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Post-Bailout GM

I was recently assigned a case study for one of my public relations classes. We were grouped together and assigned a client by luck of the draw, and we could choose to cover whatever type of public relations practice we thought the most interesting.

My group’s client is General Motors, and I immediately thought of two things: the bailout and its CEO traveling by private jet to ask for the bailout. Neither image was good. I thought this would be a no-brainer: cover GM’s bad public relations practice. I was wrong.

After my group started doing research, we quickly discovered how much GM changed since the November 2008 jet incident. The company seemed to be so out of touch with its customers, employees and publics by sending a message that it needed our money to survive, but it wouldn’t give up its luxurious way it had been spending money.

GM received a bailout that saved the company. The company received the first part of the bailout in December 2008, and the company has turned around quickly.

One of the biggest changes has been GM’s full scale burst onto the social media scene. If you visit GM’s Web site, one of the first pages you can visit is one called Re:Invention. The disclaimer for the page is to be able to track the company as it rebuilds, and the page features every feed to news and social media that GM is involved in, all in one place.

The Web site lists links to several corporate GM blogs for different targets, including international ones, so those seeking information can easily access it.

Transparency appears to be a high priority and what a great idea. They tweeted from their @GMBlogs page about making their second payment of the bailout back to the government, and they post sales information when it becomes available.

In the midst of the bad press surrounding Toyota, it’s nice to see a company successfully rebuilding its reputation and satisfying the needs of its customers. Former editor Ashley Ross’s article “Managing a Financial Downturn” addressed GM’s PR efforts after the company filed bankruptcy, focusing on the company’s efforts in rebuilding a positive image.

I don’t think we will quickly forget those images of GM’s corporate heads’ public embarrassment during Congressional hearings for their mode of transportation, but I do think credit is due for GM learning its lesson. GM has successfully used social media to help with rebuilding as a tool to show its transparency when it was faced with the tough task of rebuilding its brand.

by Rachel Davis

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