Digital Warfare: What The Competition Can Learn From General Motors

By Bill Moore

Posted: 29 Nov 2009

Say what you will about General Motors, their products, their credibility, their survivability, but in one area they shine above all other carmakers: online information warfare.

When GM pledged to make development of the Volt as transparent as possible, they clearly meant it. From successions of web and telephone-based media updates to numerous blogs, to regular online chat sessions with engineers and senior executives to video webcasts, the cyber soldiers at General Motors have deployed an arsenal of digital weaponry to keep those of us in the media and the general public engaged in the Volt and the company, of which, you'll recall, we as American and Canadian taxpayers own a significant chunk.

General Motors' digital marketing mavins have, since the word was passed down from on high, gone out of their way to also cultivate, not just the usual print and television outlets, but also many Internet venues, including, I am not embarrassed to say EV World, occasionally flying non-traditional media journalist like me into Detroit for various special briefings. In 2009 alone they have flown me to their headquarters three times at their expense, the net result of which has been a continual stream of reports, blogs, MP3 audios and streaming videos for you, dear visitor .

Now with the LA Auto Show just around the corner, they've again opened their cyber gun ports in preparation for another online media broadside. Here's what I just got from them today, Sunday, November 29th.

"Hit the Hollywood search lights! Alert the paparazzi! The Chevrolet Volt is in Tinseltown for a few spins around the city of angels and a whirlwind tour of activities leading up to the 2009 L.A. Auto Show. The Volt is popping up all over town, mingling with the stars and generally showing off to consumers and media alike."

The multiple front digital assault in the van of the auto show begins with the embedded video below, which will feature two public relations events Monday, November 30th, including a classroom lecture on electricity to students at Harvard-Westlake Middle School (starts 9:40 A.M. PST), followed by a panel discussion at 6:30 PM PST on "how cities can get 'plugged-in' with some of the leading industry, government and policy officials and influencers." They resume the live webcast December 1st with an event announcing the winner of the Name the Color contest.

If you can't catch the webcasts, you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, as well as submit questions for the webcasts at their web site.

In covering this industry for more than a decade, I have never experienced anything like it. I get emails and press releases from carmakers around the world and none of them compare to the effort General Motors has put into the Volt program, in particular. Whether all this translates into actual sales is yet to be seen, but from the perspective of keeping an easily distracted media and public engaged, I have to give them an A+. Nobody else even comes close: not Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler -- especially Chrysler -- Peugeot, Mitsubishi.

Even if GM's digital warfare doesn't translate into dealer showroom traffic and sales contracts -- which I can't imagine -- it has to do much to revive the company's battered image, while transforming it into the world's most transparent automaker. Heck, even I traded a Honda for a Chevy recently.

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