GM takes regional approach to storytelling

DETROIT: General Motors is managing a storytelling website to engage consumers and stakeholders around the country with content unique to specific regions.

DETROIT: General Motors is managing a storytelling website to engage consumers and stakeholders around the country with content unique to specific regions.

The Drive the District platform, which soft-launched a month ago, is still in beta to allow the team to gather feedback from users and fix glitches, said Dave Barthmuss, group manager for policy and product at GM.

He added that Weber, which has worked with the automaker since 2000, came to the company with the regional storytelling idea and helped to develop the platform. He declined to disclose budget information for the project.

Weber has umbrella responsibilities over the site, as well as content-specific duties for the Western region of the US, said Barthmuss. The firm is also making sure the content for the East Coast, which is managed by GM and MSLGroup, follows the same principles as the West region.

β€œ[Drive the District] is important for me on a regional level because I am focused on grassroots communications and stakeholder engagement,” explained Barthmuss β€œIt's a terrific way for us to humanize the company and get people engaged in conversations and used to our products and company in a way that is really relevant.”

The site's content incorporates more photos and videos than long narrative posts, and GM wants to encourage user-generated content, as well.

Each regional district, such as New York or Boston, has its own content. Cities now featured include Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, with plans to launch more.

Although the site is in beta, Barthmuss said the company is promoting the platform through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Chris Perry, president of digital at Weber, said the firm is taking a step-by-step approach to spread the word about the tool. The agency is opening up the platform internally at GM and to influencers with whom the agency has worked in the past. When the content is ready and the Interpublic Group firm has reviewed more feedback, Weber will promote it more widely.

Four years ago, GM launched a West Coast storytelling blog called The Future is Electric with the help of Weber, but Barthmuss said the platform posted many regenerated news releases and event recaps rather than focusing on visuals and user-generated content. In 2005, GM launched the company's FastLane corporate blog. 

This story was updated on June 26 to correct the fact that Weber was not involved in the 2005 launch of GM's FastLane corporate blog. 

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