DETROIT: Filing bankruptcy on June 1, General Motors Corp (GM) announced it would downsize its holdings to four key brands and operations. With a leaner “new GM” expected to launch in the next 60 to 90 days, the communications team is presently seeking to inspire consumer confidence with a variety of different PR initiatives.
“Right now, it is very difficult to get anyone, media or consumers, to look beyond the bankruptcy proceedings," said Steve Harris, GM's VP of global communications. "Not that we are not trying,”
Over the next 16 weeks, the company will unveil several product launches and innovations, such as the opening of a new battery laboratory on June 8.
Along with new advertising presenting a “leaner, greener, faster, smarter” GM, the communications function has been a “core element participating in the reinvention" of the company, said Harris.
Presently, the communications budget has remained “relatively stable,” but the new GM's communications team faces a “significant number” of staff cuts, similar to the reductions made in May.
Longtime agency partners, Weber Shandwick and MS&L Worldwide, who belong respectively to debtor holding companies Interpublic Group and Publicis Groupe, will continue to assist the automaker with a variety of communications projects. Both agencies declined comment on owed fees.
Working with these partners, the communications strategy will be tailored to greater customer engagement and increased social media efforts.
The company will provide “virtually” daily updates, as the company seeks to move forward through the bankruptcy proceedings.
Another online tactic will be ongoing webcasts and digital conversations with top executives, including new CEO Fritz Henderson, who has sought to inject more transparency into the organization.
In the past, "we tended to want to have every answer, and every i dotted and t crossed before we got out there," said Harris. ”“Fritz feels more strongly about giving [media] 80% of the information."
Also, the company will continue to mobilize the “army of GM advocates,” including employees, retirees, dealers, and suppliers, to speak on the company's behalf, as it has sought to do over the past few months.
“We're asking them to do it, and giving them the tools and information to get out there and tell the GM story,” said Harris.
The company's own media strategy “from June 1 on has been to hold the microphone as long as we could and put our people everywhere we could be responsive,” he noted.
“As difficult and as sad as this was for many of us to have this occur…in a way it was really exhilarating for the team, and for a lot people it was a good learning experience,” said Harris. “People stretched and were able to cross over activities. It was difficult but a lot was gained.”