By Dr. Kevin Boully:
“Terrible things happened.” On your client’s watch. Do you know what you want to say in response?
For the last few weeks, including just yesterday, GM has been front-page with ongoing public communication driven by its February 25th recall of part failures linked to 12 deaths. President Alan Batey apologized for the carmaker's ignition switch issues and CEO Mary Barra has spoken on video a mix of contrition, responsibility, and public relations lingo that accomplished some of the goals of a public apology.
GM’s admission of responsibility is unequivocal – “something went wrong with our process in this instance and terrible things happened” – prompting the assumption that GM is staking out a settlement strategy rather than considering a defense of lawsuits that may be irreparably harmed by the company’s highly public apology. But is GM’s strategy so obviously intended to manage perceptions that it will fail? Is GM’s compromised communication going to compromise its defense?