Edelman taps GM's Grates to head new Change unit

NEW YORK: Edelman has hired GM’s top North American communications officer Gary Grates to lead a newly branded practice focused on communicating corporate change issues to employees.

NEW YORK: Edelman has hired GM’s top North American communications officer Gary Grates to lead a newly branded practice focused on communicating corporate change issues to employees.

Grates, former GM VP of communications and most recently its senior advisor for strategic communications policy, will join Edelman as president and global managing director of the new unit, Edelman Change.

In addition to roles as GM's senior corporate communications executive for North America and global leader of internal communications, Grates has counseled companies like Dell, Shell, Visa, Novartis, and Coca-Cola.

Before joining GM, Grates was chairman and president of GCI BoxenbaumGrates, a strategic communications consultancy specializing in change management and internal communications, and a unit of GCI Group.

"Edelman has had a very successful employee engagement practice dealing with sophisticated internal communications systems, programs, and structures," he said, "which is basically something I've grown up in the business with and enjoy." Grates sold BoxenbaumGrates to GCI in 1999, but stayed with the agency. "GM had hired us in 2000 to run the business as an outside firm," he said.

During Grates' time at GM, the company experienced a wide range of corporate woes, including financial losses, a plummet in market share, executive staff reshuffles, and increasing speculation over the health of some its marquee brands.

"Communicating internal change has become one of the top three priorities of CEOs today," said Grates. His work at Edelman will center on improving employee engagement through research, labor relations, training, and corporate positioning.

Grates said a critical issue is knowing whom employees trust - who the "credible messengers" are. "Without trust and credibility, a strategy is almost dead on arrival," he noted.

Edelman Change will seek new business outside Edelman, as well as new opportunities with existing Edelman clients, Grates said.

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