Client: Land Rover
PR Team: Rover Group’s Industry and Public Affairs Team
Campaign: Lobbying to influence Ministry of Defence’s award of military
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
To convince the Ministry of Defence that Land Rover was the supplier
most able to meet its requirements and secure the contract.
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
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.
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
The company also claims a great deal of personal goodwill from
politicians, including around 50 letters of support or congratulation.
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
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.