If you haven't read the newspapers or had access to news through any medium lately, Bob Lutz, General Motors vice chairman and popular blogger has been busy lately. We greatly appreciate the time he took to answer a few email questions we recently asked.
1. What made you decide to blog?
Some of the staff had launched a blog in Fall 2004 and had success with it. I was looking for a direct line of communication with the world and this seemed to be a bright idea. As I said in my blog, "In the age of the internet anyone can be a journalist." The feedback we've received from the public has been fabulous.
2. Was there a process involved at GM before you started blogging, or did you just start doing it?
No cumbersome process, no conventions, no big meetings, we just started it up.
3. What is your strategic goal in blogging?
Our only goal was to engage the public regarding our products and services. The blog has become an important unfiltered (emphasis onunfiltered) voice for the company, our customers and auto enthusiasts.
4. Many people hold a stodgy image of GM. How do you feel your blog can offset this?
Anyone who calls us averse to criticism or thin-skinned obviously has not read the blog. This method of open, honest, transparent communication is an excellent representation of the kind of culture GM's leaders advocate.
5. Outsiders perceive you as a new hope for more exciting automotive products. Your blog displays determination and passion. But how will it help GM to produce better product?
The blog cannot produce great products. Only our design and product development community can. But the blog can motivate, inspire and focus us. It shows how much passion people have for cars and trucks. It also serves as a reminder how many people are pulling for GM. It's terrific.
6. What has been the employee response to your blog?
The FastLane blog has always had an outward orientation. A fair number of employees are active on the site but we do not promote it internally. An executive or two is experimenting with internal blogs and find them useful for communicating with their global staffs.
7. How do you manage the tons of comments you receive? How have they changed or improved your understanding of customers and prospects?
We do not manage the posts per se. Staff members usually send me an email every few days so I can review the feedback. Lots of great stuff in there. Fascinating and inspiring.
8. In general, how would you describe blogging's impact on traditional GM corporate communications?
We're learning on the run, but now we have an unfiltered voice, a direct-line of communication. It has become indispensable.
9. Over time, how do you see blogging impacting other GM communications strategies, if at all?
I suspect you will see additional blogs from GM in the future, covering a variety of topics.
10. What blogs do you read? Which are your favorites?other than your own?
I do a lot of my work on a Blackberry so I do not have time to read many blogs. My staff is always emailing me interesting posts though, particularly from blogs that are writing about us. I think blogging is fantastic because it is creating a self-regulating media. Recently, a negative article was published declaring one of our vehicles a flop. Within a few days a third-party blogger analyzed the article and discredited it with the facts.
11. What advice do you have to executives at other companies who are considering a blog?
Be honest. Stay connected. Go into it with an open mind and expect criticism. And, most important, have good advisers who understand the Blogosphere.
12. GM recently decided to stop advertising in the Los Angeles Times, because it felt the paper was being unfair in editorial comment. Do you feel blogging can in any way offset the LA Times, by giving you and other executives direct access to customers and prospects in Southern California?
No, but, blogs can be somewhat of an equalizing force when dealing with media criticism. There certainly are knowledgable journalists in the media, who - on balance - report fairly and only after having carefully checked their facts. Regrettably, there are many others who feel compelled to jump on the bandwagon all too easily, taking hearsay and superficial impressions for factual evidence and often coming to the wrong conclusions.That can be very damaging to the business.