The day began very early, for me it was at 5:30 A.M. so that we could be on the road by 6:15. After stopping for coffee and breakfast, we started our journey to General Motors in Detroit.
After finally finding our way to the welcome center and meeting Wayne State’s PRSSA chapter members, we made our way up to what they called the “power tower.” We were directed to a large board room where we found our seats and some more coffee. GM’s Communications team gave us a warm welcome and got right into their discussions about GM’s internal, external, and global communications.
One of my favorite stories was when Michael Albano told us how they were able to turn a bad PR situation into a comical one. In the 2014 World Series a Chevrolet zone manager, Rikk Wilde, gave a nervous and awkward speech on camera while presenting the keys to a 2015 Chevy Colorado to Madison Bumgarner, a San Francisco Giants’ pitcher. After describing the car as having “technology and stuff,” GM immediately coined the term into a hashtag and even incorporated it into their advertisements. This PR crisis team was able to immediately turn this situation around and because of it, they were able to generate $5 million in earned media. Check out this video to learn more.
I also enjoyed learning about how GM has begun to rebrand as a transportation company instead of just a car company. They have even made eBikes that were only launched in Germany and the Netherlands. Katie Downey was able to provide many details about how they successfully marketed this product by working with influencers as well as the local agencies in that area.
It was interesting and intriguing to see how such a large company handles communications not only internally, but globally as well. They are constantly having to make sure their messages stay consistent but translate the correct way in other languages. After their presentation, a Q&A session followed and they also provided a generous amount of advice for those of us who will graduate soon.
After our visit with GM’s Communications team and lunch at Zoup, we then made our way over to a different tower within the GM Ren Cen where we met GM’s Financial communication team.
GM Financial is partnered with GM and provides auto finance. They are located in eight different countries and have different representatives in each country so that they are able to understand the culture and language in order to keep their messages consistent. After getting a brief overview of what GM Financial is, their COO, Rafael Amoros, joined us and went deeper into who GM Financial is. I was surprised that they had their COO come and speak with us but it also made the experience more memorable and personable.
They seemed to have a very strong leadership team here and they understood that communication drives culture. It was nice to hear that they also really care about the communities they are involved in around the world and that it is an important part of their values.
It was a great day altogether and I was so happy to have been able to learn more about communications as a whole as well as network with some amazing people.
Anne is a senior studying Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Hospitality Tourism Management. This is her first year in PRSSA as well as serving on the Executive Board as Director of Social Media. She just joined GrandPR as an Account Associate. Anne hopes that she can get more involved in the entertainment and events industry in the future. When she is able to, she loves to attend concerts and music festivals.