Three years ago, Ford Motor Company’s vice president of communications Ray Day and his team of public relations professionals—a staff of 200 plus 100 partners in the agency world—set themselves three simple goals: to improve Ford’s reputation among all audiences, build purchase consideration of its products and expand its communications capability and expertise.

Given the state of the American automotive industry at the time—most of the media discussion concerned impending bankruptcies and government bailouts—those seemed like ambitious goals, but three years later it is clear that Ford has accomplished them, and that Day’s contribution is worthy of one of our 2011 SABRE Awards for Individual Achievement.

In his role at Ford, Day leads the company’s global external and internal communications and public relations activities. His role includes building the company's reputation globally and leading communications that reach Ford's key audiences, including customers, employees, dealers, suppliers, news media, communities, governments and policy-makers.

He was appointed to his position in 2007, after serving as executive director of global corporate communications and executive director of global automotive communications and spending more than two decades with the company, including four years in Europe. He also led Ford's print and television employee communications network, helping it become an internal communications benchmark throughout the industry.

Ray Day has learned to thrive in a tough media environment, with a focus on new products, a hunger for new ideas (such as the industry’s first-ever Facebook product reveal and a nine-city media blitz for the all-new Explorer) and a leadership style that pushes his team to turn crisis into opportunity. So when the media were focused on the Toyota recall, Day countered with a 54-city grassroots campaign touting Ford’s new safety features (garnering more than 325 stories).

And when news leaked that the Mercury brand was being discontinued, Day mobilized his team to get ahead of the news and turn attention from the end of Mercury to a new beginning for Lincoln.

As a result of all this, Ford’s reputation is now the best in the auto industry as measured by several third-party sources. The company is gaining market share for the first time in more than a decade. And its communications is now being benchmarked as best practice by several Fortune 500 companies.

Day was a newspaper reporter and editor in the Detroit area before joining Ford. He currently serves on the boards of the Automotive Hall of Fame and Detroit Public Television. He also is a member of the organizing committee of The Seminar for public relations and a member of the Arthur W. Page Society.

Ray Day—alongside Ray Kotcher, Doug Spong and Christa Carone—will be one of four senior industry leaders to receive a 2011 Individual Achievement SABRE Award at our annual awards dinner, to be held at New York’s Cipriani on May 10.