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Failure of General Motors PR

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Link: http://www.autoextremist.com/page2.shtml#Rant

Detroit. On Monday, the Motor Press Guild announced the results of its first independent national survey of automotive journalists ranking the public relations operations of major automobile manufacturers. MPG, a non-profit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, is the nation’s largest professional association of automotive journalists and public relations practitioners. The survey was conducted among MPG’s more than 400 journalist members plus another 100 nationally recognized automotive writers who are not MPG members – and it represents the largest and most comprehensive study of automotive public relations performed in North America. MPG also claims that it is the only such survey to be formulated by journalists with the real day-to-day needs of journalists in mind.

And the results?

The journalists’ highest marks for overall satisfaction with media relations activities went to Daimler/Chrysler, Nissan and Volvo, while Mazda, Suzuki, General Motors and Mitsubishi scored lowest. Now, much of the feedback in the survey had to do with the day-to-day minutiae of the media’s typical interaction with auto company PR staffs, but nonetheless, the one glaring result of the survey – the fact that GM is one of the manufacturers at the bottom rung - echoes a much larger concern about GM that’s stirring from both inside and outside the corporation. And that is that General Motors is consistently losing the PR war on all fronts – and it’s costing them dearly in terms of their image with the media intelligentsia on both coasts, their image in Washington, and in the battle for the hearts and minds of the American consumer, a battle that’s being dominated on every level by Toyota, its most formidable competitor.

In many ways, GM’s lackluster performance in the Public Relations arena mirrors GM’s overall lackluster performance in the automobile business. Over the last 15 years - arrogance, complacency, a smug reticence, bad product decisions and even worse marketing maneuvers have marked GM’s (and Detroit’s) swoon into its market tailspin. And in GM’s case, its almost total failure in the PR arena over the last few years has crippled the company to devastating effect.

The result of this seemingly never-ending series of missteps is that not only has GM performance in the market deteriorated in a continuous erosion of market share, its public image has deteriorated to the point that a depressingly simplistic formula is being consistently applied by the mainstream media that goes something like this: GM = Bad, Toyota (or any import company, for that matter) = Good.

In GM’s case, you only have to look as far as what Toyota has managed to accomplish in such a short time with its Green initiatives to see how far back on its heels GM has been sent reeling. Toyota has not only caught GM napping, they have swooped in to become the world’s image leader in environmental marketing, completely usurping GM’s position as the world leader in advanced environmental research – a title that GM can easily still lay claim to, but a title that largely goes unnoticed because of the Green Fog of noble intentions that Toyota has pumped into the mainstream media and the American public’s consciousness.

GM has been caught flat-footed in the market for years, but now that they’re finally addressing their product deficiencies, they’re finding out the hard way that there’s more to it than just generating hot new cars and trucks. GM is discovering – albeit painfully - that its public image, along with the media’s perception of that image, is something that’s far more difficult to change. It’s bad enough that GM’s rampant discounting mentality over the last four years has cost it dearly in terms of public perception, turning it into "America’s Discount retailer" literally overnight, but that problem has been exacerbated and compounded by GM’s inability to portray itself in a positive light at virtually every turn. In other words, I would frame it as an abject failure on the part of its Public Relations function. And there are many reasons for it.

First of all, of the Detroit-based auto manufacturers, GM's PR staff is clearly the deepest and arguably one of the most talented groups operating today. Even by world standards, GM PR in my opinion is as talented as any car company’s out there, even when compared against Toyota’s vaunted PR staff – which I consider to be the best overall. But GM clearly doesn’t know how to use the PR talent at their disposal - and because of it they’re getting their hats handed to them by Toyota PR on a daily basis.

GM is clearly a company in crisis mode right now. They’re getting hammered at every turn by the card-carrying members of the anti-car, anti-Detroit intelligentsia in the Green movement and by the equally strident anti-Detroit media centers on both coasts, not to mention by a large faction of Washington political operatives who would like nothing better than to see GM – and Detroit - go down in flames. Add to this the fact that Toyota has gained the upper hand on GM at every turn, and you have a company that’s slumping against the ropes like a punch-drunk boxer about to go down for the count.

But even though GM is in crisis mode, its PR staff, as talented as it is, is seemingly ill-equipped to deal with the situation. Rather than acting to craft and project an aggressive new public stance for the company based on its strengths, GM PR's strategy seems to revolve around constantly rationalizing its competitive inadequacies - and it has failed the company at its most desperate hour because of it.

And a lot of that has to do with the leadership, or lack thereof, in GM’s PR department. Tom Kowaleski, GM’s veteran PR chief (and ex-Chrysler Group PR practitioner), is known for being product-savvy, and he's also known for his elaborately-staged product introductions at auto shows and lushly produced media events around the world. Kowaleski, who prides himself as being a tastemaker of esteemed stature, has personally orchestrated many of the more memorable media events around the world in recent years. But Kowaleski is equally notorious for playing favorites with the media – something that is anathema to members of the press who are trying to break stories. He’s also famous for holding grudges against certain members of the press and for making them pay for a long list of real or imagined sins, something that has engendered nothing but contempt from the media during his tenure. The media has their "long knives" out for GM almost on a daily basis, and much of this is due to their contempt for Kowaleski's infuriating practices. Needless to say, when GM needs every shred of positive reinforcement it can muster in the media, it's not getting it - for all of the wrong reasons. In short, Kowaleski’s selective expertise in product introductions is duly noted, but he is not a crisis PR manager, not by any stretch. And his aggressive, attack-dog mentality and openly adversarial relationship with the media has cost GM dearly under his reign.

But Kowaleski isn’t solely responsible for GM’s PR failure of late. A lot of it has to do with the fact that Rick Wagoner is generally reluctant to court the media or to make himself available for one-on-one interviews. Wagoner understandably wants others to take that role, and with executives like Bob Lutz and Mark LaNeve able to step in for him at a moment’s notice, it’s easy to see why he’d think that. But the one thing that Wagoner has been most reluctant to do with the media is to articulate a clear-cut plan for the company’s revival – and that’s the one thing that the media wants to hear from him more than anything else.

Like it or not, Rick Wagoner is the face of General Motors. As much as he doesn't want to deal with it, the buck does stop with him. He must change his attitude and stop viewing the media in general terms as "the enemy" - and go out on the stump and passionately present his company's position on a wide range of issues. And it can't happen on a one-shot media blitz either. He has to cultivate a presence with the media on a consistent basis if he wants to communicate GM's story effectively.

With the right senior person advising him, perhaps Rick would come to understand the crucial role PR must play in projecting the company’s image and defining the company’s position on various issues, because right now, GM is nowhere in terms of being able to generate positive coverage in the national media. And GM has a positive story to tell too – about product, about technology, about environmental expertise and about being a strong corporate entity interested in this country’s economic future. But right now, GM’s message is getting lost in a cacophony of bad news, bad vibes and bad attitudes.

GM is being taken to task on a daily basis by the media and by its foremost competitor because it has failed to understand the integral and powerful role Public Relations must play in the company’s revival and long-term survival. And until they get a grasp on the PR situation, it won’t matter how many "gotta have" products they can generate.
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In many ways, GM’s lackluster performance in the Public Relations arena mirrors GM’s overall lackluster performance in the automobile business. Over the last 15 years - arrogance, complacency, a smug reticence, bad product decisions and even worse marketing maneuvers have marked GM’s (and Detroit’s) swoon into its market tailspin. And in GM’s case, its almost total failure in the PR arena over the last few years has crippled the company to devastating effect....


Those go dang Union workers anyhow. :lol:

:CG_all:
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I guess he forgot that GM just hired Stephen J. Girsky back in August as a personal advisor to Rick Wagoner and the Senior management... :rolleyes:
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Yep, I love GM....but we have been saying these same things for awhile. I think GM is starting to see the seriousness of it all....they can't just coast on being the biggest anymore.
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Since when does the tale wag the dog? The report said that this was the opinions of the journalists, who we all know always tell the truth----- right? Auto journalists have been in love with anything sounding foreign-like since Deutchland Uber Alles fell down! The latest rants love anything from Mikado, and hate the theme of Yankee Doodle Dandy!
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No, what he's saying is that GM has not been good at massaging the media, and he's right. They let Toyota get the rep of being the "Green" manufacturer when they were the first ones out with electric cars, and have played it far too close to the vest with the fuel cell cars. I can see that the whole fuel cell thing is far away, but they really could have sold it a bit more- they had the HyWire (if I remember correctly) that was based upon the "skate": they should have done a few more bodies for it and had some drive alongs for the press: something to show them how easy it would be to refuel it, change the body, etc., along with hard numbers about how much better cost-wise it would stack up to a hybrid. They need to get people talking about this and pressuring for the infrastructure to support it- that was the way the first autos took off...
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AutoExtremest gives GM all the Gears, as we do here... he likes detroit... but just tries to show himself as a know it all... I think its good that GM has readjusted its crosshairs... GM has thrived over the years at being better then its cross town enemy Ford, and always making sure that they were a notch better then ford, and well Ford after 50 years of that, cracked and GM continued to just make sure they were better then ford... and going down with ford... Now that their going toward a much more worthwhile enemy, the battlefeild is on, and when more minds make a better decision and using "SEZ WHO" Stickers, I think GM is going to answer to no one and win the competition of the centry... but we will see how the New General handles PR
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I had a Dealer tell me that GM media events are one of the worst ones out there, and that GM doesn't "spoil" the media like the foreign manufactures month ago which is why the media tears GM apart. Hopefully with that type of knowledge in print, GM will make some changes. If they can't make the media happy, how can they expect them to recommend their cars?
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I'm going to have to agree with this article in general. Yes, the media is largely anti-American and thus anti-American businesses. BUT, a good marketing campaign (not a week long ad either) can overcome this. You don't see Diamler-Chrysler using it's new foreign owned status to sell cars do you?

I've said similar in other posts here. TOYota and Honduh sell lots of cars. And contrary to the media blather, it's NOT because they make superior products. IT'S BECAUSE THEY MARKET IT WELL. They shmooze up with all of the media folks.

I'll be the first to tell you, I HATE marketing. Unfortunately the consumer market (mostly lemmings) believe what the media tells them. Thus marketing is AS IMPORTANT as making a superior and 'gotta have' product.

I sincerely hope GM is waking up to this. If not, they'll be the next American Motors Corporation. :(

BTW: :CG_all: !
Mike
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GM needs a PR offensive. It needs to start with the Solstice and continue with every new or significant model across the board. It needs to show both EPA and real world fuel economy numbers. And it absolutely, positively has to be better, more intriguing and more exciting than everyone else. If PR cant get its act together, it doesn't matter if Captain Rick isn't there to talk shop with the media.
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GM needs a PR offensive.  It needs to start with the Solstice and continue with every new or significant model across the board.  It needs to show both EPA and real world fuel economy numbers.  And it absolutely, positively has to be better, more intriguing and more exciting than everyone else.  If PR cant get its act together, it doesn't matter if Captain Rick isn't there to talk shop with the media.

[post="22016"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


well it sure is nice, that GM is talking crap about Toyota then :Toyota:
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I'm going to have to agree with this article in general.  Yes, the media is largely anti-American and thus anti-American businesses.  BUT, a good marketing campaign (not a week long ad either) can overcome this. 

[post="21993"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


NO....the automotive media is not necessarily "anti-american"

Most of the automotive journalists are auto journalists BECAUSE they are also auto enthusiasts....

AND for many, many years....the domestic auto manufacturers have NOT offered vehicles that are as enjoyable for an enthusiast to drive. Not to mention the shitty quality and finish that many domestics have suffered from in recent decades...

PLEASE I wish people would stop using the "anti-american" excuse for the media.....simple fact is, until recently (Cadillac, Corvette, Trucks) the domestics have certainly NOT earned the respect of the auto (enthusiast) journalists...because they haven't offered anything that appealed to them.
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I've said similar in other posts here.  TOYota and Honduh sell lots of cars.  And contrary to the media blather, it's NOT because they make superior products.  IT'S BECAUSE THEY MARKET IT WELL.  They shmooze up with all of the media folks.


[post="21993"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Of course they "schmooz" the media....

BUT marketing doesn't do CRAP if you don't have a solid product to back it up. Toyota and Honda sells lots of cars because they HAVE been superior products for many, many years.

Yes, GM has closed the gap on Toyota and Honda from a product standpoint. In some cases, they are already there. In many other cases, they have a ways to go.

Product is king....remember that. The general buying public is not as stupid as many of you out there make them to be....
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NO....the automotive media is not necessarily "anti-american"
.....

[post="22071"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I didn't single out the automotive media. I said media, generally and I stand by my comments.

Look at Consumer Reports for instance. Any new Honduh, TOYota, etc is automatically given favorable ratings and vice versa with Domestics. I cancelled my membership with them years ago because of this. Perhaps thats "just" bias but it's still automatically negative towards the Domestics.

Of course they "schmooz" the media....

BUT marketing doesn't do CRAP if you don't have a solid product to back it up. Toyota and Honda sells lots of cars because they HAVE been superior products for many, many years.

Yes, GM has closed the gap on Toyota and Honda from a product standpoint. In some cases, they are already there. In many other cases, they have a ways to go.

Product is king....remember that. The general buying public is not as stupid as many of you out there make them to be....

[post="22071"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Of course the product is what matters. But the general buying public IS uninformed and happily so. I never suggested they were stupid. They DO believe what they read/see without verifying the story themselves. And what they read/see says that imports are better than Domestics. Only GM can change this with better PR and marketing.

Case in point. The Honduh Element is a good seller, the Ponitac Aztec failed miserably. Both are/were hideously ugly. Why is one selling better than the other? It's not the product thats for sure! Of course I'm simplifying here but you get the idea.
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You can have all the best products in the world, but if you don't inform people about them...they will just sit there or get stuck in a certain customer base. And not only informing, but presenting them in a way that compels people to take notice...present an image that the customer wants to assume. GM has failed miserably at this...and they used to be the master of marketing their cars and trucks.
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Case in point.  The Honduh Element is a good seller, the Ponitac Aztec failed miserably.  Both are/were hideously ugly.  Why is one selling better than the other?  It's not the product thats for sure!  Of course I'm simplifying here but you get the idea.

[post="22082"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Lutz even said if The Aztec was a Toyota it would be a great seller...
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Case in point.  The Honduh Element is a good seller, the Ponitac Aztec failed miserably.  Both are/were hideously ugly.  Why is one selling better than the other?  It's not the product thats for sure!  Of course I'm simplifying here but you get the idea.

[post="22082"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


First of all, many would argue the Element is FAR more attractive than the Aztec EVER was. Styling is purely subjective.....so your case-in-point is not valid.

Also, Element is less expensive....

Element gets better fuel economy....

Element has higher quality of fit-and-finish and material quality....(also subjective but many would agree that's oh so true when compared to Aztec.)

You can't compare the two....
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First of all, many would argue the Element is FAR more attractive than the Aztec EVER was.  Styling is purely subjective.....so your case-in-point is not valid. 

Also, Element is less expensive....

Element gets better fuel economy....

Element has higher quality of fit-and-finish and material quality....(also subjective but many would agree that's oh so true when compared to Aztec.)

You can't compare the two....

[post="22244"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


But most people do because of the obscene amounts of body cladding. C'mon man, usually you aren't this much of a Honda apologist...
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But most people do because of the obscene amounts of body cladding.  C'mon man, usually you aren't this much of a Honda apologist...

[post="22259"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I'm not......but c'mon.....compared to the Aztec?

I wouldn't buy an Element.....but I can admit it's executed FAR better than the Aztec ever was.....
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Honda's execution on the Element is far better than the Aztec -- but Honda does get a pass on things GM used to get criticized for.

The heavy use of plastic cladding is just one of them. The interior of the new Ridgeline is one unbelievably bad in terms of low-grade, hard plastics. Lastly, when GM used the high-mount rear-tail lights on the dust-buster vans, it was widely panned. Honda uses them on the CR-V and you don't hear a peep. Plain and simple: Honda's reputation lets them get away with things that GM can't. GM has made their own mess -- and only repeated execution over time can pull them out of it. Edited by cmattson
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This is yet another confirmation of what we seem to have already known ... that GM needs to "get the word out" more ... and in better ways. Someway, somehow. Let's hope GM starts to get this message....


Cort, "Mr MC" / "Mr Road Trip", 32swm/pig valve/pacemaker
MC:family.IL.guide.future = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/
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"Get the word out" ... Collective Soul ... 'Feeling Better Now'
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No, what he's saying is that GM has not been good at massaging the media, and he's right.  They let Toyota get the rep of being the "Green" manufacturer when they were the first ones out with electric cars, and have played it far too close to the vest with the fuel cell cars.  I can see that the whole fuel cell thing is far away, but they really could have sold it a bit more- they had the HyWire (if I remember correctly) that was based upon the "skate": they should have done a few more bodies for it and had some drive alongs for the press: something to show them how easy it would be to refuel it, change the body, etc., along with hard numbers about how much better cost-wise it would stack up to a hybrid.  They need to get people talking about this and pressuring for the infrastructure to support it- that was the way the first autos took off...

[post="21855"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Excellent post.

GM NEEDS to learn self promotion and how to portray an image.

The media has been destroying what little ground GM made up for the last 3 years now.

As far as biased media/politicians and their need to be catered to... Well, 1) They're lowsy and corrupt people so go figure and 2) GM needs to learn how to fight dirty. NO ONE is honest this day in age and GM is just getting screwed for being that way.

GM needs to play dirty... Talk the talk, walk the walk and attack from the rear.
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