PR Survey Puts Volvo On Top

Public relations, sometimes called “public affairs” or included in the broader field of “communications,” is really media relations. Its ultimate target is the public, which is most effectively reached through reporters.


Auto PR pros don’t design, engineer, develop or build vehicles, but they can influence media reports by the ways in which new products are presented and demonstrated and how well they take care of their media customers.


According to the second annual auto PR effectiveness survey sponsored by the Motor Press Guild (MPG), America’s largest professional automotive media association, the media relations business boils down to seven key elements:


· responsiveness (of PR pros to media requests)

· product knowledge (of PR pros and their company sources)

· accessibility (of company executives, engineers, designers, marketers)

· press materials (completeness and quality of product information, specs, photos)

· media Web sites (company, people, product info and photos available online)

· product launch events (where media learn about and drive new products and interview key executives, managers, designers and engineers)

· availability of test vehicles (to reviewers nationwide on a timely basis)


To grade and compare the PR effectiveness of the 20 major companies marketing cars and trucks in North America, MPG surveyed significant numbers of staffers of magazines, newspapers, websites and electronic media as well as freelancers who contribute to a variety of outlets. The 2006 survey went out to approximately 1,800 professional auto writers and reporters nationwide, nearly three times as many as the previous year’s initial effort.


“We endeavor to capture the opinions and experiences of as broad a spectrum of journalists as possible,” said John Rettie, chairperson of the Motor Press Guild survey committee.


For the second straight year, Volvo and Chrysler scored highest in the journalists’ overall rankings. Volvo’s score was 4.2 percent above last year’s, while DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group improved by 1.7 percent. Toyota ranked third with a rating 4.9 percent better than in 2005, while Nissan and Kia were fourth and fifth among the 20. Below that was a closely bunched group of 12 manufacturers, all scoring essentially average grades, followed by the lowest-performing three. Rettie refused to disclose any rankings below fifth, but that bottom trio (and their journalist customers) know who they are.


The good news is that a dozen automakers received higher marks than they did last year, with Mitsubishi (up 12.3 percent), Mazda (up 8.8 percent), and General Motors (up 8.5 percent) showing the most year-over-year improvement.


“Since the majority of manufacturers improved their scores, this initiative is having the desired result, and we believe the survey will continue to provide guidance to the automakers in refining their communications programs,” Rettie said. “The ultimate goal is to help auto manufacturers provide the best service possible to journalists, so that, in turn, journalists can give the public the information it needs.”


The survey report, which is available to all automobile manufacturers, “should be required reading for every media specialist and senior executive in the automotive industry,” said Dr. Clarke Caywood, Director of the Graduate Program in Public Relations at the Medill Graduate School at Northwestern University.


For more information or to purchase a report, contact John Rettie,, or Chuck Koch,

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