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Good Auto Industry PR Means More Than Flying Coach

So GM and Chrysler say they "get it" and that their CEOs won't be flying in corporate jets when they return to DC this week for Round Two of begging/arm-twisting/cajoling/blackmailing Congress into forking over billions of dollars to their companies. (Ford hasn't said yet what its CEO will do to get to Washington)

"We've gotten the message," said GM spokesperson Tom Wilkinson.
Really? News reports out of Detroit suggest that so far, all they have "gotten" is that it would be beyond dumb to show up in Washington aboard three separate corporate jets, which cost about $20,000 each for a round-trip from the Motor City.

I'm not sure they've "gotten" the message that Congress and especially the public wants to see and hear a lot more from the Big Three than "give us the money or we'll ef-up the country by going bankrupt."

So I'm going to make believe for a moment that I'm sitting in a conference room at GM or Chrysler being asked to give my best PR advice on how to get the public on our side going into these hearings:

  • Drive from Detroit to DC in Ford/GM/Chrysler cars or trucks!! This is the biggest no-brainer of all time.
  • Get dealers, suppliers, union men and women, and multi-generation car owners to join your caravan.
  • Drive through as many Congressional districts as you can on the way and stop once or twice in each to make note of the auto industry's impact on that area.
  • Send out PR info to Big Three dealers and other auto-related businesses across the country in every other Congressional district giving them talking points and simple PR guidance on how to get local coverage of the impact that the Big Three have in their town.
  • Suspend all new car advertising -- all of it! -- for the 48 hours prior to the hearing, and replace it with heart-rending stories of Big Three employees, suppliers and car owners who would be hurt if the companies were to go under.
  • When you get to Washington, have an awesome press conference on the steps of the Capitol with all your constituencies present, and make your case for the bailout, using as many personal stories as possible.
Oh, and one more thing: have an actual plausible plan that everyone can grasp about how you will use the money to stave off bankruptcy and get your companies back on the right track.
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