Mary Henige (@maryhenige)

by Jason Preston on March 4, 2011

Director, Social Media & Digital Communications at GM

Mary Henige has held a variety of communications positions in her 24 years with General Motors. Currently she is director, social media and digital communications. In this position, she leads GM’s strategic social media efforts including external blogs; senior leader web and Twitter chats; Facebook fan pages; and other social web activities. Her team works in cooperation with other areas to broaden the reach of GM’s “stories” including video development, media outreach, media materials, the global media website and development and maintenance of the employee intranet site. She partnered with marketing to launch the www.gmreinvention web site, which was launched after GM filed for Chapter 11 on June 1. The trade publication Automotive News recognized it as one of the top 10 “Big Moments in New Media” for 2009. In April 2010, GM’s Reinvention campaign was selected as a finalist for the 2010 Sabre Award in the Crisis Management category. Prior to that, she was director, strategic and executive communications since April 2008.

A native of Detroit, Mary was born on Dec. 1, 1964. She received a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and public relations, and a master’s degree in organizational communication and public relations, both from Wayne State University (WSU), in 1986 and 1993, respectively.

Mary began her General Motors career as an exhibit representative at GM’s former World of Motion pavilion at Epcot Center, Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Fla., in 1986. Three years later, she became a staff coordinator in the news relations section at GM’s headquarters in Detroit.

In December 1991, Mary joined the North American Operations Public Affairs Staff at GM’s Technical Center in Warren, Mich., handling media relations for the Design and Research and Development Centers, and the Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems Office. She also served as GM’s public affairs liaison to the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR). She joined Pontiac Motor Division as manager of media relations for sales and marketing in October 1993. She assumed greater responsibility when Pontiac and GMC merged in 1996.

In May 1997 she was promoted to director of legal and safety communication for General Motors. In November 1999, her responsibilities changed to allow her to focus full time on safety communication opportunities at GM, especially in child passenger safety. In the fall of 2000, she helped create and launch a $10 million GM-wide “SenseAble Driving” program on safe driving practices to help educate consumers on driver distraction issues.

Mary became communications director for the Pontiac-GMC Division of General Motors in January 2001. In November 2004, she assumed additional responsibility for Buick. During this time, she oversaw the public relations launches for 11 vehicles including the ‘02 Pontiac Vibe; the ’04 Grand Prix and GTO; the ’05 Montana SV6, the G6 sports sedan and coupe; the ‘06 Solstice and Torrent; the ’04 GMC Envoy XUV and Canyon; and the ’05 Envoy Denali. She developed integrated marketing communications plans to promote several divisional marketing initiatives including the Pontiac G6 giveaway on The Oprah Winfrey Show in September 2004, and the inclusion of the Solstice on Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” television show in May 2005.

In May 2005, she was appointed director of executive communications. This team oversaw the communication for the auto company’s C-suite leaders including GM’s CEO and Chairman Rick Wagoner. She also oversaw the 2005 annual report. The report received the Grand Award for the Chairman’s Letter from the International Annual Report Competition. GM also received a Gold Award for the overall report, and a Bronze for the written text. Additionally, GM received The American Graphic Design Award for excellence in communication and graphic design.

In June 2006, she was appointed communications director of GM’s North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing organization. In that position she provided communications support to the vice president of sales, service and marketing, and was a member of his senior leadership group. Her team was responsible for sales; marketing and advertising; internal and dealer communications. Additionally, she had oversight of five regional communications offices, Service Parts Operations and OnStar. About two years later she became the director of strategic and executive communications in April 2008. This position included responsibility for GM’s speechwriting team, extensive grassroots communications activities and the annual report.

Mary is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She began her affiliation with PRSA in 1984 as a student. She was the 2003 president of the 550-member PRSA-Detroit Chapter, and focused on education during her term. The chapter won one of three national diversity awards for outstanding multicultural programming, as well as an East Central District Award for professional development during her tenure.

She helped the Detroit Chapter obtain the ’08 PRSA International Conference bid by promoting GM’s willingness to be the premier sponsor. In October 2007, she was asked to co-chair the Detroit conference. The international conference team raised nearly $250,000 in sponsorships, more than any prior conference. About 2,000 professionals and more than 1,000 students attended the successful conference. Additionally, the event pumped nearly $2 million into Detroit’s economy, according to the Detroit Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Mary enjoys working with and mentoring students and new professionals. She has trained and recruited interns for many years. In 2005, she began overseeing General Motors internship program. She has been the professional advisor to WSU’s PRSSA chapter since 1993. In 2005 she became chair of Wayne State University’s Department of Communication PR Advisory Board. Mary has taught introductory public relations courses at Wayne State, and has been a guest lecturer at many U.S. universities. Beginning in 2004, she began speaking at national and regional public relations, student and social media conferences and webinars. In 2010, she’s already given more than 10 external presentations on behalf of GM.

In November 2007 she received the PRSA-Detroit Chapter’s Hefty Distinguished Service Award for her ongoing dedication to the Detroit Chapter. In May 1997, Mary received an alumni achievement award from Wayne State University’s PRSSA Chapter. In 1991, she received a volunteer service award from the PRSA-Detroit Chapter. Also in 1991, she was selected as the year’s most outstanding alumna from Sterling Heights High School in Sterling Heights, Mich.

Mary and her husband Chris have two children – Margaret age 11 and John age 9.

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