A motor industry secret

Twice a year organises a meeting of press fleet administrators (PFA) for the UK motor industry.  This is quite an amazing thing as it involves people whose job is essentially competitive, sharing best practice, experiences and looking at ways to collectively improve.  But more than those professional benefits, it provides a great way of networking with other people who understand exactly what your job involves.

One of the things that I had put on the agenda was to start to document exactly what a PFA’s job does involve.  And, more importantly, to start to understand the skills, knowledge and competencies of the position.  This is part of a project to create a development framework for those working in PR in the motor industry.

This should help members by providing a better analysis of specific roles, but also enable training to be mapped against requirements for individuals and their functions.

I decided to start with the PFAs because, in my view, they are the unsung heroes of the automotive PR department.  They are often the first, if not only, point of contact and need the skills of a diplomat, a brand expert, and the skin of an elephant to cope with the sometimes aggressive nature of journalists seeking to road test vehicles.

In fact, one of the most illuminating parts of the meeting is a review of journalists and collective experiences.  It is rumoured amongst the automotive hacks that the PFAs have a blacklist of journalists – indeed, even the mere fact that we meet makes some media nervous.

This is no bad thing as it maybe deters those media who tend to play one PFA off against another to gain a car loan advantage.  But really the benefit of this meeting is to help those new to their role make friends and realise they are not alone – and provide a great opportunity to share experiences among the group.

I really enjoy this meeting as the PFAs are a great group and welcome newcomers in a way that is hard to imagine in the competitive automotive world.  I’m not sure if such a meeting could or does exist elsewhere – but it is a great case study of how working together helps benefit everyone.

We are really fortunate that members volunteer to host the meeting and today we visited the BMW Group training academy near Reading.  This is a fabulous facility and shows the real investment that is made in the industry to improve the skills of those working in car sales and aftersales.  Such as shame that the general perception of those in the motortrade doesn’t reflect the professionalism we saw today.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.