General Motors earlier this week issued a mea culpa: poor quality, too many brands and dealers, lacklustre designs, over-rich contracts and too many SUVs. Guilty on all counts. They did this by way of a full page ad in the trade journal Automotive News, which is widely read by industry execs, lobbyists, and other insiders.
That’s the sort of action that will help lower the outrage people felt after the Detroit Three auto makers flew to Washington in their corporate jets. Peter Sandman, who counsels corporate clients on how to manage stakeholder outrage, notes that if you are shy about admitting your mistakes, it’s harder for stakeholders to move beyond them. By acknowledging and apologizing for their mistakes, they are now able to move forward.
GM’s messaging on its corporate website has shifted significantly as well. GM was initially trying to draw attention to the potential extent of the auto crisis. It’s now focusing on what it is doing to reinvent itself. Ford has launched its own website called, “The Ford Story”.
And speaking of corporate jets, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner also announced the cessation of all corporate aircraft operations.
General Motors and Ford are both using the power of social media to put their message forward. GM through its Fastlane blog, and Ford through its social media evangelist, Scott Monty. He recently wrote an extended post on the auto industry crisis as part of his Social Media Marketing Blog. He links to a number of recent media articles, videos, and has set up a page on Delicious for the US auto industry. If you tag items, “for:US_Auto_Industry”, he’ll add your article, video or audio file to the list.
As I’m writing this, news has just come in that bailout talks have collapsed, scuttled by workers’ rejection of pay cuts. Republican senators opposing the bailout say Americans are struggling to understand why the auto makers deserve bailouts when half a million workers are losing their jobs every month. GM has brought in legal and banking experts to consult on bankruptcy protection and Chrysler has warned it is nearly out of cash.
Although not always easy, it’s critically important at this time that management keep the lines of communication open and be accessible to employees and their families, retirees, the UAW, shareholders, dealers, suppliers, elected officials, and others who are interested and potentially impacted.
What do you think? How is this issue impacting you? What would you advise the Detroit Three management?
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Stahl)