Goodyear senior VP and chief communications officer Laura Duda outlines the steps that companies need to take to reposition themselves outside their traditional verticals in the latest “PR’s Top Pros Talk” video interview with Doug Simon.

At Goodyear, that repositioning is meant to change the perception of the company from simply a tire producer to a technology-driven mobility company. “A lot of what we do in the communications department is to help tell the story of our innovation and technology in ways that help people see us in a different, broader light,” Duda says.

So while her job is still focused on creating “top-of-mind awareness” among consumers who are shopping for tires, she also has to make sure that Goodyear’s messaging targets what she calls the “future mobility space,” which includes electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and consumer fleets.

Goodyear is also in the process of acquiring Cooper Tire, and Duda stresses the role internal communications play in that process. “A lot of the ways that mergers have gone bad in history is probably because of cultures just not fitting, employees just not wanting to be part of the combined entity,” Duda tells Simon. “We work closely on making sure we keep employees engaged, and we keep the information flowing back and forth.”

She also talks about working with Bridgestone, a major competitor, on the formation of a distribution company called Tire Hub. “You have to remain fierce competitors, but you also have to build this entity that's going to serve both and provide value for the tire industry. So, from a communications perspective, it's just like any other partnership.”

CEOs have started playing a more prominent role in communications over the past year, and Duda discusses the ins and outs of positioning Goodyear CEO Rich Kramer as the public face of the company in a variety of settings.

“With all of these things”, she says, “there's always the idea that it's a give and take. We're not buying an advertisement. We're not going to get the story exactly our way. But we will have a chance to have our voice heard and talk about our technology and talk about our products and probably will need to answer some other items as well.”

Duda also explains why Goodyear has chosen to play a somewhat non-political role in the current polarized political environment. “We haven't typically gone out with massive statements simply because our fear is that if this isn't an authentic part of your brand and nobody's asking you for your position on an issue, it can come dangerously close to looking like you're trying to build your brand on the back of a tragic, difficult, challenging situation.”

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