Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson’s York operations were no longer competitive or sustainable. If the company was unable to achieve cost and efficiency targets to make the operations viable, it would relocate its York operations, resulting in the loss of 2,000 jobs. To maintain the York facility, Harley needed significant labor concessions, changes to work rules, and facility improvements, potentially with government support. Harley wanted to demonstrate transparency in the process and make the case that changes were needed.

Bellevue was hired to provide strategic communications counsel to Harley to achieve its goals, which required a nuanced approach to communicating the economic challenges and options being contemplated by the company with divergent internal and external audiences. Internally, Bellevue worked with Harley to develop a letter from management to all York employees; messaging and presentation materials for town hall meetings; and e-mail updates/published bulletins to employees to keep them informed. Externally, we worked with Harley to identify key media personnel in the York market to participate in Harley earnings calls to convey the magnitude of the challenges facing the company; identified key reporters for individualized outreach by Harley’s CEO and other top executives; developed letters from Harley’s CEO to Sen. Bob Casey and other targeted elected officials to brief them on the situation and arrange one-on-one briefings; developed key message points for executives to use with external stakeholders, elected officials, and the media; and developed op-eds and letters to the editor.

The communications effort was a success. Labor unions agreed to significant concessions to save the plant and protect jobs. Employees understood the magnitude of the crisis at the plant to the point that some said they would give up their jobs to protect the jobs of co-workers. Bellevue also worked with Governor Ed Rendell to support Harley’s efforts, which helped secure funding for necessary facility improvements.