NASCAR moves fast, both on the track and at its Daytona Beach, Fla., headquarters. Sometimes, though, you need to hit the brakes, go under the hood and do a tune-up. That’s what NASCAR decided to do when it launched an 18-month research-driven review that led to an overhaul of its communications practices.
In the following Q&A, David Higdon, NASCAR's managing director, integrated marketing communications, and a featured speaker at PR News’ Nov. 30 Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C., discusses his organization's new emphasis on integrated communications.
PR News: What was the driving force behind NASCAR’s decision to overhaul its communications strategy?
David Higdon: In March 2010, NASCAR requested a strategic review of communications within the industry, with the primary focus on assessing NASCAR’s PR department, its practices, capabilities and readiness to meet the needs of a changing media landscape now and in the future. The secondary focus was on assessing the communications functions of the primary entities that make up the NASCAR ecosystem, namely teams, tracks, sponsors, media partners, agencies, etc. The communications review was the first plank in a ground-breaking 18-month review of NASCAR conducted by external research companies and consultants, ultimately resulting in a NASCAR Industry Action Plan (IAP) that now is driving—pun intended—our business strategy.
PR News: What is one change you've seen now that NASCAR has shifted into a proactive vs. reactive approach?
Higdon: Since we’re no longer relying on “word of mouth” as a big part of the shift to an integrated marketing communications model, I’d say that our measurement tools show increased coverage and better tonality across a number of key outlets. The days of counting clips at NASCAR are over; we’re set to soon unveil a cutting-edge Fan & Media Engagement Center that will help us monitor and measure coverage in real time across social media, digital and traditional platforms.
PR News: What impact can an integrated marketing strategy have on a business?
Higdon: Our chairman Brian France would not have committed NASCAR resources, personnel and energy to integrated marketing communications if he didn’t believe it would have a considerable impact on our business. We will work better within our corporate offices and outside in the garages, media rooms and team shops.
PR News: What key mistake do you see brands make with their social media strategy?
Higdon: Making it a one-way conversation. NASCAR prides itself on the fact that our fans are the most brand-loyal fans in all of sports, and that would not be the case if we were just pushing our brand and sponsors on our fans. Our engagement at all levels, throughout the company, with our partners, are two-way—and our social media practices mirror that philosophy.
PR News: What’s one key idea you want to share with Media Relations Conference attendees?
Higdon: Change is good. Forget the status quo. NASCAR committed to an overhaul of its communications function in the midst of a recession, at a time when other brands were laying off PR individuals. Why? Because NASCAR believes our future looks brighter if we stay ahead of the curve in communications.
Follow David Higdon: @HigNASCAR
Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson
To learn more from communications pros like David Higdon register to attend PR News’ Nov. 30 Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C.