Thursday, May 05, 2005

Not so FAST. Wrong LANE.

metaphysical healing probe Posted by Hello

Why "Copy & Paste" an Interview?
Why include a running commentary?
Who the hell do you think you are to criticize
General Motors and their FastLane Blog?

The interview with "blogger" Bob Lutz of General Motors, as conducted by The Red Couch and It Seems Me's Shel Israel, one of the brightest minds in the blogosphere, gives us an opportunity.

The opportunity afforded is that of closely examining the intent, strategy, and purpose of a "blog" that is highly touted and horn tooted by the mediocre "blog consultants".

The GM FastLane blog is symptomatic of what's wrong with General Motors, and why its bonds have been relegated to "junk" status, along with Ford Motor Company.

Who am I? I'm a blogologist with four primary blogs, two of which (Vaspers the Grate and Blog Core Values) display my expertise as a blog specialist.

I also preside over a company that designs blogs, administers user observation tests, conducts web usability analysis, and writes web site content for clients.

I actually love General Motors.

I once wrote direct marketing material for them at Grey Direct/Grey Advertising in New York City during the 1980s. I currently own a GM vehicle and all my life have owned mostly GM product.

I want to see GM succeed, which will mean scrapping the clunky worthless SUVs, among other gas guzzling, Arab oil insatiable vehicles.

Their flagship corporate "blog", which I demote to "pseudo blog" status, also needs to undergo a massive transformation.

Questions below are Shel Israel.
Answers are from Bob Lutz, General Motors.
[STREIGHT: commentary by me]

Shel Israel interview with Bob Lutz
(w/Steven Streight commentary added)

1. What made you decide to blog?

Some of the staff had launched a blog in Fall 2004 and had success with it. I was looking for a direct line of communication with the world and this seemed to be a bright idea. As I said in my blog, "In the age of the internet anyone can be a journalist." The feedback we've received from the public has been fabulous.

[STREIGHT: Wrong. To say "anyone can be a journalist" is like saying since everyone has access to sharp knives and tweezers, anyone can be a surgeon. And: if the "feedback...from the public...fabulous", then why don't you jump into that feedback, dive into the comment threads, and respond to individual comments posted by your public?]

2. Was there a process involved at GM before you started blogging, or did you just start doing it?

No cumbersome process, no conventions, no big meetings, we just started it up.

[STREIGHT: No guidelines? No discussions? No clear purpose? No real honest to God strategy? I wonder...]

3. What is your strategic goal in blogging?

Our only goal was to engage the public regarding our products and services. The blog has become an important unfiltered (emphasis on unfiltered) voice for the company, our customers and auto enthusiasts.

[STREIGHT: "to engage the public" = typical corporate fluff that seems to almost say something, but will be easy to retract or modify. "Unfiltered voice" is doubtful. If you don't read the comments, if your staff sends you a summarizing email about the user feedback, if you have any assistance at all in writing your blog, if there is any ghosting in any amount or manner...then your "voice" (actually "writing style and substance") is NOT "unfiltered". Plus, such a vague "strategy" can only be headed for a wreck.]

4. Many people hold a stodgy image of GM. How do you feel your blog can offset this?

Anyone who calls us averse to criticism or thin-skinned obviously has not read the blog. This method of open, honest, transparent communication is an excellent representation of the kind of culture GM's leaders advocate.

[STREIGHT: It's not "communication" if you don't jump into the actual comment threads, if you don't post (with permission) portions of reader email and comment on them, if your "blog" is mostly a broadcast message, with comments enabling readers to react. The blog is still "stodgy" due to its comment moderating, harsh comment censorship (including a couple of my own comments that complimented GM but trashed the MSM morbid stream media), and phony "blogroll".]

5. Outsiders perceive you as a new hope for more exciting automotive products. Your blog displays determination and passion. But how will it help GM to produce better product?

The blog cannot produce great products. Only our design and product development community can. But the blog can motivate, inspire and focus us. It shows how much passion people have for cars and trucks. It also serves as a reminder how many people are pulling for GM. It's terrific.

[STREIGHT: More corporate fluff. Do you really need an astute commentary to see through this n0n-semi0tic n0thingness?]

6. What has been the employee response to your blog?

The FastLane blog has always had an outward orientation. A fair number of employees are active on the site but we do not promote it internally. An executive or two is experimenting with internal blogs and find them useful for communicating with their global staffs.

[STREIGHT: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz]

7. How do you manage the tons of comments you receive? How have they changed or improved your understanding of customers and prospects?

We do not manage the posts per se. Staff members usually send me an email every few days so I can review the feedback. Lots of great stuff in there. Fascinating and inspiring.

[STREIGHT: Yeah, right. Whatever. Bob Lutz does NOT read your comments, people. You heard it from his own lips: "we do not manage the posts per se." He delegates the reading of blog comments to underlings who then send Bob a summarizing email of the gist or essence of what readers seem to be saying, the "feedback" as he calls it. "Lots...great...fascinating...inspiring." Yeah, sure. Whatever.]

8. In general, how would you describe blogging's impact on traditional GM corporate communications?

We're learning on the run, but now we have an unfiltered voice, a direct-line of communication. It has become indispensable.

[STREIGHT:, huh? Oh. Sorry. Must try to focus, must force myself to stay awake. "Learning on the run"--from what are you running? European and Japanese competition? "on the run" means ill prepared, not totally organized at the get go. This "direct-line of communication" sounds more like yet another boring mass market broadcast message dissemination disguised as a "blog".]

9. Over time, how do you see blogging impacting other GM communications strategies, if at all?

I suspect you will see additional blogs from GM in the future, covering a variety of topics.

[STREIGHT: Well, then you better get your flagship FastLane blog in order. Start reading some comments posted by readers. Don't you know how to skim, scan, and skip? Web users do. We call it "information foraging" and "navigation by semiotic scent".]

10. What blogs do you read? Which are your favorites?other than your own?

I do a lot of my work on a Blackberry so I do not have time to read many blogs. My staff is always emailing me interesting posts though, particularly from blogs that are writing about us.

I think blogging is fantastic because it is creating a self-regulating media.

Recently, a negative article was published declaring one of our vehicles a flop. Within a few days a third-party blogger analyzed the article and discredited it with the facts.

[STREIGHT: There you have it folks. Bob Lutz admitting that he reads no blogs, or reads other blogs very rarely, if at all, I suspect not at all. What does this mean? He's not a blogling. He uses a blog, but is not an avid blogger, not a lover and reader of other blogs. If one likes and uses ones own blog, but is not sufficiently interested in blogging as a metaphysical art and intellectual discipline, where does leave us? It leaves us pondering your distinct and flippant disregard of the sacred blogospheric realm.]

11. What advice do you have to executives at other companies who are considering a blog?

Be honest. Stay connected. Go into it with an open mind and expect criticism. And, most important, have good advisers who understand the Blogosphere.

[STREIGHT: Bob is honest. Bob "connected"? In what way? Surely he fails to be "connected" with the real reason for blogging, which is "candid, genuine, intimate conversation with target audience (or "upheaval implementation sector").]

12. GM recently decided to stop advertising in the Los Angeles Times, because it felt the paper was being unfair in editorial comment. Do you feel blogging can in any way offset the LA Times, by giving you and other executives direct access to customers and prospects in Southern California?

No, but, blogs can be somewhat of an equalizing force when dealing with media criticism. There certainly are knowledgable journalists in the media, who - on balance - report fairly and only after having carefully checked their facts.

Regrettably, there are many others who feel compelled to jump on the bandwagon all too easily, taking hearsay and superficial impressions for factual evidence and often coming to the wrong conclusions. That can be very damaging to the business.

[STREIGHT: In the end, I affirm my solidarity and sympathy for Bob Lutz and General Motors. These are fighting words here uttered by the subject of my reprovements. Non-blog media "jumping on the bandwagon" is an adroit description of the subversive nature of mass marketing mediocrity.

Blogs are intended, by the forces that caused them to be, to be turned against the herd mentality, the heard nurds, the told scolds, the outmoded mendacity propagators. It's our turn now. Bob can still redeem his blog, and GM can still resurrect, but first it must know that what it's in is called by the world a coffin.

Wake up and smell the coffin, then rise up out of it.]

Interview Posted by shel israel on The Red Couch blog on April 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


steven edward streight said...

In related news, here's what I, Leopold the Told, posted today at The Red Couch blog, under their post asking us:

"What blogosphere advice would you give to Target?"

Leopold the Told:

If I was Target I'd change my policy toward Salvation Army, learn how to be alruistic, grow a pair of metaphysical wings, and soar into the upper blogospheric heaven with squandered misgivings.

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Leopold the Told | May 6, 2005 07:35 AM

steven edward streight said...

Then, in related news, I, Leopold the Told, posted this free gem at Jennifer Rice's blog...


Leopold the Told proclaims:

"Content and interactivity. That's all the blog consultation you need Mr/Ms Client. Have a nice day...and an effective blog that establishes a candid, valuable, intimate conversation with a target audience, er, social transformation insertion sector."

See Blog Core Values blog for more.

Posted by: steven streight vaspers the grate | May 6, 2005 09:57 AM