A Fleet-ing Glimpse of Nontraditional PR

After nearly five years of marketing and consulting in the construction industry, a master’s thesis and hundreds of editorial fact checks, I never imagined anything quite like my current PR role – and that’s okay. After all, at a marketing communications agency, we thrive on the unexpected.  The ever-evolving industries we serve keep us on our toes and force us to think differently.

Now, more than ever, the auto industry is a hallmark of business evolution.  Environmental logic and concerns are forefront. External body styles are ripe with modernization. Multifunctional interior spaces combine relaxation, entertainment and information. Foreign automakers are setting up operations stateside. As a result, agencies like ours get the green light to regionalize corporate impact and build relationships with various types of influencers.

I’m proud to be a small part of Jackson Spalding’s first major foray into the auto industry – the Toyota Motor Sales account. Toyota hired us to master two succinct pillars of their brand strategy in the Southeast: media relations and fleet management. While the two are interconnected, managing a revolving fleet of nearly 60 cars in three states is no standard media relations undertaking. Our press fleet consists of new Toyota, Lexus and Scion models, all of which travel throughout the Southeast for auto reviews, “Ride & Drive” events, vehicle launches, chauffeur services and community events. These cars are celebrities in the states we serve, as we often hear guest drivers asking things like, “Have you driven the 2014 Scion tC? I had it last week. You HAVE to get in one.”

Each week, we coordinate roughly 30 drives for influencers all over the Southeast. Before the drives, we send a personalized product package to each driver – a vehicle-specific press kit of sorts. Following these drives, we send handwritten thank-you notes from our media relations team, hi-res images and/or anything to help tell the Toyota story.

Behind the scenes, we are always seeking new, unique opportunities to showcase our press fleet. For instance, when a mom blogger approached us about a family vacation to Disney World, we knew the Toyota Sienna had to take her there. We featured a beautiful Lexus hybrid outside of the Midtown Atlanta Loews hotel for Hebru Brantley’s graffiti-inspired art exhibit. Jill Scott, the R&B powerhouse, enjoyed the Lexus driving experience at each of her Atlantic tour stops, while Michael Tavani, co-founder of ScoutMob, raved about his week driving the sporty Scion FR-S. Coupled with traditional media successes like recurring segments on television and radio, fleet management consistently pushes the boundaries of PR normalcy.

For our team, fleet management opens a steady line of communication between us and a group of influential journalists, bloggers and lifestyle gurus. For our industry, nontraditional PR tactics in uncharted territory keep us relevant, unique and valuable. We’ll continue to be nimble and alert to industry-specific trends and look for new storytelling avenues; we won’t be averse to taking our strategies off-road. The proverbial keys to success lie just outside the lines.