Our feature this week examines the Tesla Motors vs. The New York Times media confrontation - and draws some PR lessons from the contretemps.
The additional selected articles offer important reference works for PR professionals and thoughtful insights on social media marketing, media measurement, and managing a media crisis.
Pay special attention to the "Investing Tip" from Bill Gates that focuses on the value of measurement in business.
The traditional PR playbook says "never pick a fight with the guy who controls the printing press" - but corporations can now battle publishers on more even terms through the digital "printing press." Case in point: the confrontation between Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, the pioneering electric car company, and The News York Times
. The massive PR battle played out in most major publications and social media. Each side has claimed the moral high ground and used most every PR tool to support its position. The PR confrontation is undoubtedly destined to become a preeminent case study in all public relations master's degree programs.
Here's a recap. Tesla's PR representatives pitched a story idea to The New York Times:
have a reporter test drive a Tesla S electric car on an extended journey that requires electric refills along the East Coast between Virginia and Connecticut where new "supercharger" stations recently opened. The Times bought the pitch and assigned John M. Broder, a Washington-based reporter on energy and the environment, to take the drive and write a report. In his article, Stalled Out on Tesla's Electric Highway
, Broder focused on the problems he encountered in getting to charging stations without running out of charge. Despite receiving phone instructions on battery conservation from Tesla representatives during the trip, Broder reported that in the end the Tesla ran out of charge and had to be towed. The story photo showed the car being lifted onto a flatbed tow truck. The article, it should be noted, had little criticism of the car. The criticism was pointed at the fact that the charging stations were too far apart to easily accommodate the range of the car's batteries.
Elon Musk, the combative founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, took umbrage at what he considered an unfair review and wrote a scathing retort on his company blog on February 13 titled A Most Peculiar Test Drive
. Utilizing detailed data including charts accumulated by the car's computer during the Broder trip, Musk refuted many of the key points of the Broder story and accused the reporter of falsifying facts about the drive and consciously setting out to sabotage the test. Aside from the unfounded accusations about the reporter's motivations, the Musk blog post is a factual and reasoned defense of the car, its capabilities, and the charging stations.
Not to be deterred, The New York Times
published a follow-up article on February 14 by Broder defending his actions and his reporting. The Tesla Data: What It Says and What It Doesn't
refutes or explains the Tesla data on a point by point basis. The reply is a model of reasoned explanation and a defense of journalistic integrity. Broder also wrote a blog post on February 12 entitled The Charges Are Flying over a Test of Tesla's Charging Network
with a similar defense. The Times Public Editor is expected to
investigate and report his findings.
Of the many comments about the contretemps, PaidContent
seems to have the best insight in Tesla, the New York Times and the Leveling of the Media Playing Field
by Matthew Ingram.
Another thoughtful analysis of the dispute comes from Bianca Bosker in Huffington Post
who examines the "truth" of data vs. insight in an article titled Tesla, The New York Times, and The Truth about "Truth" in Data
Data is supposed to be authoritative. But sometimes it obfuscates instead of clarifies. The Tesla data tells what happened but not why it happened. The data provides an incomplete view of the situation. As a result, instead of being conclusive, the data fueled the debate. The scientist/engineer Musk expected data to be conclusive - as it usually is in science and engineering. The journalist's explanation (based on his notes) of why events unfolded turns out to be a more convincing narrative than the data-driven account.
- Because companies and individuals can now effectively and publicly refute the facts and conclusions of any article, journalists and other writers need to be even more scrupulous in their reporting. Fewer reporters with more demands on their time make thorough fact-checking difficult but imperative.
- Companies really do need to continue to be cautious in attacking the guy with the big printing press.
- Companies need to assess carefully the impact of a negative article versus the impact of a continued PR battle.
- Before attacking the reporter or the publisher of a negative article, it's usually advisable for companies to talk with the reporter about the facts.
- It's important to recognize the limitations of the power to publish in social media.
- The PR playbook that recommends acknowledging shortcomings still stands.
- In any public confrontation, tone is crucial.
Though aggregate opinion seems to favor The Times
at this juncture, both Tesla Motors and The New York Times
may be winners in this confrontation. The Times
deftly defended journalistic standards and its integrity. Tesla gained inestimable publicity for the benefits of its electric car with criticism being limited to its charging stations being too far apart - a problem that can and will be remedied within months.
Round 2a of the battle may take place this week as six owners of the Tesla S duplicate Broder's journey and report on their experience.
Round 3 of the battle - a second test drive by The New York Times
after new charging stations are installed - will likely assure the PR success that Tesla originally sought.
10 Great Apps for PR Professionals
With over 700,000 apps available for the iPhone and still others for Android phones, how do you find worthwhile professional apps? Kelsey Libert, with her diverse background in digital marketing and PR, has selected 10 Great Apps for PR Professionals
including LogMeIn to link to your office computer, PDaNet which turns your cell phone into a WiFi hotspot, mobile GoToMeeting which allows you to have video conference calls on your mobile phone, Money-Lover Expense Manager, Pocket which allows you to save Internet pages for later viewing, and Evernote, your digital notepad.
Bulldog Reporter's 2013 Press Release Buyer's Guide
This comprehensive white paper (a 2.68mbyte download) focuses on how to choose the right service for your press release distribution needs. The 2013 Press Release Buyer's Guide
looks at the history of press release distribution, establishing goals for press releases, bonus and add-on services, and pricing and analytics. It then compares features of the leading press release distribution services including Business Wire, Cision, PR Newswire, and Marketwire. The comparison does not include PR Web.
Are You a Multitasking Writer? 3 Things to Avoid and 2 Ways to Do It Wisely
The Measurement Standard
Multitasking is anathema to good writing. Writing requires concentration and focus. Are You a Multitasking Writer? 3 Things to Avoid and 2 Ways to Do It Wisely
, written by Daphne Gray-Grant of Rapid Writing, suggests avoiding the commonplace interruptions while writing - especially email and phone. Her suggestions are helpful ways to avoid distractions and stay on task. Here's one more suggestion for those who write in large offices. Put a small sign on the door or entry that says: Writing, Please Do Not Disturb Just Now. How and Why to Stop Multitasking
by Peter Bregman in Harvard Business Review
in 2010 delves into some interesting facts about multitasking. Key point: multitaskers do NOT get more done. They also endure greater stress. In his own personal experience, Bregman found there was no downside to giving up multitasking.
2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards
Ragan's PR Daily
The list of winners is diverse. It includes many non-profits, a casino, a major automaker, an airline, a household goods manufacturer, a homebuilder, a fast food chain, PR agencies and more. But, the really good part of 2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards
is that it includes insight into why each winning campaign was selected.
21 Social Media Marketing Tips from the Pros
Social Media Examiner
Here's a bet. In reviewing 21 Social Media Marketing Tips from the Pros
, you'll find at least one tip where you'll say "We should be doing that." The tips include use of a Linked-In business profile, "like" your customers on Facebook, become the Wikipedia of your industry, attract leads with Facebook offers, distribute your blog content on Linked-In, and - CyberAlert's favorite tip - listen and never stop listening. Consider the CyberAlert Media Monitoring service to do your listening.
101 Social Media Marketing Resources - 2012
Published in December, but still 98% valid, 101 Social Media Marketing Resources - 2012
offers a well-organized list of online resources about social media in general and each of the major social media platforms. Topics include: social media top resources; social media strategy; social media PR; social media metrics; social media guidelines; blogging; YouTube; Facebook; Twitter; and more.
5 Dead Simple Ways to Track Social Media ROI
After all the convoluted attempts to measure social media, 5 Dead Simple Ways to Track Social Media ROI
is a refreshingly uncomplicated set of measurement methodologies that are well-known and proven including coupons, call tracking phone numbers, conversion measurement, and Google analytics.
Twitter Marketing Mistakes That Will Kill Your Efforts
30 Terrible Pieces of Social Media Advice You Should Ignore
If you're active in social media, you've probably personally read each and every one of the 30 Terrible Pieces of Social Media Advice You Should Ignore
. Yes, your prospects are on social media, so you should be there too. But, no, you don't need to be active on every social media platform. No, you shouldn't use tools that auto publish your content on all social media platforms. No, you shouldn't let a young intern manage your social media program. No, social media is not free. It is quite costly in terms of staff time. No, engagement is not the most important metric. But, yes, you can definitely measure social media results.
2013 Social Media Benchmark Study
JD Power & Associates
The JD Power & Associates 2013 Social Media Benchmark Study
finds that businesses can no longer adopt a trial-and-error approach to social media as all-new research finds a link between social media and business metrics such as consumers' likelihood to purchase or interact with companies through leading social channels. The study measures and reports overall consumer experience in engaging with companies on social platforms for both marketing and customer service needs across more than 100 U.S. brands in six industries: airline, auto, banking, credit card, telecom and utility. The study establishes performance benchmarks and industry best practices that provide insights to companies to help them maximize their social media efforts. This news release reveals key findings including companies that perform well in social media.
Exhausted by Social Media? It May Be Time for a Breakup
Who Should Handle Your Social Media? 8 Key Considerations
Social Media Today
Should one department have responsibility for social media? Which one? Should you outsource social media? Should it be handled by a young staffer or a seasoned veteran? Who Should Handle Your Social Media? 8 Key Considerations
offers some common-sense answers to common questions on managing social media.
A Crucial Investing Tip from Bill Gates
The Motley Fool
The headline grabbed my attention for investing purposes - but A Crucial Investing Tip
from Bill Gates really has to do with measurement. Just what is the lesson? Here's the key quote: "I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal. … This may seem pretty basic, but it is amazing to me how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right." It applies to investing, public health problems and - for our purposes here - public relations and marketing. You can apply the investing questions to communications measurement as well.
Five Laws Every Crisis Manager Needs to Know
Laws seem to govern most everything we do. In Five Laws Every Crisis Manager Needs to Know
, Sara Hawkins, attorney and author of the "Blog Law" series examines the five categories of U.S. laws that govern crisis management. The categories are: defamation law, employment laws, preservation of data and evidence, disclosure laws, and laws restricting speech.
A Story Takes Flight
PR Week highlights a video launched by The Council of PR Firms entitled A Story Takes Flight
. Using au courant story-telling techniques, the video attempts to show what it's like to work in PR and the impact PR can generate. Many outsiders will rightfully wonder if PR people really talk like that and if the video accurately portrays the profession.
The Yogi Berra School of Marketing
How do so-called Yogi-isms apply to marketing and PR? The Yogi Berra School of Marketing
presents some of the more famous Yogi-isms and examines how they might apply to corporate communications. See how "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded," may apply to Facebook.
The Google (George) Ferris Wheel Logo
The daily changes in the Google logo can be lots of fun - and The Google (George) Ferris Wheel Logo
is one of the most enchanting with multiple layers of animation saluting Valentine's Day and the inventor of the Ferris Wheel. (Now, really, did you know the Ferris Wheel was named for inventor George W. G. Ferris Jr.?) Click on the heart and see what happens. Lesson: Try to develop something on your website that entertains visitors and brings them back regularly.
PR Meetings, Seminars, White Papers
— Solo PR Summit
, sponsored by Solo PR Pro, will be held February 20-21 in Atlanta, Ga. The cost to attend is $225 for members and $300 for non-members.
— 2013 Big Apple Awards
, sponsored by PRSA-NY, you can enter the 2013 Big Apple Awards competition up until the deadline of March 4, 2013.
— PR Measurement Summit
, sponsored by Ragan Communications, will be held March 19-20 in Washington, DC. The cost to attend is $495 for members and $645 for non-members.
— Content Marketing Summit
, sponsored by Business Development Institute, will be held April 17 in New York, NY. The cost to attend is $195.00.
— AMEC 2013 Summit
, sponsored by AMEC, will be held June 5-7 in Madrid, Spain. The cost to attend is €911 for members and €1093 for non-members.
— "Structuring a Social Media Team,"
How do other organizations—from small nonprofits to multinational corporations—staff a social media team? How many people are using Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms? And what do these professionals earn?
PR & Marketing Job Openings
The listing for this issue includes PR job openings and marketing positions — with detailed job descriptions for each. Readers are invited to submit job postings to firstname.lastname@example.org
Best of Previous Issues
Determining Your Media Monitoring Needs
Print News Monitoring Vs. Online News Monitoring
Broadcast Monitoring for TV & Radio News
Selecting a Social Media Monitoring Service
F.r.e.e & Low-Cost News Release Distribution Services
|CyberAlert 5.0 - local, national, and worldwide news monitoring and press clipping service monitors 55,000+ online news sources in 250+ languages each day.
||CyberAlert TV - broadcast news tracking service monitors closed caption text of news broadcasts on all national news networks & channels plus all local TV stations in Top 100 U.S. markets.
ONLINE SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING
|BlogSquirrel - blog monitoring service monitors 7+ million new postings each day in 75+ million blogs worldwide.
||CyberAlert VDO - monitoring of consumer-generated video clips in 200+ online video sharing and news sites.
|Netpinions - consumer discussion / word-of-mouth / buzz monitoring service monitors 100,000+ online message boards, forums, and Usenet news groups.
||Twitter & Facebook - Monitor your key words in all Twitter tweets and all Facebook public posts.
Today's Best Media Monitoring Value
No per clip fees. No annual contract required.
Get Better Results Than Doing It Yourself —
And Rid Yourself of a Tiresome Chore.
No credit card required or requested.