He was the first General Motors executive blogger when the GM Fastlane Blog launched last January. Now he's the first GM executive podcaster on FastLane Radio, GM's podcast series launched in February.
GM vice chairman Bob Lutz stars in a Q&A discussion with Bill O'Neill, GM's executive director of communications. During much of the 20-minute podcast released yesterday, Lutz and O'Neill talk about cars, the North American market, the competition, fuel economy and performance, and other car-related themes.
I found it especially interesting when, about 15 minutes in, Lutz starting talking (passionately) about why he got into blogging and commented at some length on how he sees the medium and its value both for GM and its audiences, contrasting blogs with traditional and formal corporate communication. He remains consistent with his advocacy that a blog gives the company direct and unfiltered feedback from customers and car enthusiasts.
Amongst others things, Lutz said one of his biggest frustrations has always been that "the media has the voice and you don't" unless you buy advertising. But such advertising, he said, is distrusted so a medium like a blog is extremely effective when you want to state your point of view or correct something. Plus it makes you feel a lot better when you're able to do that, Lutz said.
He also commented on who he believes are the key audiences for the GM FastLane Blog - fellow bloggers ("a large group of people listened to by friends who don't blog"), and the media who, he says, gain "therapeutic value" through seeing that GM reacts openly and honestly and which may cause those media to see that "this isn't a one-way street." He added that, as the company now has direct access to customers, in the long term that could pose a threat to conventional print media.
Such directness and disarming informality is a hallmark of Lutz as the GM new media champion, with a disruptive approach to traditional communication that I find exhilarating in a leader of one of the world's most traditional companies. Would there were more like Bob Lutz!
If I have any criticism of the podcast, it would be that O'Neill's questions seemed somewhat leading. A little too much of "I know that GM has..." and "I know that you are..." etc has a bit of a rehearsed air about it. Maybe it's because I'm a communicator myself as I believe that the senior communicator conducting an executive interview like this for a podcast means it will likely appear to many as less than wholly credible when it sounds less than wholly natural and a bit too polished. I wonder what it would be like if Lutz were engaged in conversation with, say, a customer or a dealer.
Much might depend on the communication objectives of the podcast. Which leads me to another thought. Ostensibly, the podcast is aimed at the same people who use the blog which is about GM's cars and not GM's business. It's only available via the blog. Yet in listening to the conversation, I'd say it would be of interest to others like investors and the financial community as it would give those audiences another dimension in understanding GM's business and its leadership.
In any event, it's a great job and an interesting development in GM's evolutionary use of new media channels.
- Related - Bob Lutz interview for Naked Conversations, the new book on corporate blogging due out at year's end, in April 2005.