CEO Q&A: Alan Mulally, CEO, Ford

Alan Mulally of Ford speaks with Kimberly Maul about the ways social media affects the auto company and the importance of communications.

Click here for this month's CEO Q&A podcast

How important is corporate communications for your position?

AM: PR and communications are absolutely critical elements of our team and our plan. In our case, the results are very rewarding because so many people throughout the US now really understand where Ford is and where it's going. To do that with [VP of communications] Ray Day and the communications team has been critical to our success.

What is communications' role during a turnaround for a company?

AM: In any situation, especially a turnaround, the most important thing is to have a plan to deal with the current reality, but also simultaneously have a plan to grow the business. The more all stakeholders truly understand the plan, the more they can participate in it.

You can imagine the critical importance of the communications team because they are the facilitators and leaders of pulling all the elements of the plan together to continue to figure out how best to communicate that.

How has social media changed the CEO's role?

AM: I would go further than the CEO: it's changed all our lives because it's moved the whole communications and PR process to a conversation. It's a daily conversation; it's a thoughtful conversation; it's an individual conversation - in addition to being a broad conversation.

People want to know exactly what your brand stands for. Having this conversation with all stakeholders, beginning with the consumers, is a very powerful part of the Ford plan.

What is your biggest business challenge or issue now? How does the communications team help with that?

AM: The issues we are all dealing with start with the economy's fundamental health, both in the US and worldwide. Next to our homes, automobiles are the second-biggest purchase we make. That comes back to the importance of communications, the importance of everybody understanding they have these fantastic choices with Ford, and that Ford is committed to them.

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