Ward is MG’s first PR chief in more than a year, charged with ‘completely restructuring’ its comms, which he acknowledged is far below the standard of rival car makers.
MG’s PR functions – including internal, corporate and product comms, government affairs and events that have reported through various divisions of the business – will be brought under Ward’s control. International comms will be added.
The appointment places a question mark on The Maitland Consultancy’s handling of MG’s corporate communications, but Ward said he would not review the relationship until he had spoken to the agency, although he conceded its role was likely to become ‘a little different’.
He said there were no immediate plans to bring in external agency support for product PR, which was handled by Ketchum before MG cut its marketing spend last summer: ‘We are definitely not about to hold a pitch – we are not ready.’
Ward, who left Ford last November and was previously V-P of comms at Nissan Europe, will report directly to CEO Kevin Howe and heads an in-house team of 11.
His most immediate concern will be MG’s financial results at the end of October, two month’s after its UK market share fell to record lows.
Of even bigger importance to the company’s future, Ward said the Chinese government is due to approve MG’s collaboration with the state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) by the end of the year, which is set to fund the development of new models and expand MG’s global reach.
Ward would not comment on the nature of the deal and whether it included SAIC taking a stake in the British manufacturer. MG Rover, which has seen sales halve since it was sold by BMW to the Phoenix Consortium for a nominal £10 in 2000, announced the SAIC deal in June.
Ward’s arrival comes just one month after the appointment of former Kia marketing director Guy Jones as UK marketing and PR manager.