Written by PollackPRMktg on August 29, 2011.
Brendan Flynn heads all communication efforts for the LA Auto Show including overall messaging, media outreach, partnerships, social media programs, content development, sponsorships and special event planning. He is the primary spokesperson for the show and also acts as the key liaison for automakers helping to coordinate their product launch efforts. He has been in the communications business for 19 years and previously held senior positions at Fleishman Hillard International, The Rogers Group and Golin/Harris International.
Q. The 104 year-old LA Auto Show attracts more than a million people annually and, most notably, debuts concept and “green” cars. In your position as Director of Communications, how do you manage the global media relations needs of the show? Please describe briefly the structure of this.
A. The LA Show is two events in one – an industry trade show/media preview and a major consumer event. Because of the dual role, we need to first garner as much global media attention for our exhibitors and sponsors as possible. Each is treated as an individual client and we support their PR efforts accordingly. To attract international attention we focus on the global relevance of the show and use agency support in Europe and Asia. We also begin our campaign up to 5 months out in order to allow time for travel and budget decisions to be made by overseas media.
Secondly, we must create local buzz with traditional, digital and social media to drive ticket sales. Social media plays a significant role as we have a very engaged customer base. Multicultural outreach to the diverse communities that make up the greater LA basin is also critical. As the show approaches and debut details are revealed, we have the challenging task of making sense of and creating organization to the hundreds of possible news stories stemming from press days. It’s all about gathering, packaging and disseminating information. Come show time, with the help of our local PR agency, Rogers Ruder-Finn, we manage the media much like a major sporting event as we have nearly 4,000 credentialed members of the press on site.
Q. The LA Auto Show serves several audiences besides car manufacturers. They include aftermarket product manufacturers, limited production vehicle manufacturers, motor sports and concept cars, including “green” concept cars and more. Do you plan your communication strategies for each audience as “silos” or is it simply that the 102-year history of the LA Auto show itself is the draw across the board?
A. It’s true that the Auto Show is such an institution that media often know how and what to cover. However, we plan our communications strategies based on the strengths of the show and how we want to be differentiated in the marketplace. For example, we’ve long been regarded as a luxury and design focused show and recently we’ve solidified our position as the show to make important green announcements. Now we are focused on being a leader in the auto tech space as well as increasing our role as a show where auto business stories happen. However, because the 45-50 major auto brands are also conducting aggressive media outreach, they play a major role in shaping the show’s identity. Part of our strategy is to recognize where the show grows organically and then leverage that growth.
Q. I understand that there is public access for those interested in browsing and then purchasing. Does this mainly attract dealerships or individuals as well? Do the manufacturers or the LA Auto Show itself create special promotions to spur purchase? Also, is onsite selling a goal of the exhibitors or is it the media and industry exposure?
A. For 10 days the auto show becomes the biggest consumer event at the Convention Center and has become a family tradition for many Angelinos. It is about attracting the individual car buyer not dealers. You can’t actually purchase vehicles at the show but it’s a great low-pressure, cross-shopping opportunity. Honestly, I think a lot of attendees come to dream and catch a glimpse of what the future of mobility holds. The special promotions offered at the show primarily come from the factory level but they work with their local dealers to fulfill the offers. Ultimately the auto manufacturers’ goals are two-fold just like ours – garner media attention globally and allow consumers, at least part of the way down the purchase funnel, to experience and physically touch the product.
Q. With the LA Auto Show, your career has veered from that of a longtime public relations executive at several agencies to an in-house Director. What triggered this change?
A. The diversity of knowledge gained and the creative environment in agency life can’t be matched in-house, but to fully understand a business and have the ability to influence decisions as the highest level happens best internally. When you can devote 100 percent of your energy to a single cause you can better integrate consistent messaging across all marketing and promotion channels and really help shape the subtleties of the brand personality. Plus, the Auto Show was at such a turning point in its history that it was too exciting of an opportunity to pass up. In the past five years I have been able to help bring it from an important regional show to a truly global automotive industry stage.
Q. Is your “Green Cars/LA Auto Show Ride & Drive” — for journalists only, a major incentive for them to attend, cover and write about the Show? Is there one particular exhibitor sector that attracts the media more than others, such as the Celebrity Car Showcase?
A. The Ride and Drive is one element to enhancing the shows overall reputation as the main stage for important green vehicle introductions. Because of California’s long history as an environmental leader, the LA Show naturally became the place to make such important announcements. To help manufacturers extend that green message we have certain show elements, like the ride and drive, that highlight OE environmental innovation. The biggest draw to the show are the big global premieres that get promoted not only by us but by mainstream media. It’s ultimately the product that makes a company like Hyundai become the fastest growing or Ford become one of the most profitable, and its that product that creates the most excitement for the show among our attendees.