In the Trenches with Warren Buffett: How Zeno Helped Pilot Flying J Navigate A Major Company Milestone


October 3rd, 2017 marked a company first for Pilot Flying J – a family owned and operated company for nearly 60 years jointly announced that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway had made a significant minority investment in the company.  As the largest operator of travel centers in North America and privately-owned – ensuring this announcement was accurately communicated and resulted in a positive halo around the company was key.


In preparation for the announcement, Zeno developed an embargoed media and leak strategy.  The original announcement was planned for October 2nd, but due to the Las Vegas concert tragedy, Zeno pivoted and moved the announcement to Oct. 3rd, then worked quickly with a handful of key reporters in short-staffed newsrooms to set the tone and narrative. The team shifted exclusive targets and media contacts to ensure impact as the embargo was lifted and the press release went over the wire.

Because the company was simultaneously making negative headlines around a number of former employees on trial for rebate fraud, there were local sensitivities around negative news headlines.  The strategy to mitigate that included embargoes given to select national print reporters, one national broadcast and two local reporters to show good will. Zeno handled all media engagement for both Pilot Flying J and Warren Buffett. The outcome: media heavily leveraged the core messaging, quotes and the strategic narrative of Berkshire Hathaway’s investment as a testament to Pilot Flying J’s strength as an industry leader and Warren Buffett’s confidence in the trucking industry.

Five in-depth, well-positioned pieces in CNBC, Bloomberg, Associated Press, the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Tennessean with both Warren and Jimmy drove the narrative, ultimately resulting in almost a thousand media placements, 2.2B+ earned traditional and paid media impressions.