How to take ownership of a problem you have inherited and how to respond online

In this day in age, you say one dumb thing and it can be misconstrued in so many ways.   The language you use, the tone and voice plays a critical element in how you, your brand or company is viewed by the public eye.  Take for instance GM CEO Mary Barra, who in early 2014 was faced with addressing a problem she didn’t ask for – but was tasked with putting the fire out.  To get up to speed with what Barra had to deal with, click on this link to get the back story.  It was this video above that really showed she was willing to admit fault on behalf of the company she was now figure head.  How she responded was nothing short of brilliant and hit a lot of key points.

Assessment of the company’s tone, voice and language selection

GM CEO Mary Barra’s video message to GM employees on March 17, 2014 addressed the ignition switch recall crisis. It was the first communication Barra addressed on the recall issue.

In regards to her tone, Mary was transparent with her plan to combat the challenges that awaited her company.  Her tone demonstrated awareness of the issue, as well as determination with proceeding with progress steps moving forward.

Her voice was authentic, her authoritarian presence was felt.  Barra acknowledged the severity of the issue at stake, while providing a path of strategies for her team to implement.   Her voice was confident, stern and demonstrated leadership qualities.

The language presented was done with a formal tone.  She did not use complex vocabulary or super detailed insights, but rather focused on an overview plan instead.  Barra spoke in a language that all employees of GM could understand – all the way from the top-level executives to the hard-working men and women staff on the assembly lines.

Tone, voice and language selection as I understand it

I thought her tone was consistent throughout the video communication.  As for her voice, I was not fully convinced she came across as sincere as she should have, it sounded like she was most likely reading from a teleprompter.  And for her language, I thought it was appropriate for an internal communication that was sent to staff and would eventually be picked up by news media outlets.

If I wrote her online apology letter, it would look like this…

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