Ford gears up PR for 100th anniversary push

DEARBORN, MI: Ford will work with two PR firms as it launches a 100-city tour and plans a June weekend of events at its headquarters to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary.

DEARBORN, MI: Ford will work with two PR firms as it launches a 100-city tour and plans a June weekend of events at its headquarters to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary.

The automaker will likely spend between $1.5 million and $5.4 million on anniversary PR and events, according to one auto trade magazine. However, the company wouldn't comment on its spending plans.

Burson-Marsteller and Detroit-area agency Campbell & Co., each of which has done extensive work for Ford in the past, are working on anniversary PR, said Tom Hoyt, Ford's centennial communications manager. Other agencies will also be used as needed during a year-long series of events and media-oriented activities, he said.

"We're taking the Ford story out to the public and the media," said Hoyt. "We think there'll be a lot of interest."

Ford has already begun a 100-city tour in conjunction with Ford dealers, scheduling events across the country in April and May at such places as Knott's Berry Farm in California and St. Cloud, MN, at the first Ford dealership ever opened, said Della DiPietro, manager of US regional public affairs operations at Ford.

Regional Ford public affairs offices are helping by reaching out to local media along the tour to garner press attention.

"The idea was to build momentum and excitement to lead up to the centennial event here," DiPietro explained.

That event will take place June 12-16 at Ford's Dearborn headquarters, with all eight Ford-owned brands showing off models. Concerts are scheduled for the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday leading up to Ford's annual meeting on June 16.

Featured performers Friday will be the rock band Earth, Wind & Fire and the Detroit Symphony. Beyonce Knowles will headline Saturday's show. Country singer Toby Keith, who appears in Ford truck advertising, will perform Sunday.

Other special events Ford will back as part of the anniversary celebration include a Model T race from California to Detroit scheduled for late May, and the flight of a recreated Wright Brothers plane in North Carolina on December 17.

Ford has had its share of bad press in recent years, first from the Ford-Firestone tire debacle, and then from the sacking of its former CEO Jac Nasser.

Anniversary events will reinforce the company's heritage and its strength, and try to distinguish it from rivals at a time when the US car market is being driven primarily by discounts and rebates to consumers.

"We want to get the message out there that Ford is a company with a great past, but more importantly, a company with a great future," Hoyt said. "We're planning to be around a hundred years more."

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