General Motors reviews internal PR function

DETROIT: PR professionals at General Motors Corp. (GM) face potential downsizing related to last week's announcement of companywide cuts.

DETROIT: PR professionals at General Motors Corp. (GM) face potential downsizing related to last week's announcement of companywide cuts.

Communications, like other sectors, is under review for reductions that will cause the greatest output and most efficiency, said Steve Harris, GM VP of global communications.

The automaker first unveiled a series of cutbacks in June to improve the company's position. It pinpointed the struggling US economy, fuel price increases, and changing consumer tastes for the latest cuts, which, according to a statement, aim to create $15 billion in cash through 2009.

Spending with its PR agencies, including Weber Shandwick and Manning, Selvage & Lee (MS&L)'s TMG Strategies was reduced beginning in June and further cuts were under consideration, Harris said.

Dan McGinn, president of TMG, said the agency, which oversees grassroots initiatives and has partnered with the company for nearly 10 years, has found ways to cut back on spending as part of its “cooperative relationship” with GM. He added, “part of [our] challenge is to show more entrepreneurial spirit, with less [resources].”

WS declined to comment.

Harris noted that the consolidation and cutting of the sales and marketing budgets means that GM's internal PR team might also receive added project work as the company "will need resources to apply elsewhere, possibly communications.”

“The value [non-paid] public relations activities offer is recognized and sought after,” he said. “When resources become more scarce, our organization turns to communications.”

Key messaging, from a PR standpoint, will continue to be based on “transparency, about where we're going with our business, new products, and the challenges [we face],” said Kelly Cusinato, GM manager, advertising and marketing communications.

Although GM's marketing and PR are separate departments with their own leadership and budgets, the teams' work frequently overlaps.

“The staffs are very integrated on a daily basis,” said Cusinato. “In particular, in areas of promotions and even day-to-day communications and marketing activities to make sure messaging is consistent and go to market with relations plans that leverage one another.”

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