During the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit this year, General Motors hosted a group of bloggers, many from non-automotive focused web sites. I was invited to participate in the program including the interviews that were scheduled with various GM executives, such as the group discussion we had with vice-chairman Robert Lutz. It's Weblogs, Inc. policy not to accept any payment from companies we cover, so we pay our own way all the time. I did however take advantage of the opportunities for interviews that you can find here and on AutoBlogGreen. Towards the end of the press previews, I spent a few minutes talking to Bill Betts, GM's Manager of Web Services about their blogger program.
AB: Bill, what is GM doing with bloggers this year in conjunction with the auto show and outside of the auto show as well?

BB: Well we're inviting and encouraging bloggers to cover certain events here at the auto show, sort of tailored to their areas of interest in particular. It might be trends, it might be autos themselves, it might be design, and what we're trying to do is increase our visibility and get into the new media and say, you know, we want to embrace those people who are out there in the new media. We've done it with our own blogs and we know that other bloggers are interested in our products.

AB: Is this the first time that General Motors has done this on such a wide scale or done it at all?

BB: Well this is the largest group we've had involved in an auto show to this point. We started with a small group in Los Angeles last fall, but it's something that will be ongoing I'm sure.

Read the rest of Bill Betts' comments after the jump
AB: How many bloggers have you had involved in this program here?

BB: About twenty.

AB: GM had a special work room set up for bloggers.

BB: Right. We actually had a staff sort of dedicated to hosting bloggers because in many cases, we felt that bloggers had not been to auto shows before and perhaps would need some guidance just to understand the show and how it operates and what the press conferences are about and how closely we stick to the time schedule on those.

AB: Did GM pick specific bloggers to do this with or did the bloggers approach GM about doing something. How did you go about working with particular bloggers?

BB: We took a look out there and found out what bloggers were doing in the areas of interest that we thought that we would like to bring in to the show, and so we invited a number of them – not everyone could make it or decided to come – but other than that, those that decided that yes, they would like to come and be hosted by us, we did that. And we also encouraged them, by the way, to be completely transparent about the fact that we were hosting. We host media representatives in some cases because we want them to be exposed to something that perhaps they haven't been before. So we'll actually provide for their travel or their accommodations when they're here.

AB: Prior to the auto show, and this is fairly standard, they had some previews, particularly for the Volt, and I'm sure for other vehicles as well, for press that have longer lead times and I know that AutoBlog was invited to participate and I attended one of those. Were any other bloggers invited to some of those early preview sessions?

BB: There were a few invited to the early preview sessions, particularly those that we felt needed to have enough information in advance about the Volt so they weren't hitting it cold when it was announced here on the floor, because it's fairly complicated to understand that vehicle and the power system that's involved in it.

AB: Since, obviously it's probably a little too early to judge since the show is still ongoing here in Detroit, but how would you judge the success of this program, and is it something that GM will continue to pursue in the future?

BB: It's all anecdotal to this point, but just meeting with people such as yourself, the feedback we're getting is that it's a tremendous success and we're very happy that we've been able to do this. In some cases, quite frankly, I think we have not changed attitudes necessarily. Some of the bloggers that may have been extremely critical of us have actually said well we're softening our view a little bit because we now understand your corporation and your products a little better than we did before, because we were on the outside before.

AB: Do you think this is something that you'll continue to do for future shows and other types of events?

BB: I believe we will, yes.

AB: Well great, thank you very much for your time, Bill.

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