GM's New York Times Blues
Brian Akre, one of GM's Corporate Communicators, has a June 8, 2006 post in GM's FYI blog in which he states: "I've spent much of the past week trying to get a letter to the editor published in The New York Times in response to the recent Tom Friedman rant (subscription required) against GM (see Hyperbole and Defamation at The New York Times, June 1).
"I failed," he wrote. " For his "story," see "The Ban on `Rubbish in The New York Times."
GM doesn't need The New York Times, unless its goal is to influence its elite readers and try to get them to pressure The Times into publishing Akre's letter the way he wrote it. Company PR flacks are experiencing what pre-blog era newspaper readers and authors of letters to editor went through when trying to be heard in newspapers. Now, readers can just blog about what appears in their local paper and there isn't a damn thing the editor can do about it. That's freedom of press.
Of course, GM, which still has massive wealth despite obscene earnings losses in recent years, can always take out an ad. The Times would gladly take the company's money
But why do that, when GM can use blogs and podcasts to educate the public and its employees to solicit ideas for improving and saving the company. The company still has a huge employee base, despite massive layoffs, who could be encouraged to blog about the Friedman matter and more important issues such as the company's survival and employee pensions. If GM's relationship with them is good, some would comply. Of course, some would blog about it if the relationship is not good. That's ok. You don't want clones. You want honest opinion and conversation about how to change the company culture and make it better for everyone concerned.
Conclusion: I wonder whether GM realizes that The Times has given it a great opportunity to see if it is a community or just another company without a clue about how to correct its problems. I wouldn't waste my time begging Times editors to publish my letter the way I wrote it. I'd publish it on my blog the way I want it. behind a wall.