Public Relations Deserves its Bad Rap

WASHINGTON:  On November 26thGeneral Motors announced it was closing five plants in the US and Canada, dismissing 14,000 employees.

But GM chose to obfuscate what should have been straight-forward information.

A three-page press release  bore the misleading title, “General Motors Accelerates Transformation.” the words “closing” and “layoffs” were never used. Indeed, that news is buried, appearing nonsensically midway down the second page. To avoid speaking of layoffs and closings GM’s PR people twisted themselves into a contortionist’s pose with this euphemistic phrase:

“With changing customer preferences in the U.S. and in response to market-related    volume declines in cars, future products will be allocated to fewer plants next year.”

And then comes the key message.

“Assembly plants that will be unallocated in 2019 include:

Oshawa Assembly in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit.

Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio.”

What does this mean in plain English?  An unallocated plant is a closed factory. Declining sales are euphemistically called changing customer preferences, market related volume declines.

Job losses are addressed indirectly.

“Actions are being taken to reduce salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 percent…”

This pathetic GM press release hopefully will be studied in journalism schools as how NOT to communicate.  Regrettably in public relations classes this obfuscation is likely to be lauded successful, emphasizing the positive while minimizing the negative.

In sum a journalist’s job is to inform, to report the news. A PR person seeks to persuade, to influence public perception. It’s hack versus flack. #






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