"The people are revolting!!"
If you taken in everything the media is saying about GM’s state then we are currently on the eve of the apocalypse. "Not so" says Bob Lutz in his latest instalment of the Fastlane weblog. Bob’s case is that the traditional media (and let’s face it, a lot of internet publications are now part of that) are focusing on GM’s financial plight day after day and ignoring things like the awards recently won by the Corvette and Solstice. At this point I might add in the awards won by the 9-5 Biopower late last year and it’s participation in the BEST project in Europe – but then again GM itself doesn’t push that particular barrow hard enough.
Bob provides a commitment to better getting GM’s message out there in all forms to the grassroots level and cites Fastlane itself as an example of how they’re doing that. Then he opens the door when he asks:
What do you think?
I’m a faithful man Bob, so the phrase "Ask and you shall receive" is not an unfamiliar one.
Of course, my main concern is with Saab and despite the recent success of the BFJ campaign, there’s no other brand in the North American GM portfolio with less brand awareness than Saab. There’s also no other brand with more potential for growth.
I’ll put the cars themselves to the side for one moment as Bob’s talking about communications here. It’s a given that the range of cars available has to be exemplary in safety, design and performance (and in that order as far as Saab’s concerned IMHO).
Fastlane is a great initiative and GM should be applauded for it. Like all blogs, it provides a medium for direct interaction and feedback between the writer (GM) and the reader (consumers). Wanna know what the people think? Write your concerns on the blog and see what they say. This is more to do with communcation and consultation than corporate leadership, but it’s a rich vein of information nonetheless.
As commendable as Fastlane is, the question remains as to whether or not it’s effective enough as a grassroots strategy. The most recent US election showed just how effectiveblogs can be as a communications tool, but are GM leveraging them enough to maximise the benefits?
I don’t think so.
For starters, one generic GM blog to cover all eight gazillion brands and themes to do with GM’s operations is not going to cut the mustard. It’s great for getting the occasional bit of feedback and for spreading the GM message on the occaisional theme, but is it building up any brand enthusiasm or loyalty?
This site is far from being perfect, but I believe it to be an example of what can be done to galvanise an enthusiast group and provide timely news and opinion and importantly, get the same from those that stop by. Sites like SaabCentral, The Saab Link, and yes, even Saabnet are performing the same service to a loyal group of returning, enthusiastic Saab owners. I’m not wanting to cut off my own blog-hobby here, but wouldn’t all these people welcome a chance to interact directly with Saab?
I’ve offered my services to Bob and Jay Spenchian on previous occasions already and I’ll do it again. Gents – I’m at your service. My regular 9 to 5 is about as boring as jobs get. Want to harness the full enthusiasm of the Saab community? Make me your Saab blogger.
I’ll take your brief and translate it into a site (actually, I’ve got a much bigger vision for a series of sites) that can captivate your community and give them the good oil. I’ll still annoy the daylights out of you by leaking information and photos because that’s what your consumers want, but I guarantee that when people log in, they’ll stay and they’ll get information that interests them and maintains their interest in Saab as a brand.
They’ll do it because they’ll be valued. My enjoyment of this blog has grown because I value the opinions of the people that visit here. They’re input is about as important as the source information I use for writing what I do here. Do you treat them that way as consumers of your products? Can you use the enthusiasm and loyalty of the typical Saab enthusiast in the United States? With market share the size of a bee’s willy I’d say the answer is "yes".
Get that enthusiasm going, and get the same thing going for all the appropriate brands within GM and all of a sudden you have your own media machine. That’s what blogging is all about Bob. Enabling the people to report to the people, bypassing Big Media.
You’re already researching all these types of sites in ‘secret’. Don’t fear it, embrace it.
My second bit of advice is to respect the feedback that you’re given. You don’t have to take the advice people give you. Part of being a leader is forming an appropriate vision and following it. But there’s still room to respect and at least acknowledge the feedback that you receive from your consumers. Late last year there were around 80 or so people that took the time to provide you with over 100 pages of typed feedback. They did it via this blog in a campaign called "Tell GM About It". I printed, bound and mailed the comments to you and Jay Spenchian myself.
If you want to seriously clean up your grassroots communications, an acknowledgement of the efforts of those people would be a good place to start.