Internal PR efforts at Ford keep employees informed

DETROIT: Ford is planning a series of town-hall-style meetings for senior executives to discuss the ongoing Ford/Firestone tire recall with employees.

DETROIT: Ford is planning a series of town-hall-style meetings for senior executives to discuss the ongoing Ford/Firestone tire recall with employees.

DETROIT: Ford is planning a series of town-hall-style meetings for senior executives to discuss the ongoing Ford/Firestone tire recall with employees.

The meetings are the latest in a major internal communications effort under way at Ford since the recall began August 9.

Other internal efforts have included live broadcasts of events to employees over the company's television network, such as Ford CEO Jacques Nasser's testimony before Congressional committees. Nasser and chairman William Clay Ford Jr. have addressed employee questions in televised employee meetings as well.

Ford communication staffers have also prepared recall-related presentations for managers throughout the company to give workers in their operating groups. A special edition of the Ford employee newspaper is being devoted to the recall, and information is also being posted to an employee Intranet site.

'I think the internal effort has matched the external effort in intensity,' said Jim Vella, executive director, corporate communications. Twenty-five people have worked on the internal effort, including four full-time Ford communications staffers and a variety of freelance help, technicians and designers, Vella said.

Employee communications often gets overlooked in a crisis, yet workers are a critical audience because they represent the company in their everyday dealings with their communities, crisis experts said. 'They need to feel they are the first to receive critical information' in a crisis, said Oliver Schmidt, senior partner with C4CS, a Charlotte, NC-based crisis firm. Vella agreed that employees need to have information so they can talk to people who ask them what Ford is doing during the crisis.

Ford has 180,000 employees in North America and has long used its TV network to deliver daily company and auto industry news. In addition to using the network to broadcast Congressional testimony by Nasser and other company officials live, Ford also has reshowed taped version of the testimony the days following the Congressional hearings. Major company press conferences on the recall also have been shown live to employees.

Ford's internal communications efforts seem to be paying off, Vella said.

An online survey recently found employees giving Ford a favorable rating on how the recall has been handled by a three-to-one-vote margin.





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