General Motors’ news release announcing the retirement of General Counsel Michael Millikin does not mention his role in handling the company’s ignition switch recalls. This is disingenuous.
Most people outside GM familiar with Millikin’s name know him due to the controversy. Some members of Congress are critical of GM for keeping him onboard despite the crisis. GM CEO Mary Barra didn’t necessarily need to defend him in the company’s news release. We infer she considers him a valuable adviser during the company’s recent problems. At a minimum, her praise of him in the release should have included the value she believes he brings to the table regarding this specific controversy. Excluding this aspect of his GM career is ignoring what everyone in the metaphorical room is thinking when hearing about his retirement.
Such news releases reinforce the stereotype that public relations is nothing than an attempt to spin reality despite the obvious. More companies must abandon this old school approach and at least acknowledge, if with only one sentence, the giant pink elephant stumbling around the room. Otherwise, the public may view other, more important company statements with skepticism.