CEO Q&A: Chip Perry, AutoTrader.com

Chip Perry, president and CEO of AutoTrader.com, speaks with Erica Morris about the role of PR in the competitive automotive market

What value does PR have for your industry?

Perry: PR and forms of communication directed at consumers through media have been extremely valuable contributors to our overall marketing mix as we've weathered the economic shock that our nation has faced this past year.

We like to pursue a balance between traditional, offline advertising and online adver-tising and PR to help grow our brand and drive traffic to our Web site.

Has PR helped with any challenges you've faced?

Perry: A company our size has the challenge of getting multiple messages out. With traditional ads we have the big-picture messages, but they don't give us the opportunity to talk about product launches and new features on our site with the specificity we'd like.

So our PR team works to draw attention to things like our new model showcase and new "research and compare" features. This has helped us increase traffic to those areas through those PR efforts beyond the normal traffic growth of our Web site.

What comms goals are you currently pursuing?

Perry: We set a goal earlier last year to use PR to enable AutoTrader.com's voice to be seen as a knowledgeable player in the automotive marketplace. What we've done is create a trends engine in which we talk about consumer trends in the industry.

With gas prices going up and down, with economic malaise spreading across the country, what does that mean for the supply and demand of different kinds of cars? It means a lot. We set a goal of using our market understanding of automotive trends as a way of building the brand and we've had a number of important media efforts from that goal.

How can PR pros get the attention of CEOs?

Perry: Highlight trends that are interesting and different, which have implications for many different industry categories. The use of video with social media and newsletters with current events, current trend-oriented stories, help get my attention. In our industry, there's a bunch of outlets trying to get their messages out. Ones that use video and social media are [attention-grabbing].

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