ANALYSIS: Client Profile - Lockheed keeps flying high with PR frontand center

Competing for multi-billion dollar federal contracts - and not

seeming too greedy when it wins - is a delicate balancing act for

Lockheed Martin. Thom Weidlich talks to the tech behemoth's PR team.

In January, technology giant Lockheed Martin announced a new

mail-sorting system called BioMail-Solutions, which detects the presence

of anthrax and other biological hazards.

Lockheed's media approach to that story epitomizes the balancing act in

which it must engage when speaking to the outside world.

"We had to work carefully on how to position the announcement," says

James Fetig, director of corporate media relations.

"In a company like ours, there are upsides and downsides to every

opportunity that comes by because, in orders we receive, nine dollars

out of every 10 are the end product of the public policy process," he

explains. "There'll always be a negative push from some constituency. In

the case of homeland defense, a company like ours has to be very careful

not to be seen as greedy."

The BioMailSolutions system, which is designed to develop consumer

confidence in the mail, will, according to Fetig, position Lockheed as a

leader in homeland security. But, he adds, "we did not send out invites

to financial and business media to cover this development as a business

story, because they'd want to hype the revenue potential and benefits to

shareholders. The fact was, the benefits in those areas were relatively

minor for a $25 billion company."

Based in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin is probably better known as the

nation's largest military contractor, with its main competitors being

Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. In addition to

developing products like fighter planes, the company also manufactures

satellites, space equipment, air-traffic-control systems, weather and

radar systems, and mail-sorting equipment.

Fetig, with a three-member team in corporate media relations, sets

Lockheed's media relations strategy, and oversees its corporate

identity. But, as he puts it, the "nitty gritty" of the PR, especially

product work, is done at the business-area and company level. Lockheed

has about 40 operating companies under four business areas: systems

integration, aeronautics, space systems, and technology services.

Each business area has a VP of communications. Overall, there are about

120 people engaged in media relations, internal communications,

community relations, and marketing communications - especially marketing

that focuses on the media (such as trade shows).

Lockheed has no PR agency of record, but at times uses outsiders for

executing projects. Fleishman-Hillard handles much of its international


Speaking volumes to various audiences

The company's main audience is the government but, as Fetig points out,

that's a complex organization. Members of Congress are interested in

what the company does, as are Pentagon leaders, the scientific

community, its corporate customer base, activist groups that are

critical of its work, and, of course, Wall Street.

"We receive a great deal of media and public interest," Fetig notes. "We

have approximately 30 pages of clips per day, year-round, either

directly involving us or of direct interest to us."

He says the company views advertising and PR as complementary, and has

equal respect for both disciplines. They are both housed in the

communications department (Fetig reports to SVP of corporate

communications Dennis Boxx).

In October, Lockheed (with Northrop Grumman and BEA Systems) beat out

Boeing in a fierce and high-profile battle to win the 20-year, $200 billion contract to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Sam

Grizzle, director of program communications and media relations for the

aeronautics division, says one of the keys to the victory was the "fly

before you buy" program.

Basically, the test aircraft was virtually the same as the one Lockheed

would build, while the company's competition was still making design


For the PR campaign, Lockheed relied on outbound media contact,

briefings at air shows, and press trips. "It was a huge contract, so you

can imagine the PR war that was going on," says Robert Wall, senior

Pentagon editor at Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. "Every

time the competition said something, the other team would try to rebut

it. They were pitching every angle. Maintenance, design - there was

nothing too arcane."

Bold media strategy

Grizzle says Lockheed spent a lot of time planning its strategy for the

selection announcement. In a bold move, it invited media into its

auditorium in Fort Worth, TX (where the aeronautics division is based)

to watch the announcement, which was piped in live from the Pentagon.

That way, he says, "the media are there when it actually happens, and

can get their own video and observe the expressions on the people's


But what if they lost? There was a strategy for that scenario, though

Grizzle declines to go into detail. Company execs, however, were

prepared to talk that day about winning.

Pete Harrigan, VP of communications in Lockheed's systems integration

business area, says one of his jobs is to get communications to work

closer with business development and upper management. For example, the

company (with Northrop Grumman) is competing against Boeing and Science

Applications International on the US Coast Guard's Deepwater Program to

replace its aging ships, helicopters, airplanes, and other equipment. A

decision is expected by mid-year.

"We came up with a plan that includes media relations, formal

announcements, attending trade shows, customer contact, and

congressional outreach," says Harrigan. "We want to help build awareness

among key constituents as to why the coast guard needs the program, and

then to position Lockheed Martin as the best supplier. We do that by

working with our business development and technology people to identify

areas where we think we have advantages."

As for the coast guard's needs, Harrigan says, "We're trying to ensure

that Congress and other decision-makers understand the urgency of

updating the coast guard's fleet. Some of the messages are that most of

the coast guard's equipment is older than the people who operate


Lockheed is making strides to put more emphasis on PR. Last summer, it

launched a Communications Leadership Development Program in which four

entry-level people are rotated every six months into doing media,

internal communications, marketing, and community relations work.

Participants also attend special seminars. Four more employees will

enter the program this summer, and the company is looking to expand it


Fetig says big ongoing stories for the organization are earnings,

homeland defense, the defense budget, and the over-capacity in the

industry. "Beyond that, it's always product performance," he says. "For

example, with fighter planes there are always challenges on cost growth

and the number of units. Congress and the press pay close attention.

That's because we make things that are high-profile."


SVP corporate communications: Dennis Boxx

Director of corporate media relations: James Fetig

Director of media initiatives: Selection pending

Manager of issues management and communications: Meghan Mariman

Coordinator of public inquiries: Bernice Lawson

Agencies: Fleishman-Hillard.

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