GM slashes PR staff, agencies will follow

DETROIT: General Motors' communications department is the latest victim of the company-wide mandate to cut expenses, with 10% of the 600-strong workforce facing the axe.

DETROIT: General Motors' communications department is the latest victim of the company-wide mandate to cut expenses, with 10% of the 600-strong workforce facing the axe.

DETROIT: General Motors' communications department is the latest victim of the company-wide mandate to cut expenses, with 10% of the 600-strong workforce facing the axe.

At the same time, its numerous outside PR agencies are under scrutiny and there will be an attempt to reduce expenses on that front as well.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner has called for the 10% cut in GM's North American white-collar workforce. The communications department will try to comply with that order through attrition rather than redundancies. 'Hopefully, we'll do it in the least painful way,' said Steve Harris, VP of communications.

GM works with 40 different PR agencies but has no agency of record. Harris said he will spend the first quarter of this year looking at those agency relationships to 'see if we can do it more efficiently.'

Harris recently completed a two-year reorganization of the GM communications department designed to make it more responsive and proactive when it comes to publicizing GM products.

The expected cuts won't hamper his efforts to improve GM PR efforts, Harris said.

'We're going to a period in which we have to make every dollar count,' he explained. 'This is an opportunity to see who are the really creative people in GM PR.'

This isn't the first time that Harris, who joined GM in early 1999, has had to cope with a lean budget. He encountered a similar situation while working for the former Chrysler, where he earned a reputation for garnering positive PR using minimal financial resources.

Harris will be providing PR support for eight new concept cars GM plans to unveil at four major US auto shows this year. His department also will handle publicity for new models from Chevrolet and Buick, as well as in the heavy-duty truck and mid-size SUV categories. Work has also begun on a GM corporate branding effort. Finally, he is overseeing development of a new employee Web portal designed to improve internal communications.

With a budget in the 'tens of millions of dollars category,' Harris said he'll have sufficient resources to handle these projects.





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