ll spend a good deal of 2009 refining how we use social media to help companies talk to other companies—and consumers—through these channels. Should be interesting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

December 2008: GM Beats Toyota

And now for some more (marginally) good news: yes, the Big Three got hammered in December for reasons everyone knows, but the big Japanese players fared even worse. GM was down 31%, Ford was down 32%, but Toyota was down 37%.

In these parts, we’ll take any sign that could be contrued as positive and breathe deeply. Not sure on the exact timing, but Toyota and GM might have both had zero percent financing deals running concurrently. Normally, if GM does much better than others—in this case, Toyota, but not Ford—it’s because GM had a massive incentive/giveaway that others did not, so this is interesting as Toyota had to pony up to the zero percent financing bar still fewer were ordering their vehicles relative to Toyota.

What’s interesting to watch closely are the subtle, if anecdotal, signs that the pervailing coastal sentiment of “domestics = bad; foreign makes = good” may be beginning to change. Read the comments sections of Dave Kiley's post on the Ford Fusion smoking the Camry Hybrid. The contrarians are starting to root for Detroit, and this is a trend that I suspect may continue as Ford and GM especially continue to make extremely competitive product.

In Case You Missed It, Some Good News for GM

For those of you that missed the action over the holiday, GMAC--GM's formerly wholly owned lending arm--received a financial infusion from the Fed that led them to offer zero percent loans on new car sales. You can rea more at David Welch's write up from New Year's Eve:

As everyone expects industry sales figures today from December to show more more serious sales declines, the effect of this should be allow more consumers to loan money for cars. The lack of credit in recent months has been a very serious problems for dealers and automakers; this should help remove at least one roadblock on the auto recovery highway.