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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…

Of course, we can speculate over who bears the bulk of the blame for Barra’s decision to avoid answering questions directly and get her company’s message out via internal video memos. But it’s clear why Fleishman Hillard vet Selim Bingol, who handled “strategy and the public response to the recall”, had to go.

On the HR side, Barra got an earful over her failure to properly punish those who made sure that the faulty ignition switch, first discovered some ten years ago, remained an internal secret for so long.

There’s been no announcement as to who will replace Mr. Bingol, but local reporters have thankfully provided us with a list of the many, many things his team did wrong:

  • “…[Bingol] never really grew to care for, much less love, the car business”
  • In March, he scheduled a “press event” that included no cameras and only invited ten “hand-picked” reporters
  • He then literally defended that decision with silence
  • In failing to avoid decisions like these, the team fueled the perception that “General Motors has never shed its pre-bankruptcy arrogance”
  • They made a second recall “sound almost harmless in a throwaway line in a press release trying to announce everything was hunky dory”

Here’s another great quote from that must-read piece by Detroit’s Rod Meloni:

“A CEO and his or her public relations director are almost married to each other.”

Indeed.

Barra told Congress that GM’s internal “who knew what when” report won’t be ready for review until the summer; whoever she picks to replace Bingol should probably speed that process up or, at the very least, find something to do in the meantime that does not involve the metaphorical twiddling of fingers.

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