GM vs. NY Times: Big Plus for Corporate Blogging

In case you are not aware, there is a very interesting battle brewing between NY Times and GM. In a recent article, Tom Friedman of the NY Times heavily criticized GM for a bunch of things starting with their gas rebate for one of their supposedly gas guzzling vehicles (personally, I think it was nothing more than an excellent marketing ploy).

The column went on to say that GM posed a serious threat to America’s future! Obviously, the PR guys over at GM wanted to respond to it. They sent a letter to the Editor of NY Times, who in turn wanted to publish the letter after some serious edits. Finally, the two could not come to an agreement and neither version made it to the press. What makes this interesting is that, the old world behemoth, GM, which not to so far back jumped into the corporate blogging bandwagon, published both their original response and the NY Times edited version on their blog (including the email exchange with the Times editors!)

Ironically, the original piece by Tom Friedman is available only to paid subscribers! (Btw, if you subscribe to SJ Mercury News hard copy, you get to read NY Times columnists’ articles).

To get the low down on this check out the GM blog.

This is clearly a big positive for Corporate blogging. Traditional PR folks strongly believe that blogging can backfire for a company and does more harm than good. For such skeptics, this is a good case for how blogging can actually benefit a company if done right. While one could argue that Tom Friedman’s article has “some” merit (though I think he was stretching it way too much!), GM has clearly come out on top from a PR perspective. As always, in the blogosphere, things happen fast and recovery time is almost non-existent. In this case, what the original article said is almost off the table as a topic of discussion. It has become more about NY Times not giving GM adequate “space” to appropriately defend itself and GM finding its listeners in blogopshere instead! Another example of how bloggers step in when traditional media attempts to exercise excessive control (especially, when bordering on unfairness!).

I am sure left to himself Mr. Friedman might wish to respond (defend himself!) directly to GM’s response. But in the “command and control” world of traditional media this is a definitely “no-no”. The Times is clearly on backfoot on this one and maybe its time for the it to even re-think its Times Select paid service?

Author: Pran Kurup

Pran Kurup is founder and CEO of Vitalect, Inc.

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