GM’s “Internal” Recall Video Really Meant for Wider Audience

Mary T. Barra, General Motors CEO
Mary T. Barra, General Motors CEO

In an internal video addressed at employees but doubtless expected to reach the general public, General Motors’ chief executive Mary T. Barra explained the company's second massive round of recalls in as many months, saying, "Something went very wrong in our processes in this instance, and terrible things happened."

"I want you to know that we are completely focused on the problem at the highest levels of the company," Barra continues. "We have apologized, but that is only one step in the journey to resolve this."

This most recent recall—of some 1.7 million vehicles—is part of a company-wide internal review that Barra has expedited since she took over the company reigns in January. The recall covers a variety of issues across many different car models, and it signals that GM intends to move more decisively after the backlash following its recent disclosure of its failure to fix a years-long defect that some claim is linked to as many as 303 deaths.

As they continue to improve their recall policy, it appears that GM has been sharpening their PR skills as well.

How you say something is just as important as what you say. By using video to deliver a message to the public, GM put a face on their company, offering viewers a chance to pick up on its CEO's nonverbals like body language, facial expressions and eye contact. This humanizes the message more than a heartfelt op-ed or a meant-to-be-leaked internal memo, and it gets the company some bonus marks for transparency as they let the public glimpse how upper management handles tough situations.

While the company appears to have a lot more cleaning up to do, continuing to let Barra deliver the message directly through her own voice may help soften the blow.