DEARBORN, MI, and ISLANDIA, NY: Ford's new corporate communications head and the PR professional tapped to fill his old job as corporate communications head at Computer Associates face tough, though different, challenges.
Charlie Holleran, Ford's new VP and chief communications officer as of today, will need to craft PR messages that make Ford relevant to younger buyers while quickly learning his way around the car industry, auto PR people and writers agreed.
To reach younger consumers, he should be able to draw on his experiences at Coca-Cola, where he worked before his most recent job with Computer Associates.
"Ford needs to reach a younger demographic with its cars," said Brian Moody, road-test editor for Edmunds.com, an auto website. "I'd don't see anyone 25 looking for a Taurus."
Some veteran Detroit PR people were surprised that Ford hired a PR chief from outside the industry, noting that such a move failed for General Motors when the company did the same in the 1990s.
"There's certain industries you can't go outside of," said one PR pro, who asked not to be identified. "He's a caretaker; he's there until some internal candidates get some seasoning."
Oscar Suris, Ford's global news manager, wouldn't comment on whether Ford viewed Holleran, 59, as a caretaker. Suris said Holleran was chosen for his global experience and to bring a fresh perspective.
At Computer Associates, the new SVP of corporate communications also has his work cut out for him.
The management software company has been beset by a government investigation into accounting irregularities and executive departures, which Dan Kaferle wants the media to look beyond.
Kaferle, whom the company promoted to replace Holleran, acknowledged that might not be easy, as the probe is still top of mind for many reporters.
He wants to build momentum by focusing on products and customers. "Once that cloud starts to clear, we will be well positioned," he said.
The clouds might not lift slowly as the investigation continues to take its toll. Former CEO Sanjay Kumar, who stepped down in April to become chief software architect, announced earlier this month he was leaving the firm completely.
Kaferle, who will report to interim CEO Kenneth Cron, has not decided if he will hire an SVP of worldwide PR to fill his former position.