DETROIT: Jeff Eller left his role as EVP and co-chair of Hill+Knowlton Strategies' global crisis practice last week. He is now supporting General Motors as it responds to the public and congressional outcry over its decision not to recall Chevrolet Cobalts with faulty ignition switches for more than a decade.
On Thursday, GM confirmed that it had retained Eller as a crisis-management adviser. Greg Martin, the automaker’s executive director of communications, told PRWeek that it has no plans to hire another PR firm to help with crisis communications.
"As we have from the start, we are drawing upon those who have deep experience and expertise in these matters," GM said in a statement. "[Eller] will join a team that is helping us guide our response."
A representative from H+K, which works with GM rival Ford, was not immediately able to comment.
Eller founded The Jeff Eller Group this month, according to his LinkedIn profile. The firm does not have a website, and Eller declined to comment on the new agency or his work with GM.
Eller previously worked on a crisis situation for Firestone related to Ford Explorer tires in 2000, in which the company recalled millions of tires. Similar to GM’s current situation, Firestone also had to answer congressional inquiries and public outcry.
Eller was serving as MD at Public Strategies at the time after joining the firm in 1994 as MD. He was promoted to president and CEO in 2006, then took on the roles of vice chairman in 2009 and chairman in 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. WPP Group acquired the Austin, TX-based firm in 2006, and the firm was merged with Hill & Knowlton in 2010.
Prior to Public Strategies, Eller worked on the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign team in 1992, before serving in the White House as deputy assistant to the president and director of media affairs.
Former White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told Bloomberg News that GM has "made a very smart decision" by bringing on Eller, adding that he’s "very smart, very calm under pressure."
On Tuesday, GM CEO Mary Barra told Congress that the automaker retained Washington-based lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to explore compensation for families of accident victims. Feinberg has managed the compensation of victims after events such as mass shootings in Aurora, CO, and at Virginia Tech, as well as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.