A Peek Inside the Firehouse

    May 5, 2006

Some time back, a number of bloggers noted the launch of the Chrysler Firehouse blog, which limited access to the working press.

Most of us don’t qualify, so we could only guess at the nature of the items posted there. Today, thanks to Chicago Tribune staffer Jim Mateja, we get a glimpse.

Mateja writes that Chrysler PR honcho Jason Vines used the press-focused Firehouse to launch a tirade against the oil industry, and offers samples from Vines’ post, like this one:

Just as the weather warms and Americans are turning their thoughts to hitting the roads for vacations or weekend getaways, the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel are rising faster than the odds of the Detroit Lions playing in the Super Bowl.

Mateja doesn’t buy all of Vines’ arguments, particularly around the US auto industry’s fuel economy performance. He also notes that beseiged Ford took no position on the Chrysler rant and GM Chairman Rick Wagoner stopped short of endorsing Vines’ point of view. I also haven’t found any supporting statements from Chryler’s top brass, but it’s hardly uncommon for the top guys to keep mum while lieutenants take the battle to the field. While I believe Vines wrote his own words-he’s the PR guy, after all; to whom else would he turn?-I also have to believe his bosses knew full well what he planned to say. It’s not uncommon in these kinds of battles for the top brass to stay above the turmoil while lieutenants take the fight to the streets.

I’m not sure how many journalists have signed on for a login and password to access Firehouse, but I do remember, back in the mid-90’s, when Chrysler launched one of the first-ever comprehensive media relations sites on the web, most of which was password protected, and the automotive press-mainstream and trade-flocked to gain access to proprietary content not available to their readers. If Firehouse has half those numbers, and pays attention to Vines’ post (as Mateja did), it could lead to coverage that fuels the shift away from automakers on onto Big Oil as the gas price crisis worsens.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.