Campaigns: New jobs? You can with Nissan - Corporate PR

Client: Nissan Motor Manufacturing

Client: Nissan Motor Manufacturing



PR team: In-house and Bulletin



Campaign: Announcement of plan to build new model at its Sunderland

plant



Timsecale: January 1997



Cost: approx. pounds 5,000



Nissan was the first Japanese car manufacturer to build in the UK when

it opened its Sunderland plant in 1986. The Micra and Primera are

currently made at Sunderland which produced 231,000 cars last year, more

than 70 per cent of which were exported. Around 4,800 are employed in

the North East and the company also has a design and development centre

at Cranfield in the Midlands and a headquarters in Rickmansworth.



Before Christmas Sunderland learnt it had been chosen to build a third

model, the successor to the Almera, in a pounds 215 million investment,

creating 800 new jobs.



The week before Nissan made its announcement, news came that Ford was to

cut production at its Halewood plant leading to job losses.



Objectives



To avoid leaks at the plant, and to brief staff before there was any

speculation in the media. To make an announcement in a very controlled

way on 21 January and to get maximum exposure for the message that jobs

would be created not only in Sunderland but also in the North East and

across Europe because of the knock-on effect on the components

industry.



Tactics



Work on the announcement began in-house two weeks before the

announcement date. Face-to-face cascading was used to communicate the

news to staff who were informed at 4.45pm on 20 January, just before the

end of the day shift and start of the night shift.



Bulletin International was hired to maximise TV and radio coverage and

recommended that key personnel should be ready for interview at 6am on

announcement day. It contacted key TV targets and tried to convince them

that it had a story that would merit an interview, although it could not

give any details. BBC Business Breakfast was the first target.



Four main spokespeople were groomed for interviews. Chief executive Ian

Gibson was stationed in London, the deputy MD in Sunderland, director of

corporate affairs Daniel Ward at Bulletin’s ISDN studio for radio

interviews, and another spokesman at Cranfield. Ford’s announcement

meant that spokespeople had, in particular, to be briefed to explain how

Nissan was able to create jobs while Ford was cutting them.



Garel Rhys, professor of motor industry economics at Cardiff Business

School and an industry guru, was also briefed in case the media asked

him for comment. Background footage of the plant was also prepared.



The print media was handled by in-house press officers who telephoned 25

key correspondents at home at around 8am on 21 January to invite them to

a press conference in London at 10.30. News editors were faxed a press

release. A separate release was sent to media in the North East.



Results



The first interview went on air as the lead story on BBC Business

Breakfast, giving momentum to the whole day. Gibson did ten TV

interviews and two radio interviews in his media tour. By 8.10am Ward

had conducted 11 radio interviews.



Locally, the BBC sent a crew to the Sunderland plant at 8.30am and by

1pm was still doing vox pops on the production line - the staff briefing

the previous day really paying off. About 20 journalists and five news

crews attended the press conference.



Coverage continued throughout the day with TV coverage totalled one

hour, 20 minutes with 29 national and 13 regional reports. The footage

provided meant that many reports ran to several minutes rather than just

brief announcements. Radio coverage totalled one hour, 30 minutes with

31 reports including the Today programme and Radio 5 Midday with Mair

and Financial World Tonight.



Print coverage was extensive with editorials questioning whether

government grants were necessary at Halewood when Sunderland had

attracted investment without any grants.



Verdict



’This was the smoothest announcement I’ve ever done,’ says Ward. ’We

maximised the coverage we could get and did a very good job of making it

a story for Sunderland and the North East, and for the UK and Europe

because of the jobs created.’



There were no leaks and because staff were briefed before the media got

hold of the story they were able to present a well-informed and

enthusiastic face to the media. By being prepared to start early Nissan

was able to set the news agenda for the day.



Bulletin says it did not play on the Ford story because it felt it was

unprofessional, but the timing of Nissan’s announcement so soon after

Ford’s negative UK story definitely increased the impact.



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