GM introduces 'new company,' shifts comms to products

DETROIT: Besides changes to General Motors' communications staff, the company is planning a number of new communications initiatives to introduce the "new General Motors company."

DETROIT: Besides changes to General Motors' communications staff, the company is planning a number of new communications initiatives to introduce the “new General Motors company.”

In a statement announcing the company's emergence from bankruptcy, GM highlighted the overall communications steps it plans to take to engage more directly with customers and employees. Some of these include more travel in the US and abroad for senior management, including CEO Fritz Henderson, in order to meet with employers, dealers, customers, and others; it also includes the addition to the Reinvention site, “Tell Fritz,” where audiences can share feedback and suggestions with senior management. Tell Fritz, which follows a Twitter model, with a 255-character maximum for consumer entries, went live on the GM Reinvention site on July 17.

When asked what sort of impact the recently announced departure of its head of communications, Steve Harris, would have on the company's PR approach, Tom Wilkinson, GM's director of news relations, focused on these plans.

“We made it clear that we're looking now to refocus efforts,” said Wilkinson. “A lot in the past year has been on corporate issues. Now that the new company has launched, we want to turn back to products, technology, and communicating with customers about the new products that we have in the market.”

Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman, who recently returned from a brief retirement to a new role where he is leading the marcomms function, reiterated that communications goal during a Webchat on July 11, when he wrote: “My top priority now is to enhance the ability of GM to let the public know about what great cars and trucks we build. For all the money spent in the past, this seemingly simple task has eluded us.”

There is a “perception gap” among customers that the automaker hopes to close by using all of its marketing tools, including Twitter, blogs, and other social media platforms, Wilkinson added.

Still, corporate matters are important. Lutz raised eyebrows last week when he said the company will be run “like a private company.” Wilkinson clarified the statement, saying the comment was made in response to an inquiry about whether the government will be involved in the daily business operations.

“President Obama has expressed that GM will be run as a business,” added Wilkinson. “The goal is to have the business be successful so taxpayers can get back their investment. You can run a business in an open and transparent manner and still have the objective of the business being successful in the marketplace. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

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