SEATTLE: Boeing and Lockheed Martin are locked in a major PR battle
to influence Pentagon officials as the next generation of US fighter
planes is up for review.
The contract is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, with the Pentagon
ordering at least 3,000 planes, the British government also planning to
buy the new fighters, and other foreign governments likely to
With so much at stake, and with lobbying of the Pentagon illegal, both
sides have stepped up their PR campaigns.
Lockheed is keeping its PR plans secret, but director of media relations
Jim Fetig admitted that Lockheed has been going after media exposure for
its entrant, the X-35 (pictured). "A lot of what you do is to make
yourself feel good, create a buzz in the community and get your story
out," he said.
Boeing is more open about its new strategy. It decided to deviate from
its old policy of limiting comments on military projects, said Randolph
Harrison, director of communications for Boeing's Joint Strike Fighter
project. "We've been very, very open with access to people in the
program. We found that the media really appreciates the ability to
talk," he said.
Harrison has put 15 Boeing program executives through a media training
program he developed. While he has only two full-time PR staff in
Seattle and some help from Boeing PR people in Washington and St. Louis,
Harrison also is able to tap into other Boeing communications resources
"I have been able to get anything I ask for," he said.
As well as industry titles like Aviation Week, Boeing's media strategy
has aggressively targeted The Washington Post.
As well as paid media, one of the most daring PR stunts was to invite a
Post aviation writer to view a test flight of the X-32, a move that
could have backfired had something gone wrong.
Harrison said Boeing decided it was worth the risk.