For GM executive Bob Lutz, Detroit is the perfect setting for a conference of PR professionals.

“Detroit and the U.S. domestic automobile industry need to change a lot of perceptions — often misguided and wrong perceptions — that the rest of the country has about us if we’re going to turns things around,” Lutz, vice chairman of global product development for GM, said yesterday morning during the General Session at the PRSA 2008 International Conference.

And given the recessive global economy, Lutz acknowledged that it’s even more challenging to get your message across and make yourself heard.

Lutz, a veteran of more than 40 years in the automobile industry and chief blogger for GM’s Fastlane blog, shared his thoughts on the art of communications with the 3,000 students and professionals in attendance. His five key points echoed the theme of this year’s Conference — the Point of Connection.

  1. Communications is about making a connection.

That connection — message sent and received — is the essence of communications. “Your message must be received, heard and understood,” he said. “Otherwise, no connection is made.”

Lutz compared making a connection to the concept of automobile design. “An automobile’s design must make an immediate, emotional connection to a potential buyer,” he said. “If there is no connection — if that automobile visually doesn’t fascinate — then the potential customer has no desire to learn more about it…there will be no sale.”

So how do you make a message connect? He discussed that in his second point.

    2.  Communications must say something.

Lutz said that he dislikes canned, sanitized corporate messaging that doesn’t say anything.

“All large corporations are good at it. General Motors is no exception. Instead of being a weapon for putting out the truth, [a press release] becomes a method of risk avoidance,” he said. “It focuses on making sure no one says the wrong thing. By focusing on not saying the wrong thing, you’re essentially saying nothing.”

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