Gini Dietrich

The Risk of Earned Media without a Communications Professional

By: Gini Dietrich | March 11, 2013 | 

The Risk of Earned Media without a Communications ProfessionalElon Musk is a very smart man.

After all, he co-founded PayPal and then took that money and founded SpaceX (a company designed to get man on Mars, where he wants to die) and co-founded Tesla Motors (a company designed to make really fast, really awesome, really beautiful, really expensive electric cars).

He’s enjoyed a pretty admirable reputation. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold. Heck, he’s only a few years older than me and he’s a self-made gazillionnaire (jerk). But I have one thing he doesn’t have: Communication skills.

Enter the New York Times

Last month, New York Times reporter John Broder took the electric Tesla Model S Sedan for a test drive along the newly electrified stretch of I-95 on the east coast. The electric-car manufacturer helped put charging points into place at service stations at 200 mile intervals along the freeway.

Broder wrote in his review about the car, “That is well within the Model S’s 265-mile estimated range, as rated by the Environmental Protection Agency, for the version with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery that I drove – and even more comfortably within Tesla’s claim of 300 miles of range under idea conditions. Of course, mileage my vary.”

So far, so good. Broder has the information he needs from Tesla. The company’s messaging is accurate, the charging stations are close enough together, and he’s ready to take his drive. He goes on to compliment how gorgeous the car is and how much he likes the Google-driven navigation system. He talks about all of the awards the car has won and how much fun he expects it will be to drive. All of this, of course, based on what the car company has told him.

And then he experiences the car himself. He starts off on a nice drive on a 30 degree day and makes it to the first charging station just fine. And then the proverbial wheels come off. While the car’s system said it was fully charged, Broder discovers he’s losing charged miles faster than he should so he slows down, turns off the heat, and drives in the right lane until he can get to the next charging station. Frustrated, he charges it and gets to a hotel with some 90 miles left of range, about twice the 46 miles he needs to get back to a charging station the next morning.

But when he gets up and goes out to start the car in the now 10 degree weather, he finds the car display shows only 25 miles of remaining range and he won’t be able to make it to the charging station. By the end, he has to have the car towed to the charging station where he waited 80 minutes for it to recharge so he could get back to Manhattan.

This recap is retold in an eloquent 2,000 word article that details every moment of the more than 24 hour test drive. Broder describes how several different Tesla employees helped him – everyone from an agent and product planner to the chief technology officer – during his drive.

Defensive vs. Factual

And then Elon Musk gets involved.

Three days after Broder’s article runs, Musk tweets, “NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour.”

Elon Musk Tweets about John Broder Review

Even if he didn’t charge to the maximum and he did take a long detour, as both a Tesla customer and a highly-influential journalist, his experience is different than what the company promised.

Imagine if Broder had just paid more than $100,000 for the car and had this experience. Let’s say he then tweets about it and puts it on Facebook and tells his friends not to buy it. Would Musk debate him then?

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Musk continues to tell the world why Broder is wrong, detailing their side of the story on the Tesla blog. Some rabid Tesla fans have come to Musk’s defense, but overall, he looks defensive.

The Risk of DIY Earned Media

This demonstrates both the magic and the challenge of earned media. If your customers and influencers love what you’re selling and have the same experience as you’ve told them to expect, earned media and social media both work magically in your favor. It’s good for your ego, it’s good for business, and it makes people want to buy from you.

But if, operationally, things are not what they seem and a customer has an experience very different than what you tell them to expect, they now have a very large voice.

It used to be, if a story like this ran, the communications professionals would be brought in. First we’d be admonished for “letting this happen” and then we’d be told to fix it.

We’d call the journalist and work very hard to get either a second story or a retraction. The latter, of course, nearly impossible in this particular scenario.

But now? Now everyone has a voice, including the leader of an organization who isn’t accustomed to being told he’s wrong. He’s acting on emotion, not on strategy or planning. He’s acting without the benefit of a consulting his communication professionals.

And acting on emotion, no matter how smart you are, always gets you in trouble. Always.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Getting defensive can be understandable, but is rarely smart, and generally not a pretty thing.

    • @KenMueller It sure is understandable. But where is the remorse? He’s going up against one of the most influential papers in the world. Not smart.

      • @ginidietrich We talk about how social media levels the playing field and gives us easier, more public access, to those we might not normally have access to. This may be true, but just because you have an axe in your hand, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Perhaps we need to spend more time teaching people WHEN to talk, rather than just what to say when they do talk.

        • @KenMueller If they read Spin Sucks, they’d already know this.

        • @ginidietrich people read that thing?

        • belllindsay

          @KenMueller  @ginidietrich Well you do. Oh wait. That’s right.  You’re not people.

        • @KenMueller  @ginidietrich I think I love this thought. “Just because you have an axe in your hand, doesn’t mean you have to use it.” Wise words.

        • HowieG

          @allenmireles  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich @belllindsay I understand spinsucks is the ‘Source that agreed to only talk if not named’ for like 70% of their stories. The other 30% of from @bdorman264

        • HowieG

          @allenmireles  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich If Ken had been friends of young George Washington maybe the world would be a vastly different place….with us living as British subjects and the bears would be a soccer team.

        • belllindsay

          @HowieG  @allenmireles  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich You people *wish* you were British subjects. Oh, the perks!

  • belllindsay

    Acting on EMOTION!!?? I have no clue what you’re talking about. 😉 Funnily enough, I had noticed peripherally a few headlines, etc., when this whole debacle shook down, and truth be told I didn’t read deeper because I’m just not that interested in the whole ‘electric car’ thing (I know, I know). BUT, I had already formed an opinion: “wow, this reporter really took a shot at the car people….poor car people, that sucks for them.” I realize now, after reading your breakdown of what happened, that my opinion was clearly incorrect (or at the least very one sided and ill-informed) – but I’m a perfect example of what can happen with social media/earned media – and I’m in the biz for heaven’s sake! In our fast paced world people scan feeds, see tweets (without digging deeper) and only read snippets of articles or blog posts at times. As a brand, it behooves you to be hyper aware of that reality and ensure the correct message is getting out.

    • @belllindsay There are definitely lots of people who are siding with Tesla on this. That’s why I let it sit for a few weeks. So I could see how it all shook out and form an opinion solely based on how I would counsel them if they were a client. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be to bad mouth the journalist at every chance they got.

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich Journalists hate being bad mouthed. Especially New York Times journalists. 😉

      • HowieG

        @ginidietrich  @belllindsay what is social media/earned media? Isn’t this a foodie blog?

        • belllindsay

          @HowieG  @ginidietrich Only in Gini’s mind.

  • JennLJohnson00

    SpinSucks ‘Acting on emotion, doesn’t matter how smart you are, gets you in trouble.’ Agreed! Great Read!

    • ginidietrich

      JennLJohnson00 Thanks Jenn!

  • Well, when you have a gazillion dollars, I guess you can act any way you want, huh? Not really, but I assume some must think so. 
    Not very well played, but shoot me if I EVER consider buying an electric car.
    So, did you finish reading or did you write this last night? Inquiring minds want to know….

    • @bdorman264 I haven’t finished reading – I’m reading The Stand and it’s 16,000 chapters – but I wrote this this morning. I read and watched some TV last night. Totally decadent for me.

      • @ginidietrich I checked out the Stand from our library; I had to turn it back in. After 11/22/63 I wasn’t ready for another long one. Instead, I read Escape from Camp 14 about the first North Korean born in a labor camp who escaped. 
        Dennis Rodman is a supreme douchbag.

        • @bdorman264 That sounds like it’s just as painful. Jeez.

        • HowieG

          @bdorman264  @ginidietrich stehen king the stand? And Dennis Rodman was the North Korean Escapee?
          Dennis Rodman is a peace and love guy. I know you are like ‘Do i know you Dennis’? At the height of his career laying for the lakers he bought a home in lily white newport beach (home to john wayne) on the beach caused a huge uproar.Some of my friends who lived in the same area used to go to his house late nights. They called it Club Rodman.  It seems he just always had his home open late nights on weekends. And instead of gangstas or rappers it was the white yuppie and rich surfer crowd’ Drinks on him. My view of him changed 100% for the positive right there.
          In fact that is where Gini met Kelly is what I hear. Club Rodman.

      • @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 I loved The Stand, haven’t read it in years, but it was good.
        Angry and defensive rarely plays well for CEOs.

        • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes  @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 I’m trying to think when angry and defensive does play well…especially in the marketplace. Not coming up with any examples in the moment.

        • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes  I love it, too. Though, every time I sneeze, I think I’m going to die now.

  • DickCarlson

    “And acting on emotion, no matter how smart you are, always gets you in trouble. Always.”  If I were ever to get a tattoo, this would be it.  Or possibly just carved into the granite on my tombstone. <br>  I do have to admit that pretty much anything written by a NYT reporter falls into the “questionable” column for me.  But he could have done a much better job by just letting his Telsa Tribe take on the guy.

    • @DickCarlson Maybe you could get a tattoo of it in Chinese letters? That way it’d be beautiful too.

  • JudyBott

    judybott Spot on!

  • AstiAlexandria

    ginidietrich very true!

  • j_singh11

    I’ve been following this story since it broke in NYT. Before anything else, I must admit, I’ve been a fan of Tesla since the day I found out that the same battery that runs my macbook can also run a car, and a pretty one at that. Of course my macbook is expensive than a PC, so it this car. But, nonetheless. Good thing, even people half way across the world in India read about it. Bad thing, even people half way across the world in India read about it. Doesn’t bode too well for Elon Musk or Tesla. He co-founded PayPal, he should’ve known better about the digital media. He and his team have invented something that could really shake things up in the near future. What was he thinking? That’s water under the bridge. But what scares me more is that Tesla had all the logs from the car. Were they logged in to the car as it was being driven or were the logs downloaded after it was returned to the dealership? Are they gonna be watching me all the time if I buy their car? What’s even scarier is, how did he miss out on not hiring a communications expert with a lot of experience in digital comms in the first place?

    • adebrunner1

      @j_singh11 Just so you know, they downloaded the logs from an Android device when he returned the test car. So, at least for now, they’re not tracking you. Of course, that doesn’t mean Google isn’t watching you, haha 🙂

    • @j_singh11 I’m a big fan of Tesla, too. Heck, I’m a fan of everything this guy does…except this. Perhaps he’s gotten big enough he needs to listen to professional counsel instead of winging off retorts.

  • SteelToad

    I’m normally right with you, but this time … lets just say your bias is showing.

    • @SteelToad How so?

      • SteelToad

        @ginidietrich Well just looking at the intro: SpaceX was funded to compete for and win the X Prize, awarded for creation of a reusable spacecraft (not “designed” to get to Mars to die). Tesla motors was created to make mainstream electric vehicles that look and drive like ordinary cars (not “designed” to be expensive).
        Assuming I knew nothing about the story, Musk has already been portrayed as a non-communicative, suicidal, money grubbing “jerk” in the first two paragraphs.

        • @SteelToad Interesting you took it that way – I meant it the complete opposite. I am SUPER fascinated by what he does (and a little jealous he’s not much older than me). Perhaps I positioned his vision for SpaceX incorrectly, but I had just read in Vanity Fair that he wants to die on Mars so that’s why I wrote it that way.

  • This is genius, G- And acting on emotion, no matter how smart you are, always gets you in trouble. Always.

    • @RebeccaTodd It’s like the emails you want to send that you pound out and then delete because they’re not appropriate.

  • LouHoffman

    After watching the NYT/Tesla debacle, I was reminded that the very traits that cause CEOs like Musk be successful are the same ones that cause them to be hoisted on their own petard.
    They have incredible strength of conviction, particularly when it comes to taking on “The Man.”
    The New York Times represented “The Man.”
    So when a crisis arrives at their door step, they automatically default to “I know best,” relegating the communication professionals to a secondary role.

    • @LouHoffman I’m big on sticking it to The Man. I don’t fault him for that. But (as you well know), there is a way to do that without coming across as a narcissistic jerk.

      • LouHoffman

        @ginidietrich I heard a little “Jack Black” in your first line. Seriously (yes I’m capable), I agree with your point … which is where his communications team could have helped.

  • mikekmcclure

    Amen, sister!

  • PattiRoseKnight1

    I’ve learned the hard way to never act on emotion – sometimes that is what it takes so it never happens again.

    • @PattiRoseKnight1 The problem with this guy is he continues to shoot his mouth off. He was at a news conference last week and was asked about it and continued to say how wrong the journalist is.

  • HowieG

    The biggest thing I take from this is he has 160,000 followers and less than 1% retweeted his tweet. hat is not a very high ‘We got your back’ score. There is more to this story. Having worked on advanced hydrogen fuel cell car and bus programs with many of the major automakers this sounds like a bunch of bonehead moves by Tesla.
    Why did no one drive with him like a tech guy with the company or at least caravan. They left so much open to go wrong. Which makes me really wonder if those cars are safe or reliable when dumb people run the company 😉 See image is everything!

    • @HowieG As someone who has set up these kinds of media tests, I know why they didn’t have anyone go along with him. He most likely wouldn’t allow it. I really like what Tesla is doing and would love a world where we don’t have to rely on oil. But, from a communications perspective, they didn’t handle this one well. Pointing out all the things the journalist did wrong along the drive is akin to pointing out why your customers are idiots. Bad, bad business.

      • HowieG

        @ginidietrich if that is true about the media test they didn’t test the car enough. Something like that has to be bullet proof in operating perfectly.
        Unlike trickle down economics which does work, it does in technology. Breakthroughs happen for the rich and then we get it. This is especially true for cars. So go Elon.
        My point was if they took care of the situation the way they designed the car Elon wouldn’t of been in the situation of showcasing his communication skills. For every car part they have to prove it can survive a crash in a way that doesn’t kill people. Engineers spend days/weeks creating data charts for the Government Regulator showing every single way the part can be impacted, what will happen and proof they tested to confirm, many times (crashing on sleds and cars etc)  Maybe design the media test the same way?
        Vermont is having a huge debate about ripping apart mountain ridge lines to erect 300FT industrial wind turbine farms destroying the beauty and animal habits and create massive erosion problems because they have to cut trees and pave roads to the top….all because power generation creates 4% of the greenhouse gases in the state vs farms and cars which is 75%. So while sensanders and the Governor aren’t very smart it seems maybe Elon is smarter and can help us for reals.

  • jeffreydennison

    camoosomiller so true. Check out my similar blog about power of social media.

    • camoosomiller

      jeffreydennison very enjoyable post!

      • jeffreydennison

        camoosomiller thanks!

  • JamieFavreau

    Seriously.  How could you not cold weather test your car?  You can’t get mad because the person was driving in cold weather that is the fault of your own.  This has driven press away from the entire financial debacle over at Fisker which is probably a good thing since they are in their own financial trouble.  So basically he is helping his competition by making a big scene! Just because you are a billionaire doesn’t mean you bad mouth anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

    • adebrunner1

      @JamieFavreau They did cold weather testing. His wasn’t mad because of the weather. He was mad because the guy testing the car ignored “low battery” alerts as he passed by charging stations, didn’t charge it fully, drove out of his way and then claimed that the need to call a tow truck was unavoidable. It was misleading at best. Certainly not journalism of high integrity. Since this article, other testers have completed the trip successfully at similar temperatures.

    • @JamieFavreau Oh they did – they’ve tested in lots of cold (and hot) places. The trouble I have with it all is, even if the journalist royally screwed up and did things wrong, he’s their customer. Is Musk going to tweet how his customers are idiots if they do the same thing?

      • JamieFavreau

        @ginidietrich I have to agree.  Isn’t the customer always right?  Plus, not everyone is going to follow directions. That is human nature.

      • adebrunner1

        @ginidietrich  @JamieFavreau The journalist is not Tesla’s customer. He didn’t buy the car he drove (did he? I honestly don’t know). He’s a professional reviewer of cars. He was also supposed to be writing a story about the network of charging stations, which were ample enough to allow him to make the trip. That was supposed to be the point of the story., that electric cars and charging technology have come so far along that you could make a reasonable trip by using the current network of charging providers. He made it appear as though that was impossible.This doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to run out of juice because of legitimate problems with the technology, but legitimacy is the key.
        If I am doing a review on a gas powered car (or the idea of a gas powered car in the 1930s) and I say that it’s impossible to drive one from NYC to LA, but I just happened to skip the last gas station for 150 miles in Kansas (despite the fact that there was a flashing light in my car telling me that I only had 100 miles left on the tank) I would say that my credibility certainly deserves to be called into question.
        Plus, there have been tons of reviews of the car. Some good, some not as good. This one was particularly scathing/high-profile and founded in lies, so I’m sure he felt compelled to respond with the facts. He wouldn’t do this to a customer, at least partially because he wouldn’t be able to confirm that he/she was lying, but also because the customer probably actually wants it to work out. The journalist was not testing the car out in good faith and seemed to have doomed it to fail from the start. Maybe there was a more politically correct way to address the issues, but if I were a Tesla owner or interested in buying one, I’d be completely satisfied with this response.
        One final thought is that he never called anyone an idiot. He simply pointed out potential bias from the journalist and factual errors in the article. I think he showed the same amount, or possibly more, respect than he was shown by the reviewer.

        • @adebrunner1  @ginidietrich  @JamieFavreau He didn’t call NYT or Broder an idiot, but it was implied by the language and word choice.
          A much better way to address would have been “Awesome! We totally appreciate you taking the car for a spin, that’s a bummer about the experience but the good news is we can show you how it could be better.” Which it sounds like they did, outside of Musk’s response, and that’s because Tesla is a place where the people believe in and love the product and experience.

        • @JoeCardillo  @adebrunner1  @JamieFavreau Joe, you’re hired!

        • @ginidietrich  @adebrunner1  @JamieFavreau Oh well that’s good because secretly my plan is to work for SS someday =). Y’all are definitely my kind of people.
          Maybe what Elon Musk is suffering from is the social media hot-air-balloon-head you were talking about with Julia on the other post today. He’s a super smart dude and has great vision and isn’t the prickliest start-up person by any measure, but he clearly chose not to be the bigger person in that situation. When you’re working on a company that is going to hopefully be worth billions that’s a mistake you can’t afford to make.

        • @JoeCardillo  @adebrunner1  @ginidietrich  @JamieFavreau I’d agree the word choice was not good.

  • adebrunner1

    I often agree with your blogs, but I think this is a backwards view of how this whole thing played out. First, we don’t know for sure that he didn’t use a PR professional to help with this message (maybe you do, but I don’t). Second, if he did act alone, this is more of a case study on how to defend your company against a media powerhouse than a DIY communications disaster. If Tesla were my client (and knowing this would be the outcome in advance), I wouldn’t tell them to change a thing. In fact, Elon Musk himself says his only regret is not addressing the NYT “rebuttal” and essentially allowing them to have the last word. So to think of this situation as anything but a “win” for Tesla is confusing to me. Just because there was some controversy around it doesn’t mean that it was a failure.

    • @adebrunner1 Totally fair … and lots of people who have written and commented about this agree with you. I read all of it and really thought about how we would counsel him if he were a client. It wouldn’t have been in this manner. I’m big on two words: I’m sorry. I have no problem with how he outlined everything the journalist did wrong. But the words he chose are what rubs me the wrong way. If we were counseling him, I’d let him write the blog post he published, let him calm down, and then we’d talk about how to write in a way that doesn’t make him sound so defensive or ego-centric.
      Maybe the journalist was wrong and ignored everything he shouldn’t have. But he writes for the NY Times and has HUGE power and influence. You don’t take that on in a defensive manner. There are many, many other ways to handle it more professionally.

  • slahar

    Agree, the tweet looks very defensive. Now, if Elon Musk is your boss and approaches you for guidance right before he’s about to hit “send” on the nasty tweet….what do you do?

    • @slahar I would make him sit back and think about it. I’d have him write the blog post he published, but not hit the publish button. I’d have him sleep on it. For a day or six. Then we’d go back and look at the pros and cons and discuss different ways to handle it that either made him look less arrogant or even got Broder to do another story. But telling the journalist he’s wrong and drove the car all wrong (according to their logs)? That’s not how you win friends and influence people.

  • Reactionary responses also tend to bring more attention to the original story – which is the opposite of what he’d want, no? Even if the facts presented by the reporter are skewed or just plain wrong, a carefully crafted response that doesn’t call attention to it or sound defensive would seem like a no-brainer to me.
    I once had a shipping company employee tell me I shipped something the wrong way five years ago when they lost my packages that totaled around $2000. I’m not sure how you ship something the wrong way since I had the to and from addresses in the right place, but being told that did not endear me to them and I avoid using them to this day. That isn’t the way to handle a customer who is doing something that isn’t considered ideal or right.

    • @Karen_C_Wilson And you tell that story five years later which makes your friends want to know who it is so they can avoid the same shipping company.

      • @ginidietrich True. I blogged about it at the time and I did name names. I also tweeted about it and they responded and did well dealing with the matter, but the reputation of the company was already not good for me based on previous experience.

  • Is it also possible a communications person was involved, but their counsel wasn’t taken to heart? CEOs have large egos that are hard to contain. We’re just the PR people – what do we know?
    Like you said, he doesn’t take kindly to being told no, so maybe he just ignored their advice. *shrugs*
    Consider this my official request for a post that details how communications professionals can deal with tough executives.
    Thanks in advance.

    • @bradmarley Very good request. I’m in a bit different spot in that I have three letters after my name (CEO) that allow me to have harder conversations. But I’ll definitely write a post for you.

  • This is a really intereting article. Today I read a piece on this gentleman over on @markwschaefer Grow blog, and how both his ‘will’ to make things happen were at the centre of his ‘success’ and how he goes ‘all in’ when he believes in something. As is the case, I understand with the SpaceX company he has founded. 
    This is clearly a passionate and emotional guy, as well as an extraordinarily clever guy.
    I cant help forming an opinion that he is someone that ‘shoots from the hip’ as the saying goes. 
    Right or wrong, he is at least authentic and true to himself. 
    Interesting character, and an interesting insight too, thanks @ginidietrich

    • @MrTonyDowling  Very good point about his being a shoot from the hip guy. I think you’re right. That certainly leads to his success, but the higher profile he gains, the more it’ll hurt him to continue to do that.

    • @MrTonyDowling  @markwschaefer  @ginidietrich Want to point out that people often connect shooting from the hip with authenticity, but being authentic can also mean taking the time to refine your own thoughts, and doesn’t mean you always say everything you think.
      I think this is part of why PR gets the “spin” rap, there’s a subtle but untalked about assumption that PR is simply a way to help clean up someone’s “real” thoughts.

      • @JoeCardillo  @MrTonyDowling  @markwschaefer  @ginidietrich Wow Joe- that line is really really great- “Want to point out that people often connect shooting from the hip with authenticity, but being authentic can also mean taking the time to refine your own thoughts, and doesn’t mean you always say everything you think.” Gini and I are both introverts who like this time to ponder- I certainly hope that isn’t viewed as being “un-authentic”.

        • @RebeccaTodd  @JoeCardillo  @markwschaefer  @ginidietrich I really like that distinction, Thanks Joe, good point

  • ginidietrich

    CookerlyPR And I’m getting beat up in the comments. Man.

  • ginidietrich

    mitchderman Thank you!

  • ginidietrich

    debhinton Thanks Deb!

  • ginidietrich

    ScottPropp Did you get home safely?

    • ScottPropp

      ginidietrich actually just arriving – one more snowstorm on the way back and two client sessions…great trip all in all

  • alexcharli

    Very accurate “ginidietrich: The Risk of Earned Media without a Communications Professional”

  • @ginidietrich I’m having some trouble with this post, my dear. I watched it pretty closely because I’ve been thinking about buying a Tesla. I’m pretty sure I’d have told him to go for it with his response, particularly if he showed me how the data was collected and verified. Yes, he’s proven to be passionate and zealous – which can be dangerous when a founder and CEO responds to negative press – but it does seem like he took the time to look at the data instead of it being a knee jerk reaction. For better or worse, they seem to have had eyes on the driver / critic without having someone in the passenger seat. (Questionable practice if they don’t disclose it, but…)
    If he was a client I probably would have suggested he phrase things a bit differently, reminds me of your post about the recent Yahoo! announcement, but I’d have supported defending the product based on the data. Sorry, I just don’t agree that he acted on emotion alone. And I’m not so sure that he got in trouble for it either. 
    What’s our proof point that his response hurt his brand? I haven’t found it. We all know the New York Times isn’t perfect. 
    Sorry, while I’d have liked him to phrase things differently, I think he didn’t do a bad job on this.

    • @RickRice Totally fair. His whole response rubbed me the wrong way. It was in the way he phrased it that really got to me, which leads me to believe he did act on emotion and didn’t bring in his communications counsel. But, as I read the comments and other articles, there are lots and lots of people defending him (in the comments here, too). I would have counseled him differently. Just my take on it.

  • He could have communicated better, started that conversation on a better note. If Elon looked at the data and if he’s right…he’s right to call bullshit on something a journalist published that was inaccurate. Perhaps he needs to phrase it better but defending your product isn’t a bad choice.
    It definitely read like he reacted without thinking. Social channels and the internet give us the ability to vent. It’s taking a while for high profile (and anyone, really) people to learn that it’s not always the best choice.

    • @chelpixie I totally agree you have to call BS when it is, and you’re right in how that message is delivered. He came across as arrogant and defensive. I think there are much better ways to handle that. I just had this situation with a client last night. He was quoted as saying something he didn’t like. When I talked him through it, I said, “Well, is that what you said?” He mumbled and then began to defend himself. I actually laughed at him. As communications pros, we can help, but you have to let us.

      • @ginidietrich LOL, he mumbled reminded me of having a conversation with a friend recently who did the same thing.
        I want Tesla to succeed because I’m excited about their potential and hopefully they won’t screw it up by bad communication.

        • @ginidietrich With, not by. Damn it.

        • @chelpixie ME TOO! I’m really impressed with what they’re doing. Most people just talk about changing the world. He’s actually doing it.

  • SpinSucks

    TheBawmannGroup Acting on emotion has always gotten me in trouble. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • belllindsay

      SpinSucks Me too. 😉 TheBawmannGroup

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