Amoco Motor Club was prepared to scrap what it had once hoped would become a powerful marketing tool. The motor club contracted with more than 7,000 service stations and towing companies to provide emergency road services to its members, and the marketing team had created a bimonthly publication called Pro Tower to convey key information to those companies. The need was urgent, because changes in automotive design were affecting the way vehicles needed to be towed, and traditional towing methods could result in damage to some models.

An advertising agency had been angling for business from the motor club, and the manager threw the newsletter out as an opportunity. If the agency could find a way to make it work (especially at a lower cost), Amoco would open the door to more projects. But prospects were bleak. A telephone survey discovered that most recipients didn’t even remember seeing the publication, and those who did invariably hated it. “It’s nothing bunch of PR about who got promoted at Amoco,” one griped. When asked what he’d rather read, he explained that he was trying to stay in business and needed serious, useful advice.

Scott Flood was given the task of turning the publication around. He worked with Amoco’s field staff to identify towing operators who were using innovative approaches to solve common problems. Rather than tell readers “you should be using this strategy,” he shared accounts of their peers who were using that strategy successfully. Before long, towing companies were asking to be profiled, and manufacturers were asking the publication to relay information about new techniques and products.

Within a year, the once-foundering newsletter had improved to the point at which it attracted paid advertising. Just as important, Amoco recognized the ad agency’s work and began sending it projects from several different divisions. Thanks to the newsletter’s turnaround, the agency had earned a reputation as problem-solver.