Friday, November 21, 2008, 8:58 AM

Automakers hit a speed bump in Washington

Your words are only as good as your deeds. That's one of the lessons that emerged from Washington this week as Detroit's largest automakers testified before Congress for a $25 billion bailout. But the ensuing coverage had less to do with the proposal itself and more to do with the fact that each CEO flew a corporate jet to Washington in order ask for billions in taxpayer money. The "error in judgement" dominated internet chatter and many news reports in the 48 hours after the disclosure. Sure enough, Congress temporarily shelved the bailout deal on Thursday.

The fallout is a sorely-needed reminder that your words are only as good as your deeds. Yes, communicating effectively in a crisis is essential to emerging from tough times. But if the root of the crisis remains unaddressed (in Detroit's case, a perceived indifference to cost cutting) the public is less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. As we have blogged before, organizations that demonstrate concern for the public welfare in a crisis generally succeed; those that appear indifferent generally do not. Despite their best efforts, the auto makers emerged from their congressional testimony appearing indifferent.

The second lesson from this incident is that influencing public opinion requires more than just good communicators. It requires planning, and too few companies adequately game plan for every curveball they can face in the race for public opinion. It's fair to guess that Detroit's Big Three game planned for how their day in Washington would be perceived. They just didn't game-plan for how their travel there would be perceived.

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Blogger Al Redmer, Jr. said...


just a note that even when I don't comment... i am a regular vistor to your Blog and enjoy it...


November 22, 2008 at 8:46 AM  

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