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Corporate communications

GM Hires Familiar Face as SVP of Global Communications

bildeIn what may be the week/month/year’s least surprising move, General Motors has finally replaced its SVP of global policy and communications with a familiar name and face.

Tony Cervone, who most recently served as VP of group communications for Volkswagen, doesn’t just have an extensive history doing PR for car companies–he worked at GM for 10 years along with current CEO Mary Barra, serving in a VP of global comms/strategy role before leaving for an SVP gig at United Airlines.

The strategy behind the appointment is fairly simple: Barra wants old allies to help her right her company’s badly managed response to its not-going-away faulty brake switch scandal.

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Jury Rules Against Former Anheuser-Busch Comms Veep in Equal Pay Case

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Surprise, surprise: Jill Abramson isn’t the only woman in a prominent executive position who *allegedly* received less money than her male predecessors.

In a case that should draw the attention of all who work in corporate communications, a jury ruled that Francine Katz, who was promoted to VP of comms and public affairs at Anheuser-Busch back in 2002, did not receive unfair wages due to the fact that she happens to be a woman.

For the record, Katz strongly disagrees.

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Target CMO’s Response to Gawker: #PRWin?

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In case you missed it, this week Target‘s CMO Jeff Jones took the (relatively) bold step of responding directly to an anonymous employee’s complaint that scored coverage on Gawker, that bastion of objective reporting on the business world.

He did it in a LinkedIn “influencer” post with the blunt title “The Truth Hurts“, and it got a lot of attention: a quarter of a million views and several thousand likes/shares.

In an interview with AdAge that went live last night, he explained why he decided to address the problem in this way–which gives us an opportunity ask whether the strategy worked.

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Why Are There No Openly Gay Fortune 500 CEOs?

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Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times asked a very important question this morning: how did professional football–the very epitome of a traditional industry averse to change–embrace an openly gay personality before corporate America?

Her point is that, despite widely-accepted rumors about certain executives at certain tech companies, not one of the nation’s 1,000 biggest businesses has an openly gay CEO.

We asked Howard Bragman, Chairman of Fifteen Minutes PRwho happens to represent Michael Sam–for his take on the issue.

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Former Bush Administration Official to Lead Corporate Comms for Alibaba

Jim_wilkinson_OurLeadershipYou’ve heard a bit of noise about Alibaba recently, no? The Chinese search/e-commerce giant that is, from what we can tell, a mashup of Amazon, Google and eBay. It’s basically the biggest name in Chinese tech, and it’s about to go public in what should be one of Wall Street’s biggest deals in recent years.

Today the company announced a shrewd move: it has hired James R. Wilkinson, a former senior Treasury Department official with the George W. Bush administration, as its “head of international corporate affairs.”

He served advisory/chief of staff roles in the offices of both Treasury head Henry Paulson and secretary of state Condoleeza Rice.

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GM’s Own Video Claims Its Recalled Cars Are Safe to Drive

Here’s another development in the corporate world’s biggest ongoing damage control campaign: according to GM’s own tests and accompanying video, released this morning on its unfortunately named content site “FastLane”, affected vehicles are totally safe to drive before being repaired…as long as drivers remember a series of dos and don’ts.

Here VP of global vehicle safety Jeff Boyer, who the company named to the newly created position less than two months ago to help manage the crisis, explains:

Looks good, but that was a long list of qualifiers…

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Target Hopes New Hires and New Card Tech Will Do the Trick

TargetTarget is taking steps to remedy the problem that led to one of history’s biggest data breachesand its team wants you to know.

To its credit, the company seems to have been attacking the problem on all fronts since the breach first occurred last year, and now it’s ready to begin the rollout.

The move comes in stages: last month the company’s VP, who had been in charge of its website and internal computer systems since 2008, “resigned” (quotations ours).

At that time, the company also announced its decision to replace its existing card security tech with a system called “chip and PIN”. Last night brought the official update: Target hired a new chief information officer, who will oversee the implementation of this new security strategy.

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GitHub Apologizes for Handling of Harassment Claim That Led to President’s Exit

githubWe’re not programmers, so we’d barely heard the name GitHub before this month–yet the company just provided an interesting example of a tech company responding to self-created controversy.

You probably know the story, but…

A female engineer resigned from the company and spoke to TechCrunch in March, describing a culture of sexism and intimidation and specifically accusing the company’s co-founder/president and his wife of behaving inappropriately.

The news got even more attention thanks to a string of recent reports about the poor state of gender equality in the tech industry.

While the president resigned, the company’s CEO claimed in a blog post that its own internal investigation had uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing.

Yesterday, however, GitHub changed course.

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GM Needs a New Spokesperson, Stat

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Not going so well for her.

This young week has already brought us two new job openings that sound great on paper but might just make you think twice: social media manager at U.S. Airways and director of communications at General Motors.

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the first execs to get the axe in GM’s ongoing recall drama were the heads of PR and HR. In yet another non-surprise, the company refused to tie the departures directly to the recall. (This is the kind of decision that makes journalists roll their eyes back as far as humanly possible.)

CEO Mary Barra’s most visible statement this week? A blog post encouraging employees to report safety concerns “whether openly or anonymously.”

Cue that eye roll again…

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Chevron Can Make Its Own Local News

One Donald Draper famously quipped, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

In this week’s case study in heavy-handed message management, Chevron took that one to heart. In fact, it created an entirely new conversation on its own terms.

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The company, which has operated a refinery in Richmond, California for over 100 years, created the Richmond Standard site to present its public with under-reported news stories like this video of high schoolers lifting weights and this more popular entry about an effort to prevent prostitutes from walking through a residential neighborhood on the way to work.

The writers are experienced journalists, but–shocker–there may be a bit of self-interest at play here.

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