Fleishman drops Firestone, loses dollars 2.5 million a month

NASHVILLE: The Bridgestone/Firestone account which Fleishman-Hillard resigned last week, was worth at least dollars 2.5million a month, according to PRWeek estimates.

NASHVILLE: The Bridgestone/Firestone account which Fleishman-Hillard resigned last week, was worth at least dollars 2.5million a month, according to PRWeek estimates.

NASHVILLE: The Bridgestone/Firestone account which Fleishman-Hillard resigned last week, was worth at least dollars 2.5million a month, according to PRWeek estimates.

Fleishman had been working on the account for only eight weeks, but as the massive 6.5 million Firestone-brand tire crisis quickly escalated, Fleishman had between 70 and 100 people on the account full-time. This would equate to at least dollars 125,000 a day, or dollars 2.5 million a month. Ironically, Fleishman had won the account from Burson-Marsteller, a Ford client.

Fleishman resigned on Sunday, September 3, saying, 'It became evident that we could no longer be of service'.

Industry speculation suggested the breakup resulted from a disagreement over communications strategy. It is understood the agency had counseled Firestone to take positive, dramatic steps to address the crisis, while Firestone appeared to ignore its advice.

'The agency bailing out at such a crucial time - that's an indication Firestone has some terrific communications problems and is not letting the communicators communicate like they should,' said Jerry Sloan, an auto PR vet who headed Ford PR from 1987 to 1990.

Ford's communications strategy, on the other hand, is lending support to the legal department's apparent intent to paint Firestone as the responsible party in the recall. Ford gave Congressional investigators an internal memo noting that Firestone opposed Ford's Middle East recall of Explorers with Firestone tires a year ago. News of the memo broke on Tuesday night on The Wall Street Journal online, the day before Washington hearings on the recall took place.

Ford's approach to crisis PR changed after its Pinto crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s with senior executives and even legal counsel realizing the need to be more proactive.

Jason Vines, who took over Ford PR in February, is an advocate of aggressive PR. Tactics have included extensive advertising featuring Ford CEO Jacques Nasser (see editorial, p12).

Firestone has fewer internal PR resources than Ford. 'Ford will outgun them,' said one auto PR pro. Neither company returned requests for comment.

Firestone's communications problems are compounded by its foreign ownership, which might not grasp the severity of the issue, said Larry Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management. For example, the recall is receiving little coverage in Japan, where Firestone is headquarted, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.





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