Talking PR at the New York Auto Show

At the 2007 New York International Auto Show I sat down with Tony Cervone, General Motors NA VP communications, to talk about the role PR...

At the 2007 New York International Auto Show I sat down with Tony Cervone, General Motors NA VP communications, to talk about the role PR would be playing for GM in 2007.

Cervone said that while PR may not play a bigger role for GM than it did in 2006, the focus will definitely be different.

“Last year there were reports that GM was filing for bankruptcy so there was a lot of focus on that,” Cervone said. “Now it’s about the turnaround and transformation of the company. Fundamentally we are a different company than we were last year. So a lot of the focus for us in the communications department is going to be talking about advanced technology, our brands, and the design of our cars.”

A wider range of media will be targeted as well this year, Cervone said, and it will use its various agencies to do that. GM works with a number of agencies including big ones such as Weber Shandwick and Hass MS&L to smaller shops like the McGinn Group. He said the days of one large agency doing everything are over.
“There has been a clear development of individualizing communications, and it’s a lot different than what we learned in J school,” Cervone said. “Years ago, the approach was to start nationally and let it trickle down from there to the local levels. But now, we have to be more focused and explain to people on very local levels why our message and our company is relevant to their market.”

Cervone said he sees agencies partnering more and more to tap their respective fields of expertise for better execution.

Another focus for the communications department will be how to get involved in the online discussions that take place between influencers and consumers. Cervone said, at one time, a consumer would lean over the fence and talk to his neighbor about whether or not he should buy a specific car.

“But now everyone has millions of neighbors with an opinion online,” he explained. He said GM would possibly be increasing its budget and resources in the area of online communications.

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