GM blog stays on track

Yesterday, General Motors announced its financial results for the first quarter this year, reporting a net loss of $839 million compared to a net profit of $1.2 billion for the same period last year.

It’s interesting to see the focus in media reporting about yesterday’s announcement – “GM posts worst results in 13 years”, “GM girds for new cutbacks”, “GM posts big loss, pulls forecast” and “Slow sales batter GM” is a sampling.

Which, by the way, confirms my long-held belief that however you write a press release, reporters and editors will always look for the bits in your announcement that you don’t prominently highlight, that don’t follow the message flow you design. While you hope that what you push to prominence in your story is what people will pay attention to, reporters and editors are looking for the best angle for dramatic headlines, especially with earnings releases. And now, that’s what many bloggers do as well.

Anyway, my thought turned to what’s been happening recently in the GM FastLane Blog, the place where Vice Chairman Bob Lutz and other senior executives talk with customers about cars. Given commentary in recent weeks about why GM isn’t using the blog to address other issues, would any of GM’s exec bloggers talk about yesterday’s financial results? Perhaps Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, who was the sole quoted spokesman in GM’s earnings release, might say a word or two?

Not a chance, which shouldn’t surprise anyone not even the skeptics. As I’ve said before, GM made it pretty clear when they started the blog that it would be focused on talking about cars. They have consistently stuck with that stated goal.

Yet isn’t what GM announced yesterday everything to do with cars?

Indeed it is. But let’s look at context. If you read any of the posts since the blog started in January you’ll see that all the conversations, from a post that then leads to comments, are about the cars, their features, performance, driving experience, wishlists, and so on.

It’s about the cars as products and brands, not about the cars as part of GM’s business.

But, in a clear connection to the earnings announcement, Bob Lutz posted commentary yesterday that talks directly about a key part of GM’s business – the sale of its cars:

Every so often, we all have to do a bit of a sense check, just to make sure that the sun will indeed rise tomorrow. And, amidst all of the gloom and doom surrounding GM lately, I’d like to give yet another alternative viewpoint. No, it’s not all bad; indeed, I’m seeing some good signs.

Lutz goes on to discuss product-related features and benefits surrounding a good half dozen of GM’s major car brands, with the conclusion:

[…] Even if you’re not in the market for a new car, I urge you to get out and try this latest generation of GM products and while you’re there, press the “Hot Button.” Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky. Tell them I sent ya!

Is he a great sales ambassador, or what? Judging from the comments so far in Lutz’ post, people want this type of message. Some of the comments from car users offer advice to Lutz on how to market and sell the cars. Priceless customer engagement!

And a priceless communication channel that’s firmly on track.

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