Mary Henige has been working for General Motors for 26 years. By the way she speaks about the company, you can immediately tell how devoted she is to her job, and how much she loves and believes in it. Last Tuesday my Public Relations Writing class had the honor of having Mary as a guest speaker.
General Motors is based out of Detroit, the automobile capital. There, Mary lives with her family although she travels a lot to conferences like the PR + Social Media Summit held last week at Marquette University. Mary has been a member of PRSA for 28 years, has a Masters in Communications, and currently is working on her Masters on Theology. She believes that those who have the gift to communicate well should give back to their community by being part of non-profit organizations.
Both in class, and the Summit Mary gave the students, and professionals in the field, great pointers on how companies should successfully run their social media. In class she mentioned that to go into social media, it is essential to have a Media Relations background. Experience on Media Relations teaches you how to think strategically; it’s not all about the content but of the context in social media.
Another issue Mary addressed is, who should manage social media? Her answer: everyone owns social media. At GM, customers Tweet the company for several issues. It could be customer service, inquiry of information, or marketing opinions. This is why they have four different agents working on different fields answering all these questions. All of these departments are separate, and only one person cannot know information of all aspects of the company. The same should apply to every company and organization out there, to ensure the client will get the accurate service they are asking for.
Finally, among many things that Mrs. Henige said, was that businesses should not hire a person right out of college to manage the social media. This threw me off a little bit at first, since my generation, the Millennials, grew up using all these mediums. When I asked Mary about it over Twitter, she responded: “New professionals need to learn the business, brands and co culture before being unleashed to web channels.” It makes sense that if a recent college grad has had no experience with a company before, and the business alone, odds are that the managing of social media won’t be strategic.
Mary Henige gave me, as well as the rest of the students who attended her presentation, a great insight into a company that has had ups and downs along the road, and has been able to tackle a lot of controversy. Hopefully, sooner than later, I can put all of this understanding to practice.