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4/26/2006
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Troubled GM Starts Employee Blog

As employees apply for buyouts, plants suspend operations, and managers institute a plan to recover from poor performance, GM has started a blog to give employees a chance to vent.

As troubled auto giant GM attempts a comeback, it has opened employee conversations to the public.

GM launched an employee blog last week and announced that it would not shy away from controversy. That news comes as employees apply for buyouts, plants suspend operations and managers institute a plan to recover from poor performance.

Michael Wiley, director of GM's New Media, wrote that the FYI Blog represents a departure from FastLane, which has become the domain of senior executives.

"Over the last few months we decided that we could add another blog to our portfolio; and that it could be even more grassroots, providing an opportunity for all GM employees to contribute in one way or another," Wiley wrote. "Our hope is that this will be an effective way to spread the conversation about GM; that we can continue to get better at listening and maintaining the dialogue, and ultimately, create products and services that not only meet your needs but are truly the best.

So far, despite the company's difficult times, there are no complaints or negative comments.

Wiley said that the goal is to show positive developments that occur daily. The categories of information he called for include: "Cool Stuff" about innovations, products, technologies, facilities and manufacturing, "Our People" profiles about employees and their jobs, "News" that is positive, "Opinions" and "Guest Voices," featuring entries from outsiders.

Proponents of employee blogs say they can speed communication and reduce e-mail volume. They also provide another way to reach consumers.

Forrester Research reported in December that 10 percent of consumers read blogs once a week.

Bloggers Chris Anderson and Doc Searls wonder if large companies are more inclined to use employee blogs when they are struggling. The Long Tail features a summary of their discussion on the topic. Their quick look at the numbers showed that companies with employee blogs had lower stock performance than those without them. They are continuing to test the theory, which essentially boils down to the idea that companies on the rise do not want to risk the spotlight, while those on the decline will try almost anything to improve communications and public perception.

According to Fortune 500 Blogging Wiki 29, or 5.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies had business blogs as of last week.

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