Automotive Panel Offers Insights to Detroit’s PRSA and IABC Chapters

By: Megan Peterson


On February 24, 2016 IABC Detroit and PRSA Detroit once again came together to learn from the pros about automotive communications. The program, “Re-igniting Communication for a New Auto Industry” was packed full of ‘home run hitters’: Jim Fisher, APR, director of corporate commutations at Visteon; Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.; Tony Sapienza, communications director for Faurecia; Peter Ternes, retired General Motors senior communications strategist. The panel was moderated by Valeo North America’s Regional Communications Director Dan Saad.

Dan Saad

Panel Moderator Dan Saad

Social Media

One reoccurring theme of the panel was social media and its ever-growing importance in the auto industry.

  • Terney noted the importance of training internal staff to understand that they are always inadvertently representing the company/brand, even on their personal social channels.
  • Sapienza mentioned that social media is now a global matter, and analyzing each platform for every demographic within automotive companies’ is crucial. He went on to say that Faurecia is currently evaluating its efforts/resources for each social channel based on need/audience.
  • Fisher urged the importance of video on social media, and how channels such as Vine are great tools to provide visual insight into automotive

Automotive Cross-Over & Collaboration

  • Fisher called out that after the recession, a lot of the tense nature/competitiveness of the automotive industry was cast aside. He said there is a continuing momentum for auto companies to collaborate and continually create partnerships.
  • Sapienza used the analogy that if a phone dies, a consumer can simply recharge – but if your car’s computer dies going 70 miles per hour on the highway – it’s life or death. Essentially, technology/IT has become an integrated part of the auto industry.
  • McAllister noted that relationships amongst partners have become more collaborative as well. He provided the example that at tradeshows, Toyota and its partners coordinate media relations efforts so that each company can highlight its contributions equally.


Another common topic was recruiting new automotive workforce – particularly in millennials.

  • Terney mentioned a statistic he recently read stating that the average time a millennial stays with one company is sixteen months… Meaning that it’s crucial for the automotive industry to implement stimulating opportunities to retain new hires.
  • McAllister said the top five requirements of communications new hires at Toyota are: writing, media relations, events, executive counsel and crisis counsel.
  • Sapienza echoed that writing was the number one quality Faurecia looks for in communications personnel.

auto panelMany thanks to all the panel speakers for their time, Valeo for hosting/moderating the event and IABC for inviting PRSA members to attend.


Megan Peterson is a Communications Executive at MCCI (Mort Crim Communications, Inc.), a Detroit Economic Club Young Leader member, a national/Detroit chapter member of PRSA and a PR volunteer for The Lake House in St. Clair Shores.