Cars have always been my biggest passion and interest. Growing up, I didn’t quite know how I wanted to work in the automotive field, but I knew I did. As I progressed through college at Wayne State University, it became clear I wanted to pursue the field of public relations. That’s why accepting an internship at Lambert was so exciting – its impressive array of automotive and mobility clients has positioned me exactly on the career path I am looking for.

Just weeks into my internship, I learned Lambert had a particular automotive client that excited me most of all: NACTOY. That fancy acronym stands for the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year™ – one of the most prestigious award programs in the automotive industry.

At first, I was simply excited to be a part of announcing the three winning vehicles. But during our preparations for the announcement and the press conference itself, I learned NACTOY is so much more important than simply recognizing the best new cars on sale today. It’s significant for all parties involved: automakers, automotive media and Lambert itself.

Let’s start with the automakers. Manufacturers with a winning vehicle – this year, that’s Ford with the Bronco and Maverick (utility vehicle and truck of the year, respectively) and Honda’s Civic as car of the year – place an incredibly high value on NACTOY awards. Even automakers whose vehicles do not make it to the nine finalists follow the awards carefully. Here’s why: A NACTOY win is a decision reached after 50 independent jurors vote and their collective results are tallied rather than a single publication’s award. For all of 2022, Ford and Honda will highlight their NACTOY wins across their PR and marketing efforts. Because of this importance, each automaker with a finalist had a full PR team on site for the event, in some cases including their top communications officers.

As our team at Lambert worked with several key partners to prepare for the event and announcement there was a genuine sense of anticipation building inside Detroit’s Huntington Place ballroom. Afterwards, Ford and Honda executives gleefully posed for photos.

Remember, these awards matter and the automakers know it. Take upstart automakers Rivian and Lucid: Rivian was a truck finalist with their electric, adventure-seeking R1T while Lucid was a car finalist with their also electric Air luxury sedan. While neither vehicle won, it’s a victory in itself for the brand-new automakers’ first-ever products to be considered finalists.

While networking with automaker’s communication teams was great a professional development opportunity and enjoyable, the journalists were Lambert’s focus, and not just the dozens that attended the press conference. Most automotive awards are only reported on by the outlet that issues them, but NACTOY’s awards are covered by dozens of publications. Our push for media coverage for the event and its winners used NACTOY’s characteristics to our advantage: importance and independence.

This year, NACTOY decided to return to an in-person press conference after holding a virtual event last year. But we also recognized the realities of the current COVID climate, leading us to offer the press conference virtually as well. We promoted the event by issuing several media advisories and supported that outreach with social media posts that provided the option of attending in-person or watching a livestream. By offering both, we also extended our reach to non-local media who wanted the conference experience without the travel. More than 130 people registered to attend, the vast majority in person.

Finally, the press release announcing the NACTOY winners was distributed to media outlets individually and went live on PR Newswire immediately following the event. This resulted in widespread news coverage, with more than 200 outlets publishing stories about the 2022 NACTOY winners, including both local and national newspapers, online outlets, local television and radio sources. The media coverage reached an estimated 304 million views. The press release itself resulted in around 270 RSS articles, generating another 161 million views.

Personally, this was the first press conference and multi-media campaign I’ve had an opportunity to play a key role in from day one and one of the best learning experiences I’ve had at Lambert. At the event, I was able to see months of work come together, and also become immersed in the industry I’m passionate about and network with the best in the business. To my surprise, the cars faded to the background as the world of PR enveloped me.

At that moment, it became clear to me why NACTOY is so important to Lambert as a firm. Everyone attending the conference and each journalist reading the press release sees Lambert as a NACTOY partner, boosting our recognition and credibility in the industry. It also keeps the firm in touch with automaker PR reps and automotive media alike, both of which benefit our other automotive clients. NACTOY is more than a client: it’s a partnership that keeps Lambert solidly positioned within the heart of the automotive industry.

Helping organize such an iconic awards program was impactful and unforgettable for me at a personal level, but only through being a part of it did I truly understand why NACTOY matters so much to the industry and to Lambert.

Sam Krahn is a senior at Wayne State University majoring in Public Relations and Journalism.

Photo: Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s President of the Americas & International Markets Group, poses for a photo in front of the Ford Maverick, which was named North American Truck of the Year. Credit: David Freer/DADA