The compassionate side of Navistar makes a strong impression with 'People'

Instead of laying off workers due to a slowdown, Navistar instituted a three-month volunteer program that enabled the company to keep its employees and catch the attention of the mass media.

Name: Ron DeFore, founding principal, Stratacomm
Placement: People, March 22, 2010
Pitch timeline: One month

Who is your client and what are its media goals?

Navistar is an international manufacturer of military and commercial trucks, RVs, buses, and diesel engines. We had worked with the company's defense division on several projects. Navistar turned to us when it saw a potential national media opportunity at its Huntsville, AL, diesel plant.

Instead of laying off workers due to a slowdown that could soon end, Navistar instituted a three-month program to keep the employees on payroll and have them do volunteer work at local community nonprofits.

Why was People a good target? How did you pitch its editors?

We knew we had a very heartwarming story that had already generated local attention, so we began to focus on national general-interest magazines such as People, as well as the broadcast networks.

After we began media outreach, team member Meghan Curtiss heard from a freelancer at People who thought it would be a great fit. At that point, I stepped in to negotiate with a senior editor at the magazine who wanted the story, but only as an exclusive.

Did that exclusive request present a challenge? How did you handle the logistics of setting up the story?

That exclusive offer was an opportunity we felt we could maximize. A few networks had shown interest, but we advised our client of the great value of a People story and that the magazine had agreed to coordinate with other media. Navistar concurred and its corporate communications took over from there, managing media interviews.

What was the hit's impact?

Allowing People to control the timing of this turned out better than we even hoped. Right after the story hit newsstands, ABC News did a segment. A week later, CNN covered it as well. Navistar was very pleased.

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