General Motors got a lot of buzz when it launched the GM Fast Lane Blog a couple of years ago, with one of the highest-profile executive bloggers, vice chairman Bob Lutz, who engaged several hundred passionate car and truck enthusiasts in a dialogue about engine design, one of his personal passions.
But for all its novelty, the GM blog pretty much slapped down any visitors who wanted to talk about real issues like GM’s massive financial losses over the past several years, or the important cost, environmental, and design issues confronting the industry.
Then Mr. Lutz either got tired of blogging daily, or someone on GM’s board suggested that there might be better things for him to do to help stop the $12 billion that hemorrhaged from the company last year.
In any case, GM started a new blog, FYI, in which less-well known bloggers (read “the PR staff”) would post useful nuggets, mostly culled from the releases they were writing for various product groups.
To my surprise, some of my colleagues in the PR blogosphere heaped lavish praise recently on GM for posting to the Fast Lane blog an item about the then-impending strike by the UAW.
The item basically said, “This is not something we’re going to talk about in the blog, we’re going to negotiate with the union the traditional way.”
Shel Holtz thought it was courageous of GM to even mention it in the blog. But I don’t think GM went far enough, and Chrysler has proved this point very nicely.
I responded to Shel’s posting (see comments #2 and #4) that I think corporate blogging isn’t going to do very well if companies continue to circle the wagons and muzzle their blogs when the dialogue turns difficult or uncomfortable, leaving the so-called “conversation” with constituencies only for the “happy news.” And yet, that’s what most companies, even those that encourage employee blogging like Microsoft, do. When it’s a bet the company crisis, they all go to radio silence.
Or almost all. Well, Chrysler, newly taken private, has shown exactly how to do it right.
First reported in PRWeek,they’ve got a comprehensive multimedia blog site called ChryslerLaborTalks07.com that includes management interviews, videos, audio, and huge media briefing books articulating management’s viewpoint on the issue. There is a lengthy audio interview with the SVP of Employee Relations, and a range of video clips related to the labor discussions.
You may not agree with their bargaining position or their view of the issues, but you have to give them points for taking their case to the public in a full and comprehensively thought-out way.
The value for the company is they get their message distributed publicly, unfiltered by news media who don’t understand the nuances of the issues, unlimited in time and space, not compelled by the publishers and broadcasters to keep their answers to 30 seconds or less, or 25 words or less. They aren’t at the mercy of a tech savvy union that might sway the public all by itself, using a blog while the company dithers, as has often been the case in previous labor disputes.
Chrysler is setting a new standard in not letting its management be a punching bag for its critics. It’s about time.