Firestone rivals plug safety message on back of crisis

AKRON, OH: With the Ford/Firestone controversy back in the news,

other tire manufacturers are revving up PR efforts to talk about tire

safety and maintenance.

But tire PR people insist their latest push is aimed at addressing

increased consumer concern about tire safety, not simply to sell more


"It's not the tire industry making PR hay, it's that we're getting a lot

more interest in tire safety," said Nan Banks, director of PR for

Michelin North America. Banks has put out several recent press releases

talking about tire safety and has been working with media calling for

stories on such things as how to handle a car with a blown tire.

Goodyear launched a tire safety campaign as the Memorial Day Weekend

kicked off.

The tire maker began displaying tire safety messages on its blimps, said

Chuck Sinclair, Goodyear's director of PR for North America.

"Did you check your tires today?" began flashing on the blimps along

with "Call 1-800-Goodyear," a number that provides consumers with tire


Goodyear executives also wrote letters to employees and dealers

encouraging them to use the Memorial Day weekend for grassroots PR,

talking to their friends about tire safety. The company also placed ads

in major metropolitan newspapers stressing tire safety.

Sinclair reiterated that the new PR efforts are not intended as a

hard-sell message for Goodyear tires. "It's more just tire awareness,"

he explained.

Continental General recently began running advertisements talking about

tire safety and is supporting those ads with PR, said Katherina

Konowalski, corporate communications manager for North America. "We will

use that to emphasize to consumers that our tires are safe," she


The Rubber Manufacturers Association, a tire makers' trade group,

started a tire safety campaign last year after the initial problems with

Firestone tires and is continuing that campaign this year, focusing on

the Southwest first. It's also preparing a program for high school

driving instructors to cover tire safety issues, and hopes to have that

ready by the fall.

The association has already done a satellite media tour and a radio

media tour this year to talk about tire safety, said Dan Zielinski, its

VP of communications. Association officials will be making the media

rounds as the July 4th holiday approaches, he added.

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