Fighter plane PR guns intensify media campaigns aimed at winningcontract

SEATTLE: Boeing and Lockheed Martin are locked in a major PR battle

to influence Pentagon officials as the next generation of US fighter

planes is up for review.



The contract is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, with the Pentagon

ordering at least 3,000 planes, the British government also planning to

buy the new fighters, and other foreign governments likely to

follow.



With so much at stake, and with lobbying of the Pentagon illegal, both

sides have stepped up their PR campaigns.



Lockheed is keeping its PR plans secret, but director of media relations

Jim Fetig admitted that Lockheed has been going after media exposure for

its entrant, the X-35 (pictured). "A lot of what you do is to make

yourself feel good, create a buzz in the community and get your story

out," he said.



Boeing is more open about its new strategy. It decided to deviate from

its old policy of limiting comments on military projects, said Randolph

Harrison, director of communications for Boeing's Joint Strike Fighter

project. "We've been very, very open with access to people in the

program. We found that the media really appreciates the ability to

talk," he said.



Harrison has put 15 Boeing program executives through a media training

program he developed. While he has only two full-time PR staff in

Seattle and some help from Boeing PR people in Washington and St. Louis,

Harrison also is able to tap into other Boeing communications resources

as needed.



"I have been able to get anything I ask for," he said.



As well as industry titles like Aviation Week, Boeing's media strategy

has aggressively targeted The Washington Post.



As well as paid media, one of the most daring PR stunts was to invite a

Post aviation writer to view a test flight of the X-32, a move that

could have backfired had something gone wrong.



Harrison said Boeing decided it was worth the risk.



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