A frequent target when candidate Trump talked about trade and lost jobs, Ford Motor Company consistently rejected Trump’s comments and accusations. For the most part, it didn’t stick. Most Americans “know” Ford moved thousands of jobs to Mexico, while many have no idea the company has been ramping up production and hiring tens of thousands in the States in recent years.
This paradox of knowledge and understanding might be blamed on Trump’s much larger bullhorn, but it could also be set at the feet of a brand that has been resting on being “America’s Brand” for far too long. Ford got too comfortable, and Trump has them on the defensive. The company needs to change that, or risk losing some key customers from its most important demographics.
So Ford decided to go right to the source. Recently, Ford Chairman Bill Ford rang up Donald Trump to assure him the automaker will not be moving the Lincoln production center out of Kentucky. Some are calling this a sign Ford plans to toe the line with the new president. Others are insisting this is just Ford over-explaining something they already planned to (not) do.
But the conversation gave Trump what he needed to claim at least partial credit for the decision, something Ford needs to consider in future conversations.
Elie Hirschfeld, a former Trump partner noted, “Trump, if nothing else, is a great communicator. Folks might laugh at his language or his delivery, but the most important thing about his method is that the people he needs to “get” him, do get him, and very “bigly.””
Here’s the main message Ford needs to convey, and they’re trying. They were never planning to close the Louisville plant in the first place. Here’s a statement from the company: “We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States…”
But what about all those jobs going to Mexico. It might be in Ford’s best interest to explain the logic there. Why it makes more sense for them to build the cheaper Focus in Mexico and build the Lincoln brands as well as the renewed Bronco here in the States. It’s not a difficult message to convey or understand, and it would help Ford’s brand tremendously among those who are angry because they think Ford is moving operations overseas.
Right now, that misunderstanding is not Ford’s fault, but if they don’t address it soon and effectively, they will become complicit in the damaging of their brand.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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