A Message to Ford Motor Co.: Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

duct-tape-mouthToronto Mayor, Rob Ford, has ignited headlines since it was revealed a few weeks back that he has a fondness for drinking, drugs and other debaucheries. In short, Ford is a publicist’s worst nightmare.

Still, the mayor has attempted to make the most out of a bad situation by speaking candidly with reporters and making several public appearances. On Tuesday, he connected to his constituents by signing several t-shirts with a “Ford Nation” emblem printed on them. That graphic, however, was created and first distributed by the Ford Motor Co.

The blue oval Ford logo is one of the company’s oldest and most recognizable assets. Its roots can be traced back to when Henry Ford founded the company in the early 1900s. The logo is so valuable that it was leveraged in 2006 as collateral on a $23.4 billion loan. So, needless to say, Ford Motor Co. is not happy that the crack-smoking Toronto mayor has adopted the automotive company's logo.

“Ford did not grant permission for use of its logo,” company spokesman, Jay Cooney, told Bloomberg.com. He added, “We view it as an unauthorized use of our trademark and have asked it to be stopped.”

From a PR perspective, Ford Motor Co. probably should have publicly ignored the incident altogether. By commenting on the mayor, the company is fostering a connection between itself and the scandal.

That is not to say the company shouldn’t have privately reached out and asked Rob Ford to stop using its logo. Still, there was no reason for Ford Motor Co. to publicly acknowledge Mayor Ford's existence in the first place.

Why give journalists a reason to align your brand with a scandal?

It's unlikely that the episode will negatively impact Ford’s car or truck sales, or damage its reputation. However, it will keep its communication team busy for a few days as they look to disassociate the company  from the mayor.

Incidents like these don't necessarily lead to a crisis. But they can cause hiccups in your communications strategy and force you to into a defensive posture. And that is why sometimes “no comment” is one of the best ways to stay on message.

Follow Caysey Welton: @CayseyW

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About Caysey Welton

Caysey Welton is Associate Editor at PR News and Folio: Magazine. He spent more than a decade as a chef and restaurant professional before switching tracks to pursue his passion for media and communications. Caysey has a deep interest in converging media landscapes and ecosystem disruptors, public relations and crisis communications. He holds a BS in Media, Culture and Communications from New York University.

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  • ronellsmith

    Casey, I could not agree more regarding Ford’s insertion into this mess. And for the mayor it amounts to a “dispersal of blame” as he and FoMoCo attempt extrication from the same mess.