PRWeek Awards - Small Corporate Communications Team of the Year

Winner

CarMax Public Relations

Used cars – and the folks who sell them – don’t necessarily provoke a positive reaction in the average consumer....

Winner

CarMax Public Relations

Used cars – and the folks who sell them – don’t necessarily provoke a positive reaction in the average consumer. However, the folks in the PR department at CarMax were determined to bring customers to the used car superstore – on a budget of less than $200,000 per year.

Among their objectives was positioning the chain as an ethical and innovative company that would help separate it from any negative connotation with which traditional used car dealerships might be associated.

That, it is safe to say, was a rousing success. The company was named by Fortune as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” as well as “Most Admired Company in Automotive Retaining, Services” in 2006. Forbes named it one of its “Best Managed Companies” that same year. The company also received numerous regional awards, such as the 2006 Touch Award for Marketplace Ethics from the Metro Atlanta/Northeast Georgia Better Business Bureau.

The internal PR department also hoped to promote store openings and overall company growth over the course of the campaign. Currently growing its store base at nearly 20% per year, the department hoped to drive traffic into the new stores and support the growth with business stories on the company’s success. Articles appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, MarketWatch, and in Forbes, helping to support the department’s growth story.

Carmax received wide media coverage for its Road Rally for Charity events, and managed to open six new dealerships over the course of the year. Three percent of CarMax shoppers cited news coverage as the source that led them to the dealership, and news coverage is now equal to the company’s direct mail marketing efforts in driving traffic to stores. No small feat for a used car dealership.

The CarMax PR department also worked to promote the CarMax Foundation, which was established in 2003 to provide a venue for the company’s charitable contributions and service projects, and to help foster a positive image between consumers and CarMax.

“Clear, worthwhile objectives with great results,” one judge said. “Great PR job to get a company in this industry this kind of coverage,” noted another.

Honorable Mention

Ingres Corporation

Having been hailed as an influential computer research project in the 1970s, Ingres had recently slipped into relative obscurity, faltering in the database wars during the 1980s and 1990s. In November 2005, the company was relaunched publicly and the PR team faced an uphill climb to convince the industry that it was a legitimate threat to Oracle. The team worked to be perceived like a Fortune 500 company, but on the budget of a start-up. Ingres took advantage of the open source buzz and harnessed the press’ curiosity about why a group of Oracle alums was taking a gamble with the new company. Following major coverage in the Associated Press, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, and others, the team established visibility at large industry conferences and recognition among analysts.

Finalists 2007



  • CarMax Public Relations

  • Eaton Vance Corporation

  • Ingres Corporation

  • Nikon communications team

  • SAP Canada


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