This would possibly date me, however who remembers the previous 7 Up commercials? They branded themselves because the “Uncola,” as a result of the style and texture of seven Up (and later Sprite, Sierra Mist, and so forth.) is so totally different from conventional Cola drinks like Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper.
Fast sidebar: Colas are known as Colas as a result of early gentle drinks derived caffeine from the Kola nut. Coca Cola will get its identify from the truth that early variations of it contained cocaine from Coca leaves in addition to elements from the Kola nut. Because of this Coca Cola doesn’t promote “Coke Throwback.”
Enjoyable(ny) information apart, I feel Tesla ought to do what 7 Up did and create an “Un-PR” crew.
The Darkish Facet of the Tesla Group
I’ve seen many individuals say that Tesla doesn’t want a PR crew as a result of they’ve us, however not all of us are good ambassadors for the corporate.
Earlier than I get into this one, I wish to be clear on one factor: The overwhelming majority — practically all — of Tesla’s followers are affordable and sane folks. The general Tesla fan neighborhood is nice, and I’m glad to be part of it. If the affordable and sane followers (that’s most likely 99.9% of our expensive readers) have been the general public face of the corporate, there wouldn’t be an issue in any respect. You all are superior, and Tesla couldn’t ask for higher followers!
The issue is that there’s a tiny minority of the neighborhood that isn’t affordable or sane. Let’s name them the Tesla Stans, and I imply “Stan” within the authentic darkish means that it was meant when Eminem first coined the time period in his track “Stan.”
There are people who find themselves obsessive about Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, and all the things else Elon Musk is concerned in. And by obsessed, I don’t imply that mildly. There are individuals who spent their life financial savings on Tesla inventory and don’t have greater than $100 within the financial institution. They’ve Elon Musk’s Twitter set to present a loud notification on their telephones, day or night time, and can snatch their cellphone to answer as quick as attainable to any Elon tweet, even when their vital different is concerned by the sudden gentle within the room at 3:00 AM.
A few of these stalker followers are skilled followers. They don’t have a job, or in the event that they do, they’re fixing to lose it as a result of they’re on-line all day speaking about Tesla and Elon. They’ve a great deal of followers on Twitter, YouTube, and generally even OnlyFans, to allow them to make a dwelling hyperventilating concerning the firm and its inventory all day. They’re extra seemingly to have the ability to let you know what Tesla’s Q1 earnings have been, in nice element and from reminiscence, than they’re to recollect the ages of their children or whether or not they fed the cat this week.
As soon as once more, I’m not saying each Tesla fan or influencer is like this. They’re a small minority and don’t actually communicate for the neighborhood as a complete in actuality, however they’ve an outsized presence.
Who Will get The Consideration?
There’s an previous saying that applies right here: “The squeaky wheel will get the grease.”
For those who’re a author at a serious information outlet, there’s no demand for articles like “All the pieces is nice at Tesla proper now” or “Tesla followers are actually cool folks.”
One other saying within the journalism world: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
The conventional and funky Tesla followers (and that’s virtually all Tesla followers) aren’t that noisy or attention-grabbing (comparatively talking). For one, we’ve jobs. Even writing at CleanTechnica, I’ve to deal with different attention-grabbing issues which might be occurring within the cleantech world not less than half the time. We simply don’t have that a lot time to make noise, even right here. Additionally, most of us are good individuals who don’t being as much as our eyeballs in controversy and ugliness on a regular basis, so we don’t seize the eye of journalists. Lastly, we’ve lives to reside which might be not less than partially fulfilling, however that aren’t that attention-grabbing to journalists and the general public at giant, and that takes up principally the remainder of our time.
The total-time skilled Tesla Stans? They love the eye, they usually’re all the time producing controversy with their infantile and obsessive habits. The petty rivalries, the offended and bitter tone, and the conspiracy theories are all one thing a traditional individual wouldn’t need of their lives, however the Stans find it irresistible and search for extra. They’re poisonous folks and they’re all the time in search of extra poisonous sludge to wallow in.
For those who’re a journalist in search of an attention-grabbing story, it’s going to be about one thing that’s in your radar. The conventional followers aren’t going to get on the radar in any respect until one thing really terrible or wonderful occurs to them. In the meantime, the Stans are so obsessive about Tesla that they harass and even stalk journalists who’ve even the smallest adverse factor to share concerning the firm, in order that they’re all the time on the radar.
The squeaky wheel Stans suck all the journalistic oxygen out of the room. They get virtually all the consideration, and it’s adverse. This leaves mainstream journalists and, by extension, the general public at giant, with the impression that Tesla is a “cult” and that the Stans are Elon Musk’s flying monkeys.
For the Stans, it most positively is a cult, however it’s a cult with only a few members.
Lastly, if somebody actually is out to smear Tesla, these unhealthy followers give them precisely what they should do it.
Nature Abhors A Vacuum
To see how this works, let’s take a look at the latest accident that occurred close to Houston.
Within the wake of the accident, there was initially a vacuum of data relating to the wreck. It was rapidly crammed by what turned out to be unhealthy data from an area elected official, after which the mainstream journalism world ran with that “reality.”
At CleanTechnica, we took a wait-and-see method initially, and held the story for a pair days to see what data got here out. It turned out to be the precise transfer as a result of we quickly discovered that Autopilot was not engaged. We didn’t discover out for an additional week, although, that there was proof of a driver behind the wheel (a few of us suspected this, however that’s not sufficient by itself to write down about).
Throughout that week, the remainder of the world ran with unhealthy data to fill the vacuum. In response, the Stans additionally made fools of themselves with conspiracy theories, stalking and harassment, and different flying monkey habits, which made it seem like Tesla followers have been deeply afraid. The remainder of us weren’t afraid, as you seemingly know, however that didn’t cease the Stans from leaving folks with that impression.
An “Un-PR” Division May Resolve Most Of This
As we all know, conventional PR didn’t work out effectively for Tesla. The mainstream press didn’t develop an excellent relationship with Tesla, and a few journalists have been very dedicated to pushing as adverse a line on the corporate as they might, no matter information. Speaking with these folks does nothing however waste Tesla’s cash at greatest or give them one thing to misconstrue at worst.
It’s attainable to be progressive right here and create a really totally different form of PR division that higher served Tesla’s wants.
Right here’s what I’d do:
I’d create a small crew that reviews on to Elon Musk, and focuses extra on the corporate’s general status, as an alternative of specializing in responding to particular person press considerations. On a traditional day, the thought could be to work with totally different elements of the corporate to get good however attention-grabbing information out the door and into journalists’ arms.
Journalists who’ve an excellent historical past of being honest (even when they’ve been adverse — so long as they have been trustworthy) must be invited to occasions and different journalistic alternatives to assist unfold the nice. This group of trustworthy journalists would possibly even be given alternative to submit questions in some style, however by means of an online portal that retains the circulation of questions manageable and directs them to the reply if the query has been answered earlier than.
Nonetheless, there ought to all the time be not less than one individual on watch looking for issues that the crew might have to answer. When this occurs, data must be gathered from across the firm as wanted and a press release put out so the corporate fills the knowledge vacuum with one thing extra helpful.
One other factor that will probably be needed every now and then is “Stan administration.” The corporate must be seen publicly encouraging respectable habits within the fanbase every now and then. As an alternative of trying like Elon’s flying monkeys, the Stans would then simply be lone cranks whose habits doesn’t have any help from the corporate. The folks with that form of persona can’t stand to lose consideration, in order that they’ll seemingly be motivated to alter their methods and stop performing like flying monkeys.
Extra importantly, by not being a standard, rigidly-defined PR division, Tesla can adapt and modify it over time to greatest match the corporate’s wants. That’s what’s necessary.
Featured picture: “The monkeys caught Dorothy of their arms and flew away together with her” — illustration by W. W. Denslow in The Fantastic Wizard of Oz (1900). (Public Area)