We recently conducted an interview with Jason Vines, former head of PR for Nissan North America, Ford Motor Company globally and Chrysler Group; he is now a distinguished author published at Waldorf Publishing. He is a leading communications and government affairs consultant.
Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to other PR professionals?
Jason Vines: FIRST: NEVER LIE. IN THE END, TRUTH IS YOUR ONLY REAL WEAPON. NEVER SPECULATE AS SPECULATION IS A LIVE HAND GRENADE. DEAL ONLY WITH FACTS. FINALLY, PUSH BACK OF JOURNALISTS THAT WANT TO ATTACK YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION, ANONYMOUSLY. DEMAND THAT AS AN AMERICAN PRINCIPLE, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FACE YOUR ACCUSER. SECOND, FOR YOUNG PR PEOPLE: LEARN HOW TO WRITE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. OH, BUT I HAVE GREAT ORAL COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS!?! B.S. LEARN HOW TO WRITE AND IT WILL IMPROVE YOUR “ORAL” COMMUNICATION SKILLS. THIRD: DEMAND A SEAT AT THE TABLE WITH TOP EXECUTIVES.
Q: What is your most memorable or transformative PR moment in your career?
Jason Vines: THE FORD/FIRESTONE TIRE CRISIS OF 2000-2001. IT MADE ME REALIZE THAT TO AFFORD OR MITIGATE A CRISIS, YOU NEED TO GET YOUR ORGANIZATION, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM, READY FOR IT BY ESTABLISHING GUIDING PRINCIPLES AS TO HOW YOU WILL ACT/TALK/RESPOND WITH THE PROVERBIAL S—T HITS THE FAN.
Q: What is the best thing you did to directly benefit Ford / Nissan / Chrysler?
Jason Vines: NISSAN: RESTORED THEIR CREDIBILITY AS A VIABLE AUTOMAKER AND DEMANDED IT REFIND ITS SOUL BY BRINGING BACK THE NISSAN Z SPORTS CAR. FORD: GUIDED THE COMPANY, WORKING MINUTE BY MINUTE WITH CEO, TO ENSURE THAT WE PUT THE SAFETY OF OUR CUSTOMERS FIRST AND ALWAYS COMMUNUNICATED OPENLY AND HONESTLY WITH ALL PARTIES. (READ MY BOOK NOTED ABOVE.) CHRYSLER: INHERITED A TOTALLY DEMORALIZED PR STAFF AND BUILT THEM INTO THE BEST (BY JOURNALIST SURVEYS) INTO THE MOST RESPECTED PR TEAM IN THE INDUSTRY. AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, THE LEAD TRADE PUBLICATION FOR THE GLOBAL AUTO INDUSTRY, NAMED ME THE TOP PR PERSON IN THE GLOBAL INDUSTRY IN BOTH 2005 AND 2006. NOT BRAGGING. JUST A FACT.
Q: What did you do differently at Ford than the person before you?
Jason Vines: MADE TOP MANAGEMENT 100 PERCENT OPEN TO THE MEDIA. NEVER LIED. MADE MYSELF AVAILABLE TO MEDIA, WORLD WIDE, 24 HOURS A DAY.
Q: What do you think separates you from other PR professionals as one of the best PR professionals in the industry?
Jason Vines: NEVER, EVER LIED TO A JOURNALIST, OTHER TO SAY THEIR NEWBORN WAS CUTE. IT PAID OFF AS I WAS ABLE TO KILL B.S. STORIES BECAUSE MEDIA KNEW I WASN’T LYING. FUNNY, PR COMPANIES SPEND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS EACH YEAR WRITING UP PROPOSALS TO WIN SHINY PR AWARDS. THE GREATEST WORK A PR PERSON DOES IS KILLING A COMPLETELY B.S. STORY BEFORE IT HURTS THEIR ORGANIZATION. AGAIN, THE KEY TO BEING ABLE TO DO THAT: CREDIBILITY.
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