SANTA MONICA, CA: Car-pricing comparison website TrueCar has hired Carly Schaffner, business communications manager at Toyota Motor Sales, to serve as senior corporate communications manager.
Schaffner started her role on October 30 and reports to TrueCar SVP and CCO Alan Ohnsman, who joined the company in September as its first head of comms. Ohnsman was previously a journalist, working at Bloomberg News since 1999.
Hiring Schaffner is part of Ohnsman’s goal to build out a comms team within TrueCar rather than relying on agency support as it has in the past, he explained.
"There has been a big effort to refocus the business in certain ways and begin telling our story ourselves in a new way, but the key to this is creating a strong in-house corporate communications group," Ohnsman said.
Earlier this year, True Car raised $70 million in its IPO. Executives said in May that the company planned to use the funds for marketing initiatives and increasing brand awareness.
Kel & Partners and Pacific Communications Group worked with TrueCar on IPO communications. Ohnsman said the company continues to work with both firms. The brand has kept Pacific on a retainer since 2012. While TrueCar "respects and appreciates all the work that has been done to this point by the agencies," the company will reach a point when all communications is handled internally, Ohnsman said.
Schaffner will help TrueCar tell its story to automakers, which will become a bigger focus for the brand, she said. She will also continue engaging consumers and dealers.
"What intrigues me the most is that it’s still telling a business story and it’s still within the realm of automotive, which is something I’ve become familiar with over the past four years, but now there is a technology story to be told," said Schaffner.
Schaffner and Ohnsman previously worked together when she was at Toyota and he was a journalist whose assignments included covering Toyota’s recall crisis of 2010.
Toyota is not replacing Schaffner at this time because CCO Julie Hamp is reorganizing the North America communications department as part of an overall restructuring effort, the company confirmed. The reorganization comes as the automaker moves its headquarters from three different locations to one in Plano, Texas by 2017.
Last month Toyota brought in Scott Vazin to serve as VP of corporate and regional communications, areas that Schaffner had previously worked on.
"Even though we’ll miss [Schaffner’s] larger than life personality, I’m personally happy that she has this new opportunity to develop her skills at a company in a location she prefers," said Hamp via email. "[Schaffner] has a special ability to analyze complex issues, synthesize to a few key points, and communicate them effectively with the media. She has a proven record of serving the interests of the media responsively, thoroughly, with high energy and high integrity."
Along with hiring Schaffner, Ohnsman said he is reviewing candidates for social media and digital positions, with the goal of building out TrueCar’s presence on social channels.
Before joining Toyota in 2010, Schaffner worked at Thomson Reuters as a PR coordinator for a nearly two years. She also previously held communications roles at Saatchi & Saatchi LA, the Financial Times, and Media Mind.