Friday, April 29, 2011

GE Launches Twitter Blitz to Combat New York Times Article

Has a media outlet ever published something incorrect or unfair about your client or company?

You probably called the reporter or editor, maybe wrote an op-ed.

Well, what do you think of General Electric’s approach to media relations?

On Friday, the Times published a story claiming that thanks to a series of loopholes GE pays nothing in taxes. The story said: “[GE's] American tax bill? None.”

Seems pretty clear.

GE says it’s not true—and it wants to silence the online echo chamber.

The GE Public Affairs Twitter account unleashed a series of tweets telling journalists to stop repeating the Times’s claims and insisting the paper was wrong. (Even though reports have said it didn’t ask the Times for a correction.)

@Jwesty5 Claiming that GE's American tax bill is "none" is simply not true. GE pays payroll, property, sales use & value added taxes, etc.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

The Business Insider (TBI) received a couple of these messages from GE, one of which said: “Stop the misleading attacks.”

So, the website gave GE some rope and asked specific questions. It was enough rope for the company’s PR department to hang itself.

GE spokesperson Anne Eisele told TBI that the company “paid federal income taxes” in 2010 in the form of payments—payments that will eventually be returned to the company, according to TBI—and that it paid “tons” of taxes.

This prompted TBI to say the Times story was misleading. (It appears the story was misleading, because the paper was referring to GE’s federal income taxes, not its local, state, and payroll taxes.)

The Times fired back, sharing an AFP story (published Monday), in which Eisele said: “GE did not pay U.S. federal taxes last year because we did not owe any.”

Wait a second …

Is the story untrue—as the Twitter account stated—or did the company not pay federal taxes, as its spokesperson said publicly?

We’ll let TBI’s chief executive take it from here.

“GE is full of crap,” Henry Blodget wrote. The company carried out the “worst kind of corporate spin” and should be “above it,” he added.

Blodget continued:
“The public deserves simple, clear answers about GE's business from GE's PR team, not spin. GE is one of the most important and powerful companies in the world. It if wants to live up to its reputation for fairness, quality, and leadership, it should make certain that its vast communications and legal resources are used to further those goals—not to waste people's time and obscure truths that some Americans may find unpleasant.”
You can read about the whole ordeal—including the email exchange between GE and TBIhere.

Michael Sebastian

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