Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The General Takes a Cue from Rove

This story from Newsweek is funny:

GM Stuffs the Ballot Box! Slipping behind Toyota in sales, the giant automaker manipulates a Newsweek online survey, turning out the vote in a drive worthy of Karl Rove.

GM may have to hand over its crown to Toyota this year, but it's determined to beat its Japanese rival in at least one race: the's readers poll. In an online survey accompanying a story I wrote with Allan Sloan about why Toyota is overtaking GM as the world's largest automaker, asked readers this week which company they thought made a better car. On Monday, Toyota was several laps ahead of GM, by an 80-20 margin. But by Friday, GM was leading by an 83-17 margin, as the total respondents had mushroomed to 80,000 from 14,000.

Turns out GM was orchestrating a get-out-the-vote campaign that would make Karl Rove proud--something that became clear to me when a GM employee called me on Thursday, frustrated that our software wouldn't let him vote twice. (You can't). It seems that on Thursday morning, GM PR official Katie McBride had sent an e-mail blast to the company's worldwide workforce of 318,000 and 7,000 dealers, asking them to vote for GM in our poll--a highly unscientific survey, like all internet polls that invite audience participation. "It's time to stand up and tell the world we're proud of who we are, what we build and how important we are to the U.S. economy," she wrote, including a link to our website. [...]

Did GM do anything unethical? After all, internet polls are driven by reader passions, and are more a form of web entertainment than meaningful measures of public opinion. "No, I don't even find it distasteful," says Poynter Institute journalism ethics instructor Kelly McBride (no relation to Katie McBride). "It sounds like good old-fashioned politics. And it shows that GM has a lot more loyal employees, or maybe desperate employees, than we may have thought."

I don't see anything unethical about GM's actions either. Unethical would be denying what they did or trying to cover it up and that's not the case. GM's top PR spokesmen readily admitted their actions. I say kudos to GM for acting preemptively and sending their employees the link. I have no doubt Toyota would have done the same thing if they had thought of it first.


Anonymous said...

OK...I'm confused. What happened to my comment?

Kathy said...

Ummm, there haven't been any other comments left here, Kvatch. I don't know if it's Blogger or what, but I left a comment on Abi's blog that didn't show up, so I left a second comment and that one didn't show up either!

Do you think the Feds are censoring us - or maybe in this case it was the General?! ;-)