Strat@comm to help Ford boost its safety credentials

DETROIT: Ford has ramped up its safety credentials, hiring

Strat@comm to handle a year-long, dollars 30 million PR campaign to

increase usage and awareness of child auto booster seats.



Of that figure, dollars 20 million will be used to buy booster seats,

which Ford will give away through dealerships and to needy families,

said Jason Vines, Ford's VP of communications. The remainder will go

towards setting up seat-fitting stations for children and their parents,

creating educational materials and executing events in every state to

publicize the campaign.



Vines said he hired Strat@comm because 'it's just very good at what it

does, especially with building coalitions.'



Strat@comm has brought together Toys R Us, which will accept Ford-issued

vouchers for booster seats, and The United Way, which will help

distribute the seats to needy families.



Vines secured Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, to serve as

spokespeople in an educational video about booster seats that Ford is

sending to every elementary school in the country. The Smiths are not

taking a fee, but instead asked Ford to donate money to a designated

charity.



Washington, DC-based Strat@comm has committed 25 people to the Ford

effort and plans to have six field teams setting up events for the next

12 to 14 months, said Ron DeFore, a Strat@comm principal.



The campaign, titled Boost America!, began April 30 with a DC press

conference. Advance PR included giving the AP an exclusive on the story,

sending prerecorded sound bites to 100 radio stations for airing the

morning of the kickoff press event, and sending press kits in the form

of school lunch boxes to 150 journalists.



Strat@comm's work on the campaign 'goes well beyond the basics of PR and

media relations,' said DeFore. There is also a Web site and a

hotline.



While the new campaign is designed to show Ford's concern for this

safety issue, it's also giving reporters a new chance to ask about last

year's Ford/Firestone tire recall.



Ford CEO Jac Nasser is telling reporters the booster seat campaign was

first announced at last year's New York auto show, before the Firestone

recall, DeFore said. 'The guy doesn't need much message training,'

DeFore said of Nasser handling tough questions from reporters.



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