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This Month In Optimize: Nothing To Fear From Executive Blogging

To blog or not to blog? For a lot of senior executives these days, that is the question. The answer, simply enough, is to blog. No better opportunity exists to engage in an open dialogue and exchange of ideas with customers and potential customers.

Since January, I've been participating, along with other members of General Motors' senior management, in the GM Fastlane blog (fastlane.gmblogs.com). We've found the blog to be a hugely effective communications tool and a terrific way to conduct a grassroots, largely unfiltered conversation with GM fans and nonfans alike.

The key is to leave the corporate-speak behind and keep the tone conversational, open, and honest. Anyone who has read our blog sees the real deal, as produced by us and not polished by several layers of trained communications pros.

Another aspect that helps keep things real is the wealth of comments posted by readers and other bloggers. We don't filter out negative comments, complaints, or hate mail. All we do is screen for spam and posts from crackpots using language that most people would find offensive.

It's important that we run the bad with the good. We'd take a credibility hit if we posted only rosy compliments, and credibility is the most important attribute a corporate blog can have. Once it's gone, your blog is meaningless.

If you filter the negatives out, you don't have a true dialogue, so how can you hope to change anybody's mind about your products or your business? And changing minds is priority one at GM. The blog is a great opportunity to tell the public directly about the cars and trucks we have on the market and the ones we're bringing to market soon. It's one of the few chances we have to get the word out without running it through the media filter. Advertising is another avenue, of course, but it has much lower credibility than the blog, where we're engaging in a real conversation with readers. We've also used the blog to address specific media articles that we considered unfair, unbalanced, or uninformed.

To me, the blog is a way for GM to be culturally relevant. It allows us to be on the leading edge of new technology while getting our strong views out there about our cars and trucks. So far, response has been outstanding, with more than 5,000 visits and 13,000 page views a day.

To any senior executive on the fence about starting a corporate blog, I have a word of advice: Jump.

Bob Lutz is vice chairman, global product development, at General Motors.

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