Profile: Stuart Dyble, V-P, comms and public affairs, Ford of Europe

It has been an up-and-down month for Stuart Dyble - from the media success he notched up at the International Motor Show, to the revelation last week that US chairman Bill Ford is considering selling off Dyble's beloved Jaguar brand - but, fortunately, this is a PR man as robust as the new Land Rover range.

It has been an up-and-down month for Stuart Dyble - from the media success he notched up at the International Motor Show, to the revelation last week that US chairman Bill Ford is considering selling off Dyble's beloved Jaguar brand - but, fortunately, this is a PR man as robust as the new Land Rover range.

It takes a lot to ruffle Dyble, whose demeanour is reflected in the sub-zero temperatures of his cavernous Warwickshire office, where we now sit. Looking around, this is a boy's paradise. In one corner sits a sparkling
Aston Martin V8 engine; the walls are adorned with stylish pics of old Jag E-types, and along the windowsill sit models of iconic Ford designs.

Talking to Dyble, the petrolhead clichés abound - ‘the real horsepower is in the brands themselves,' he says, then: ‘We need to find the sweet spot in terms of global practice' - inevitable perhaps from someone who has worked in automotive comms for 16 years, and is a pal of Jeremy Clarkson.

Dyble recalls how he recently rang Clarkson, saying he had a surprise for him, before driving a prototype of the new Jaguar XK to his house for review.

But as well as getting his hands dirty in this type of product PR, the 40-year-old has a huge corporate remit. Arguably the UK's most powerful automotive PRO, Dyble oversees a 200-strong team. He is responsible for the global comms strategy for Ford of Europe and Britain's Premium Automotive Group. He is also a board director of Jaguar and Land Rover, and looks after the Jaguar, Daimler and the British Motor Industry Heritage trusts.

‘The lifestyle is simply crazy sometimes,' he admits. ‘I reckon I would spend every single night in a hotel if I went to all the conferences, launches, events and meetings in which we're involved. It is very difficult to get any work/life balance.'

But it is clear that the tall, immaculately turned out Dyble thrives on the pressure and adrenaline of this job.
‘I've been lucky in my career in that I've always been working at places where there's been controversy,' he says.

As well as dealing with the inevitable crises, Dyble is adept at seizing the national agenda. During the Motor Show last month, his team's carefully planned announcement that Ford was to invest £1bn in Britain to develop greener cars emerged as the ‘big story' of the first week. Even the normally sceptical Guardian ran a positive full page featuring a sleek Jaguar XJ.

But while Ford of Europe has now enjoyed two years in profit, Dyble has a different challenge on a brand level. Jaguar - bought by Ford for £1.6bn in 1989 - continues to lose money hand-over-fist. Despite some critical acclaim, it will produce 80,000 cars this year, compared with BMW's 1.3 million.

Jaguar is significantly outgunned in marketing and PR terms by the premium German marques. ‘We have to punch above our weight,' Dyble admits. ‘Our launches have to be outstanding - witness the Jag XK launch in South Africa late last year with 800 media attending - and we have to seek out cool brand ambassadors, rather than spend heavily on advertising.'

He sees himself as an advocate for his discipline. ‘The time for PR has come,' he states confidently. ‘The speed of communication facilitated by the web and the ubiquity of media scrutiny, as seen in reality TV, means there is always a chance that corporate perception is very different from reality.

‘This in turn means companies need professional presentation and strong dialogue with stakeholders - this is where we come in,' he adds.

And then there is Aston Martin, also part of Ford PAG. With its racing heritage and 007 pedigree, could there be a more red-blooded male product?

Dyble reveals the marque will shift 4,000 units this year (25 per cent up on 2005), from a factory adjacent to his office. And it is later - after a 145mph test-track spin in an Aston Martin Vantage - that Dyble finally drops the corporate guard.

‘I love the way the metal ticks as it cools down,' he drools. Luckily for him, he is still very much ‘on ­message.'

 CV

2004 - Vice-president, comms and public affairs, Premier Automotive Group and Ford of Europe

2002 - Director of comms and public affairs, Jaguar and Land Rover

1999 - Public affairs director, Ford Worldwide

1994 - Corp comms manager, Ford of Europe

1990 - Corp comms manager (Europe) Toyota Motor Corporation

1988 - PR manager, Abbey National

 



 

 

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