All thanks to Derek DeVries, the professional advisor for Grand Valleys PRSSA chapter, I had the exclusive opportunity to attend the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). When the opportunity was announced, I thought to myself: “it’s on a weekday,” “I’d have to skip class,” and “driving to and from Detroit is a 5-hour round-trip trek.” But I, being myself, pushed past my doubts about attending, and boy am I glad that I did.
I did not know anything about the automotive industry when I said yes to this opportunity but, I left the Motor City knowing a lot more than I did before. The same goes for how a lot of PR clients are—you may not be familiar with the client’s industry but you can quickly pick it up through research and an in-person experience such as NAIAS. One aspect of NAIAS that I appreciated was the corporate social responsibility the show exhibits every year with its charity preview. The charity preview is the largest, one-night fundraiser in the nation that raises money for sick or underprivileged children in Michigan. Working with charities builds a good reputation for NAIAS, especially because the industry attracts a lot of revenue.
Although NAIAS is open to the public for the last week of NAIAS, the showroom was my oyster before anyone else. Meaning, the Auto Show wasn’t open to the public yet; rather, it was Industry Preview Week. The only other attendees that were allowed in the showroom were auto engineers, auto makers and the media. I watched first-hand how the engineers lifted the hoods of the cars, studied the engines, and basically picked the car apart to study how the hottest cars of 2017 were made.
The experience alone was something I will never forget and as I write this blog it’s hard to even find the words to capture the feeling of being in a 800,000-square foot showroom. As a PR major, I was specifically intrigued by the tactics that auto makers used to create either a call to action or brand awareness for their company. For example, Ford had a 3-person simulation of what it felt like to drive their GT Race car. To participate in the test drive you had to sign an agreement form and provide your email… call to action, check. Likewise, Denso Auto Parts had a virtual reality attraction that engaged attendees to associate Denso’s brand with the possibility of flying cars in the future.
Attending the North American International Auto Show made me feel like a grain of sand. This large-scale, billion-dollar, cultural auto show that traffics more than 100,000 attendees showed me how PR planning is so essential. These auto brands would not be able to compete at the auto show without a solid PR team behind them. How would brands come up with their consumer engagement tactics without the help of a PR team? How would brands be represented to the media about their unique assets without strategic PR? Even the planning committee for the auto show itself would not grow to be what it is today without PR. Not only did NAIAS teach me more about the auto industry, but it also showed me the role PR must play in the industry.
Bri is a junior at GVSU. Her major is advertising and public relations with an emphasis in PR, but she is also passionate about photography and the creativity behind it. She serves as the Vice President of Member Services for PRSSA as well as an Account Executive for GrandPR. This semester, she is interning for Well Design Studio which will require research, graphic design, and campaign planning. One of Bri’s favorite aspects of PR is media relations. She loves meeting new people and being an advocate for others. In her free time, you will find her thinking of the perfect Instagram caption, writing articles for The Odyssey Online, making "to do" lists, and binge-watching Netflix with her cat.