Holmes Report 12 Feb 2011 // 12:00AM GMT
As a result of the auto industry bailout in 2008 and 2009, General Motors Corporation--a one-time icon of American business-- was castigated as "Government Motors." During the summer of 2009, it entered one of the most prolific bankruptcies in history. The company's reputation was in tatters and many questioned if it would survive. But within 14 months, GM stunned the world by engineering the biggest IPO in history--proving that it would not only survive, but had the potential to once again lead the way.
GM emerged from bankruptcy as a new company – General Motors Company – with a new ownership structure and a new, diverse management team. Since then, management has aggressively worked to reestablish GM as an iconic American company, delivering long-term value to stakeholders. As proof of this, and prior to the IPO, GM achieved key milestones, including the early repayment of an $8.4 billion loan from the U.S. and Canadian governments — with interest. On November 18, 2010, the new GM launched a landmark $23.1 billion public offering and was introduced to the public markets as a new company with a dynamic management team and a clear vision: To design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. This historic offering became an opportunity to educate stakeholders on the new GM, its improving business model, its lower risk profile, and its ability to successfully compete around the globe.
GM began planning for communications in support of its public offering by researching and developing profiles of each stakeholder group: financial analysts, policymakers, media, influencers, employees, retirees, consumers, dealers and suppliers. Armed with the understanding that GM faced a global reputation challenge among these groups, the company took a balanced approach to messaging and communications leading up to and throughout the public offering. The goal became to generate excitement and interest in the offering and the new company, while maintaining a humble and gracious tone.
• Introduce the new GM to financial analysts and potential investors
• Educate business and financial media about the new GM – to reach and help influence all stakeholders
• Build confidence in GM’s leadership and its commitment to product excellence and sustainable financial health
• Create momentum that contributes to GM’s overall global public reputation
• Create a desire to be part of a stronger, competitive, healthier GM – by employees, customers, investors, etc. while being mindful of the losses many have incurred
With the challenge of preparing for the public offering and increasing awareness of the new GM, the company assembled a cross-functional team of investor relations, financial communications, internal communications, and media relations professionals. GM also engaged agency support from Fleishman-Hillard for IPO strategic counsel and implementation, Jack Morton for event production and marketing communications, and Weber-Shandwick for traditional and social media.
The resulting program included direct and indirect communications activities targeted at each specific audience:
o Investor Relations: Planning and execution of a multi-city roadshow and online video roadshow, including additional “modules” on key areas of the business. Also, developed a new investor section of gm.com. Pre-released Q3 financial results before the roadshow, so that management could speak to the company’s ongoing return to profitability. Later, announced full Q3 results during the roadshow.
o Media Relations: Managed media relationships during period prior to the offering, leveraging key corporate and brand news to generate coverage supporting communications objectives. Conducted broadcast and print executive media interviews on the first day of trading with top-tier outlets. Worked to leverage media opportunities that would reach key audiences and ensure accurate message pull-through.
o Stock Exchange Events: Partnered with NYSE EuroNext and TSX for opening bell ceremonies. Conducted parade of GM vehicles outside of NYSE. Select journalists invited to participate in the NYSE bell ringing ceremony on the first day of trading.
o Social Media: Conducted online outreach activities and paid search term program, driving traffic to GM-developed IPO information housed on the new gm.com, launched in conjunction with the first day of trading. Social media was used to provide a “Behind the Scenes” look into the first day of trading and the new GM, to engage with influencers and consumers to extend reach, and to monitor sentiment and guide opinions.
o Internal Communications: Worked to educate employees about the offering and to improve confidence in the new company. Tactics included special global employee broadcast leading into NYSE bell ringing, featuring a special message from CEO Dan Akerson and comments from employees around the globe. Held a special employee celebration at the GM headquarters in Detroit, featuring local entertainment and executive remarks. Also encouraged international locations to conduct celebrations as appropriate. Launched new employee intranet with a similar look and feel to the new gm.com.
o Dealer and Supplier Communications: Conducted direct communications with dealers and suppliers. Also held a VIP celebration in conjunction with employee event at GM headquarters on the first day of trading to demonstrate appreciation for standing by the company during the difficult global economy.
o Digital Assets: Reinforcing the concept of the new GM, launched a new web site at gm.com, mySocrates, the employee intranet, and a new treatment of the corporate logo. Used gm.com and employee intranet as direct communications channels during the first day of trading. For example, employee Journalists in US, Canada, Shanghai, Europe, India, and Brazil to provide perspective and capture global activities of the day to share internally.
GM's record-breaking IPO resulted in the company attracting its greatest amount of positive media commentary since it began measuring in 2000. Many stories commented on the size of the offering, as well as its importance in reducing the government's stake in the automaker. A number of factors contributed, including the production launch of the acclaimed Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car, strong Q3 financial results, the new dynamic management team, the sheer size of the IPO, the reduced government ownership and generally improved performance across the board in terms of sales, profitability and the quality of GM’s products.
Additional results include:
• On first day of trading, GM executives participated in national and international media interviews, including 16 national TV, 11 international TV, three national radio and 11 national print and wire.
• News of the GM public offering received 10,093 placements, including 5,188 print and online placements, 4,905 broadcast, and 33,336 Twitter posts (November 17-19, 2010).
• During the pre-offering roadshow, management met with 85 investment firms over two weeks.
• Online roadshow presentations received 1,248 hits from institutional investors and 15,063 from retail investors.
• On the first day of trading, GM.com received the highest daily visits YTD, with just more than 89,000 visits. The investor section received 21x more visits than the normal daily average, with approximately 28,000 visits.
• Paid-search campaign focused on GM IPO generated 5,584 clicks on the first day of trading.
• 1,300 employees attended the first day of trading event at GM headquarters in Detroit.
• New employee intranet received 21,841 views of posted local news stories, 8,025 views of breaking IPO news, 2,966 views of the “Leadership Channel,” featuring executive remarks