Why GM’s Blog Strategy Sucks

About two years ago - or so goes my hazy Internet memory - GM jumped on the corporate blog bandwagon with the FastLane blog. Good, we gearheads mused, words straight from the GM peeps themselves. The FastLane blog promised to be Bob Lutz's less-than-PR-polished rants about the auto industry, giving it to us straight from the horse's mouth. (Not to shirk other major manufacturers, but DaimlerChrysler seems the only other one to have even tried a blog, and they've opened theirs solely to automotive media, a decision that drew a firestorm then and still irks some blogorati). We knew they wouldn't necessarily be telling us the things we wanted to hear - advance product announcements, straight talk on product changes, clear rationales for dealing with health care costs. But we figured, with as much as GM's got going on, they'd have some decent material to feed us. They added all the right tools - RSS feeds, trackbacks and the like. But the FastLane Blog turned out to be a sleeper, last year's blog dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the small-block Chevrolet V-8 only lasted a short while before GM euthanized it, and then GM introduced another blog, the FYI Blog, which made absolutely no sense. If they couldn't muster a post a week at FastLane, why bother opening a second blog? It seemed as though 13-Year-Old-Girl Syndrome (13YOGS) had infected somebody over at GM. They were about to start posting about Justin Timberlake and how icky Carlos Ghosn kept asking them to go out with him, but going to the mall took precedence over regular posting. Meanwhile, contradictory to the laws of things blog-like, every FastLane post had at least a dozen comments, despite the incredibly infrequent postings, simply because GM ran the blog. And rather than explaining strategy - which he did a few times - Lutz simply dropped off the face of the blog, replaced by a rotating cast of lower-level execs. The FYI blog, meanwhile, started posting craptastic pictures of GM cars taken by camera-phone-wielding meatheads. Then last month, word came about that GM's Director of New Media, Mike Wiley, was headed south, away from GM. No word came after on whether he actually left or who would replace him, but content - barely at a dribble pace before - choked down to clean-out-the-gutters frequency. Meanwhile, press releases continued at their normal pace. Press junkets kept rolling; press packets kept flowing in; promotional activities kept taking place. GM even announced that all of its advertising for the upcoming G4 sedan would take place online. A clear disconnect between the blog efforts and the media relations/PR efforts showed, almost as though they didn't have a clear strategy set up for the blog, they didn't know what the blog was for and they didn't know how to align all of its promotional opportunities. Their latest move pretty much proves those points. Responding to a Boston Globe editorial in your own venue is normally fine. It offers a counter-opinion and a way to answer accusations. But when it's the only post of substance in the last two weeks, it makes you look like a petulant child who won't take no for an answer (13YOGS again). That, or a bully. Not to say GM's blog efforts have been totally wasted. Some news has come out of it, some decent opinions have been shared, and GM staked a claim where no other manufacturer did. And likely, it's tough to hunt GM execs down for a column even every now and then - their job description when they started didn't include "write column for website on semi-frequent basis" and they have a few other issues on their hands at the moment. But you don't jump off the high-dive without learning how to swim, and thus this becomes another tale of major corporations refusing to understand the Internet, but trying to capitalize on it anyway.

  1. Not that I’m an expert, but it seems like corporate blogs tend to be more successful when they have a strong personality who knows the medium in the dirver’s seat. Think of Robert Scoble when he was at Microsoft. If GM started blogging becuase a VP of marketing read about it in Businessweek, it was probably doomed to failure. But if they really wanted a more informal, timely, and interactive way to communicate with the outside world, then it’s too bad they couldn’t find the right person run with it.

    September 19th, 2006 at 8:20 pm

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