Honda should be applauded for not letting the news agenda drive its messaging

It would be easy for Honda to have hidden behind a Brexit headline when it announced it would be closing its Swindon plant this week... but that would have been a false statement.

Closure: Sky News reported on the plan on Monday before the official announcement
Closure: Sky News reported on the plan on Monday before the official announcement

The real factors impacting Swindon – declining European sales, diesel demonisation and a new EU-Japan free-trade agreement – were actually framed as a global shift in the automotive industry towards electrification.

And while that may not have given the Brexit debate the soundbites one side or the other wanted, Honda should be applauded for not letting the news agenda drive their messaging.

Closures and job losses like this need to be framed sensitively but honestly too. It is devastating for individuals and communities and no messaging or strategy can truly negate the real human emotional impact of such news.

Brexit would have been a camouflage and probably more incendiary within its workforce as well as outside.

Honda also had to protect the reputation of the brand. By putting its electrification message front and centre – a territory dominated by the likes of Tesla, Nissan, BMW and Jaguar in recent years – it informed the market where it was heading and in doing so positioned itself positively in the minds of the growing numbers of consumers looking to buy electric in the future.

Where a car is made is actually irrelevant to the consumer. The car is a commodity; its origin of manufacture does not positively or negatively impact the decision to buy one model over another.

Could Honda have avoided the news leaking the day before? Maybe. The moment you announce a press briefing, the questions come. The media don’t wait, they speculate, and with so many moving parts in such a decision, leaks or guesswork can hit the mark.

Control, timing and more control across all stakeholders by the communications function is the only way to positively manage such announcements.

Andy Francis is joint managing director of Performance Communications

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