Ford UK : Achieving closure

Old practices hold sway in corporate communications.


click to view

The Site

Ford UK, a country division of US-based vehicle maker Ford, isolates its online channels from news of a major factory closure in the UK. Ford UK has a country site within its parent company’s global online estate. Corporate information is contained within a sub-section of the Experience Ford section and is not signposted on the home page apart from a careers link in the rich footer. The sub-section, About Ford, includes News, which in turn has a Company News area. As of late-afternoon on 25 October the most recent story was three weeks old and covered the extension of Ford’s UK market lead in September. There was no reference to that day’s announcement that the company is to close two of its manufacturing plants in the UK. Neither News nor Company News provides contact details for journalists, and none are given in the individual press releases they carry. There are also no links to the Ford UK Twitter page (@forduk), where the latest entry, dated 22 October, was promoting a link to a product video. The latest entry on the Ford UK Facebook page (facebook.com/forduk), which shows no signs of corporate announcements, was dated 19 October. A press release covering the announcement was posted as the lead featured story in News Center on the parent company’s corporate site, corporate.ford.com. This was not referenced on the UK site.

The Takeaway

Ford’s handling of the news of its intended factory closures in the UK sheds light not only on its own organisational tensions but also on the persistence of traditional work practices in corporate communications generally. As a whole the company is not burying the bad news about its plan to reduce production in the UK – that much is evident from the prompt posting of the official announcement on the main corporate site. Equally clearly, though, the central communications team in Detroit has no control or influence over its counterpart in the UK, where corporate information itself, let alone controversial news, is notably well hidden online. Extreme though the degree of unhelpfulness is in the UK news section – the absence of any press contacts is a rarity – it illustrates a traditionalist attitude to media relations that downplays the role of online, if no longer quite discounting it. In this view the primary ‘customer’ is a journalist covering the industry, and the best way to cultivate them is through direct personal contact – they have your details and you have theirs. Nothing wrong with building that kind of relationship, but it excludes other constituencies (even general or local reporters) who now expect to find information through the internet, be it on the company website or through social media. By ignoring such audiences, who will be drawn by coverage in the press and on TV and news sites, Ford UK actually makes news management and public relations harder on itself.

http://www.ford.co.uk/experience-ford/AboutFord/News/CompanyNews
First published 25 October, 2012
< Back to Tips