Automotive Suppliers & Change Management Communications: How PR Supports Your Program

Change. It is coming faster than ever.

And, according to our informal survey of key communications and PR executives with some of the top global automotive OEM suppliers, it’s the biggest issue facing their companies today, as the automotive ecosystem has turned upside-down.

Auto suppliers are shifting to new strategies as they navigate through uncharted territories driven by the new landscape being shaped by multiple factors … electrification, autonomous vehicles, connected cars, ridesharing, the war for talent, Manufacturing 4.0, IoT implementation, competition from new mobility technology suppliers and ever-present investor pressure.

The fact is, there will be more disruption in the OEM automotive supply chain in the next 10 years than there has been in the previous 100 years.

So, many traditional automotive suppliers – as well as many new mobility technology providers entering the automotive sector – are embracing change management communication programs not only to help employees deal with these dramatic changes, but also to help their external audiences understand the changes, as well.

The High Cost of Not Communicating Change

Gartner indicated that if employees suffer from change-related stress, they perform five percent worse than the average employee. For a $1 billion revenue automotive supplier that could translate to a $32.5 million hitting its bottom line.
As a result, automotive suppliers are dedicating significant amounts of time, money and effort to implement change management communications programs that can:

• Help management prepare to communicate effectively with employees about the changes ahead;

• Mitigate the negative impact of change and help employees build their own abilities to embrace change;

• Identify the best channels to use to reach, communicate with and obtain feedback from employees;

• Ensure employees hear from the right people – usually the person who is driving organizational changes – about the business issues and the reasons behind organizational changes;

• Develop and repeat key messaging that addresses employees’ concerns and interests consistently, engages employees and helps generate buy-in to the new vision;

• Answer employees’ questions regarding why the change is being implemented, what the risk of not changing could be and what’s in it for the employee; and

• Create opportunities for ongoing two-way communication that continues to engage employees and create buy-in, especially face-to-face opportunities.

And while employees are integral to a company’s success, change management communications plans should not focus solely on internal audiences. To maximize success, change management communications plans should also incorporate external communications.

Why? In times of turmoil, uninformed people assume the worst. It’s human nature. They assume the reasons behind a company’s changes are negative. And because bad news travels quickly, these people tend to share that negative news fast and frequently.

External audiences – customers, prospective customers and partners, suppliers, vendors, prospective recruits, investors and analysts, industry influencers, government officials and others – all can influence a company’s success.

For the most effective change communications program, a supplier’s plan should also address the same actions above for its external audiences. External audiences should be an integral part of the plan and external communications should:

• Align in lockstep with internal messaging, but be customized to help each external audience segment understand how the changes affect them;

• Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” for each external audience member;

• Be coordinated in terms of timing. News perceived as “bad” moves at lightning speed, especially with social media and email, so all external audiences should be informed at the same time; and

• Be frequent, open and consistent to reassure external audiences, which can lead to enlisting their support and help as your company moves forward.

PR Tools Can Support Your Efforts

Proactive public relations, especially media relations, can help preempt negative assumptions, since in the absence of information your competitors can and will make things up.

Reaching out to your key media contacts with the facts and providing appropriate access to your key executives will lead to more accurate and more even-handed media coverage. Additionally, a side-benefit of positive external media coverage about the change can also reinforce, validate and confirm the messaging with your employees.

Social media can also help amplify your positive media coverage and speech content, when shared via your corporate LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Glassdoor channels. In fact, many of the communication tools you use with your internal audience – blog posts, infographics, newsletters, special meetings and presentations, and more – can be adapted for specific external groups as well.

To learn more from a PR partner that can help you integrate external communications into your automotive supplier change communications program, contact Jim Bianchi at or call 248.269.1122.

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