GM blogs: Truth and spin

Stephen Baker

It was inspired blogging at GM a week ago when the car giant took The New York Times to task for nit-picking editing on its letter upbraiding columnist Tom Friedman. Only one problem. The letter that GM wrote was filled with old-style spin. I mean, what blogger with a straight face would ever include the Hummer in a group chosen for "outstanding fuel economy and great consumer appeal?" Talk about a red-carpet invitation for a counterattack! Friedman obliged yesterday. Here's a summary on autoblog. Good analysis on Jalopnik. No response yet on GM blogs.

In GM's drama we're seeing two schools of communication within the same company. The old side sticks to a line and defends its vulnerabilities. The newer side makes concessions, takes its hits, and gains credibility. These two schools are at war today within companies, within political campaigns, even at major news organizations. The emergence of blogs has changed the calculations in every realm. Why? Old-fashioned spin creates new vulnerabilities. Concessions, even painful ones, win credibility. In fact, the more painful they are, the more they're worth. I'm not saying that companies should be baring all their wounds and flagellating themselves like Medieval penitents on parade. But one thing is clear. Old-fashioned spin now works at best for an hour or two--and then can quickly spin out of control.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.