Toyota taps Shift, Jackson Spalding in regional strategy

TORRANCE, CA: Toyota has selected Shift Communications and Jackson Spalding as its Northeast and Southeast PR agency partners, respectively, following competitive reviews.

TORRANCE, CA: Toyota has selected Shift Communications and Jackson Spalding as its Northeast and Southeast PR agency partners, respectively, following competitive reviews.

The automaker, which did not previously have PR firms in these regions, brought on the two agencies as part of its strategy to strengthen its regional field communications, said Steven Curtis, corporate manager of corporate communications at Toyota Motor North America.

Both agencies began working with Toyota at the beginning of the year. The company declined to disclose the terms of the contract or the budget. 

Shift will handle communications for the Northeast region, which consists of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. The firm will manage the account from San Francisco, with help from its Boston and New York offices.

In addition to its regional work, Shift will help with national PR outreach, said Todd Defren, agency CEO.

“It's all about innovation,” he added. “There's nuts and bolts PR and then there are ways that we can innovate, and we're looking forward to seeing ways that we can help move the needle on both fronts.”

With a team of 12 staffers on the account across the three offices, Shift will target a wide range of audiences by engaging an array of media, including automotive, lifestyle, and national outlets.

“Broadening the consumer coverage both nationally and regionally is going to be a big part of our focus,” explained Defren.

Shift will also collaborate with Toyota's social media team, he added.

Jackson Spalding, which will also support some national PR efforts, is handling field communications for North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.

The Midwest region of the US is supported by Toyota's Detroit-based PR team, and Southern California is handled by the company's Torrance office, said Curtis. 

He added that appointing Shift and Jackson Spalding is about regional resources as much as it is about Toyota evolving to ensure it is engaging and sustaining conversations.

“We want to make sure that our efforts reflect where the market is going, where our customers are, and that means we need to reach them across a number of different platforms,” Curtis explained. “So, of course it's going to be traditional and earned, but we need to make an aggressive push into social, targeting affinity bloggers, influencers, and fans of the brands.” 

Increasing its multicultural outreach, such as Hispanic and African-American media engagement, will also be a key part of the overall communications strategy for Toyota, he said.  

Patrick Hill, partner at Jackson Spalding, said that his firm will have a team of six to eight staffers on the account, as well as social media, presentation training, video, creative, and branding experts.

“Jackson Spalding has grown into a dynamic agency with excellent creative, video, social media, and training. While we'll be using all these services for Toyota, we know the multicultural audience is important in the Southeast and important to Toyota. So we brought Alexis Davis Smith and PRecise Communications onto our team,” he said.

Jackson Spalding has a long-standing partnership with PRecise. 

Last October, Toyota brought on Allison+Partners as its PR agency for the Northwest region, which includes Northern California, Washington State, Oregon, Montana, and Alaska. It does not work with agencies in other US regions such as the Southwest and Midwest.

On the Toyota Motor Sales side, GolinHarris works on corporate efforts, motor sports, and product communications. 

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