21 October 2015 - This Wednesday approximately 125 attendees from UWPRSSA and AMA gathered in the Boeing Auditorium to hear Dave Barthmuss, the director of communications of General Motors, speak about public relations and crisis management.
In 2006, a documentary titled “Who Killed the Electric Car” criticized GM for intentionally discontinuing the EV1 based on the accusation that the company preferred gas consuming cars. Further investigation proved that the real reason why EV1 was killed off was because there was virtually no demand for the car. The business decision to scrap the product turned into a severe case of crisis communications.
In the conference, Barthmuss discussed how GM recovered its reputation with a strategy he used called “Advotocracy,” essentially turning your detractors into advocates. He accomplished this by following three steps: Identifying the issue, opening up and being transparent, and finally shaping public perception. Barthmuss explained how PR techniques, such as understanding the problem, being confident in your brand, and having an open dialogue with consumers could significantly restore a company’s position from public criticism. With car promotions, such as giving free rides to college students in Chevys to throwing parties in an event like Coachella with your favorite celebrities, GM slowly reshaped its image as a youthful, fun brand, earning trust and preference from the younger audience.
GM has given us an informative and valuable lesson that all students could apply to their career that involves reputational management. For more professional advice and opportunities, come to our next meeting on Nov. 4 to hear representatives from Weber Shandwick talk about their mentorship program.