Sunday, October 26, 2008

Detroit PR

PRSA Detroit--On the day that thousands of PR professionals from around the world arrive in Detroit, the Wall Street Journal weekend edition has a ‘Weekend Journal’ section cover story headlined “How Detroit Drove Into a Ditch.”

Ironic and funny, yes. (Maybe the timing was planned by the author, former WSJ Detroit Bureau Chief Paul Ingrassia?)

But aside from the obvious negative publicity, the article is an interesting PR case study for reasons not expected by readers, nor noted by the author (there are very few quotes in the article, and none from PR professionals). But the article’s central thrust is that the bad management-union relationships by Detroit automakers is to blame for the decline of the Big Three. Japanese and other automakers, meanwhile, reached out to earn the trust of employees and succeeded.

I have rarely seen a stronger case for the importance of employee relations to the success of an organization. It’s why PR professionals who get it understand that they should not just do media relations, but manage relationships with ALL publics on whom an organization’s success or failure depends—to paraphrase the classic definition of PR.

I’ll be interested to see if Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of product development, mentions this when he speaks at the conference general session Monday morning.

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