CAMPAIGNS: LOBBYING; Military action by Land Rover

Client: Land Rover PR Team: Rover Group’s Industry and Public Affairs Team Campaign: Lobbying to influence Ministry of Defence’s award of military ambulance contract. Timescale: September 1995 - January 1996 Resources: In-house team of three people

Client: Land Rover

PR Team: Rover Group’s Industry and Public Affairs Team

Campaign: Lobbying to influence Ministry of Defence’s award of military

ambulance contract.

Timescale: September 1995 - January 1996

Resources: In-house team of three people



In January a political row erupted when Land Rover, the British company

famous for its four wheel drive vehicles, faced losing a Ministry of

Defence contract valued between pounds 35-pounds 50 million to Austrian

firm Steyr Daimler Puch. The immediate order was to supply 600-800

ambulances, and the selected vehicle would also become a ‘blueprint’ for

military use, opening up an export market potentially worth pounds 400

million.



Objectives



To convince the Ministry of Defence that Land Rover was the supplier

most able to meet its requirements and secure the contract.



Tactics



From September 1995, when it first became evident that the order might

go elsewhere, Rover Group’s Industry and Public Affairs team launched a

lobby campaign on the benefits to British industry of using a domestic

manufacturer.



Local West Midlands MPs were natural priorities, as were Cambridge MPs

where ambulance body manufacturer Marshalls is based. Similarly any

constituencies containing Land Rover dealers or suppliers were targeted.



According to Brian Johns, Rover Group director of Industry and Public

Affairs Team, the strategy was to ‘identify the right parliamentary

audience and communicate the issues clearly, directly and effectively’.



The team wrote to relevant MPs of all persuasions highlighting the

strengths of the company, while senior company executives briefed small

groups of interested MPs.



Land Rover also lobbied two backbench committees - the All Party Motor

Industry Group and the All Party Defence Committee.



By Christmas, the campaign was approaching its climax. ‘It was becoming

apparent that a decision would be made very early in the New Year,’ said

Johns. ‘At this point we stepped up our efforts.’



As MPs returned from their recess on 9 January, a leaflet entitled ‘A

New Military Ambulance - The Issues’ was sent to every MP and selected

members of the Lords. Included was an invitation to inspect the Land

Rover ambulance, displayed outside the members’ entrance to Parliament.

Staff were on hand to talk to any MPs who stopped by.



Results



Around 40 MPs, three television crews, many of the national press and

news agencies turned up to view Land Rover’s ambulance. And despite the

lack of a pro-active media relations campaign, virtually all the

national media ran a pro-Land Rover story around this time.



A week later, and somewhat prematurely the Prime Minister intimated that

the British company would be awarded the contract. This was formally

confirmed shortly afterwards by the Ministry of Defence. Land Rover had

gained cross party support for its cause with a total of 136 MPs signing

the three early day motions, one of which was supported primarily by

Labour MPs.



The company also claims a great deal of personal goodwill from

politicians, including around 50 letters of support or congratulation.



Verdict



Land Rover could be criticised for leaving the whole communication

process too late, resulting in frantic activity right up to the wire.



Andrew Hargreaves MP, secretary of the All Party Motor Industry Group,

and a strong advocate for Land Rover, admitted that it was ‘far more

difficult to retrieve this situation than to have influenced it earlier

on’.



Some Opposition MPs are also dismayed by what they saw as the Government

stepping in to overrule the military, and one Labour MP claims that Land

Rover ‘played the easy patriotic card to cloud the real issues’.



But, there is no denying that the team ultimately achieved its aim,

guaranteeing more than 50 jobs at Marshalls, safeguarding jobs at the

Land Rover headquarters at Solihull and providing an international

confidence boost for its military and fleet business.



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