DEARBORN, MI: Ford continues to come up empty in its search for a new head of PR - and insiders are beginning to wonder if the company will have to go outside the auto industry to fill the slot.
DEARBORN, MI: Ford continues to come up empty in its search for a
new head of PR - and insiders are beginning to wonder if the company
will have to go outside the auto industry to fill the slot.
Reports last week suggested that the increasingly drawn-out search
hasn’t produced any clear frontrunners for the job from within the
company. Though the auto giant has made noise about wanting to choose a
woman for the high-profile job - thus demonstrating its commitment to
management diversity - the three senior-most people in Ford’s PR
apparatus are all men, and none are seen as likely candidates for the
Jim Vella was promoted to one of three director positions in Ford’s PR
operation only last August, so he’s seen as somewhat of a neophyte.
Director Mel Stephens, who oversees IR and internal communications, is
viewed as more of a finance person than someone with broad PR
experience. Former auto writer Ken Zino, the third director, isn’t
considered enough of a team builder for the top spot. ’There’s no strong
internal candidate,’ said one Detroit PR pro.
A rash of changes in the General Motors and DaimlerChrysler PR
operations last year means that other top auto PR veterans are likely
And the head of Ford/Europe PR only recently assumed that role, so it is
doubtful that he would move again.
Going outside the tightly knit automotive PR community poses a
substantial risk for Ford. GM didn’t have much success when it brought
in a non-auto-industry person to head up PR several years ago, but that
may not figure into Ford’s thinking.
’GM’s experience wouldn’t deter (Ford CEO) Jac Nasser,’ said one
long-time auto PR pro. Nasser has consistently surprised Ford insiders
with his appointments, naming Vaughn Koshkarian - who had no PR
background - to lead the department as VP of public affairs last year.
By the end of 1999, however, Nasser had shifted Koshkarian to VP of
Nasser wanted to hire auto PR whiz Steve Harris last year, but GM beat
him to it, luring Harris away from the merged DaimlerChrysler. ’If they
could clone Harris, they would do very well,’ said former head of
Chrysler PR Jim Tolley.