FedEx bailout campaign questions competition

MEMPHIS: FedEx Corp.'s new multimillion-dollar marketing campaign categorizes competitor UPS' support of a pending labor relations bill as an attempt to net a "bailout."

MEMPHIS: FedEx Corp.'s new multimillion-dollar marketing campaign categorizes competitor UPS' support of a pending labor relations bill as an attempt to net a “bailout.” With several PR tactics in place, FedEx seeks to explain its point of view to consumers about what is generally considered an insular industry issue.

The campaign launched earlier this week with the Web site, and included media outreach. FedEx's education campaign centers on driving US citizens to reach out to key legislators and oppose a bill that would draw subsidiary airline FedEx Express under the same labor law as UPS.

If passed, the bill would enable FedEx Express employees, not including pilots or other air-based staff, to unionize in individual locations like UPS.

The campaign is intended to show that the bill, in effect, creates a bailout, limiting competition and is improper due to the two companies' differing operations' models, according to Maury Lane, director of communications at the company.

“We thought it was important to begin this education initiative because Congress hadn't held hearings,” said Lane, “The potential passage of this legislation could have dramatic effect on our ability to deliver packages reliably.”

“So, if consumers and taxpayers don't know what Congress is about to pass I think it's important,” adds Lane.

Outreach to legislators, consumers, and media will be ongoing for the upcoming months. Lane declined to confirm agency support. AOR Ketchum did not assist. It appeared that one element of the online campaign, a poll, was created by Burson Digital, but the agency referred all questions to FedEx and that piece has since been removed.

FedEx's efforts will not result in a reactive campaign from UPS, instead the company will continue to reach out to consumers, media, and lobby for the amendment, according to Malcolm Berkley, PR manager for UPS public affairs.

“The decision-makers here are members of Congress, so our efforts have been focused on that audience,” said Berkley, who noted AOR Fleishman-Hillard is providing some support.

A company statement on the UPS Web site did directly respond to FedEx's claim of FedEx Express and UPS being different companies, and categorized its own communications on the amendment as “no rhetoric, no spin, no multi-million dollar campaign to distort reality.”

“FedEx's apparent attempt to raise the noise level with its campaign simply doesn't change the facts,” said Berkley. “It appears FedEx is about to spend millions of dollars to persuade members of Congress that a FedEx driver delivering a package is any different from UPS driver delivering a package.”

The Teamsters also have taken issue with FedEx's opposition to the bill as matter of fair labor, in addition to the company's “bailout” categorization, said Ken Hall, international VP and director of the package division at The Teamsters.

The legislation will put FedEx employees “on a level playing field” [with] employees having the same rights as similarly situated employee,” said Hall.

Without outside agency support, the union is currently in the process of lobbying Capitol Hill and initiating a grassroots campaign, including members and interested groups to put their concerns before elected officials.

FedEx's Lane stands by the “bailout” categorization and said the union seeks “to drive [FedEx's] reliability numbers down.”

“Americans are tired of bailouts for companies that are having difficulties competing,” said Lane. “Instead of competing, it's easier to go to Congress and get a bailout.”

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