Henry Ford Knew the Value of a Communications Strategy

In 1914, automaker Henry Ford, the man you revolutionized manufacturing, would do what was then unthinkable: he gave all of his employees a massive raise – more than twice what they previously earned.

Ford’s decisions would shock the country – and he knew it, but he was ready for it – supported in major part by a well-planned strategic communications strategy.

Back in the early 20th century, the communication channels were far more limited, but one of those channels – newspapers – was a more dominant form of communication, and Ford utilized the medium to great effect.

And he used one of the biggest, world renowned ones around – The New York Times – and did so in a masterful way.

When it was announced that Ford would be raising employee wages to $5.00 a day, a reporter from The New York Times traveled to the automaker’s hometown of Detroit to investigate the fallout from the announcement and change of the company’s average wage.

He arrived in the city and discovered manufacturers and employers panicking. Competing carmakers feared bankruptcy because they wouldn’t be able to keep match the new wage hike. Other employers thought they would be forced to leave Detroit altogether.

However, that same Times reporter would get an audience with Henry Ford himself, and over two days, they discussed the changes at Ford Motor Company. Notably, the business mogul would communicate the novel idea that by raising wages, he was in fact buying better work from employees. Ford stated, “If the floor sweeper’s heart is in his job, he can save us five dollars a day by picking up small tools instead of sweeping them out.” He would also later write, “We increased the buying power of our own people, and they increased the buying power of other people…”

What’s especially important to note here was that Henry Ford himself actively engaged with one of the most influential and widely read newspapers in the United States at the time. He was communicating to the media directly, and in turn, that newspaper’s audience which was made up of a huge audience (business leaders, investors, and of course, consumers).

Make no mistake: this two-day interview wasn’t an “off-the-cuff” decision. He was leveraging his personal reputation and put into print his business philosophy, and in doing so, created an unprecedented DISRUPTION within the automotive industry.

To say Ford’s idea succeeded would be an understatement. He outsold all other automakers combined that year – 308,000 Model Ts! – and the numbers continued to climb. By 1920, he was selling more than one million cars every year.

He would go to raise wages at least three more times until the stock market crash of 1929 his latest wage increase failed to invigorate a severely injured economy.

What began as what the masses saw as a “crazy” idea was so well communicated across Ford’s audiences – employees, critics, and consumers – was the actual idea of creating buying power.

Sure, it was strategy management distilled down to one individual (it was 1914) but not to diminish the impact, this was in many ways a simpler time. No television, no internet, no social media.

In a nutshell: This a distilled case of strategic communication rocking a massive industry.

At JOTO PR Disruptors, we utilize meticulously conducted market research for your Anti-PR* plan so that your communications line up precisely with your business goals. Then we go a step further and carefully monitor results to ensure your Anti-PR* is getting you the ROI you want.


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*Anti-PR definition: Anti-PR is really the difference between the existing apathy of the industry publicizing fluffy, no-result PR vs. our intolerance of mediocrity and our demand, skill and mastery in obtaining results. JoTo PR breaks the entire mold: We use the science of Crisis Management to manage our client’s messaging in order to disrupt. It’s like strapping turbojets onto “everyday PR” yielding unprecedented results.