Don’t Mess with the Test (Drive) – Three PR Lessons from the Tesla-Times Battle

Don’t Mess with the Test (Drive) – Three PR Lessons from the Tesla-Times Battle

You may remember a recent blog post where we listed the Tesla Model S all-electric vehicle as one of our favorite sustainable tech goodies for Christmas. If you’ve been following EV news lately, however, you’ve probably heard about Tesla’s battle with The New York Times following its scathing review of the Model S. After the Times article was published, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk took to the social space, tweeting that the review was fake and writing a response on Tesla’s blog, providing data and graphs to back his claims that the review was inaccurate.

Rather than get into the details of the recent PR battle, we’d rather concentrate on how this acts as a case study for how “green” products continue to come under fire. That’s not to say all green products are “good” products. But in this case, the homework certainly wasn’t done by The Times on a good product, and the response certainly was appropriate.

Our counsel to you, in the event your product takes a hit (and assuming you have the facts to back up your argument):

Remember that transparency is key, so please say something. Much like you would thank someone for praise, you must always provide a response to criticism or a problem, as well. Saying “no comment” is a sure way to make your audience think your organization is in the wrong.

Be honest. Honesty is always the best policy in life and the PR world. In your response, take responsibility if your organization is at fault for an issue. If you need to apologize, do so.

Fight with facts. Rather than making accusations, let the facts speak for themselves.

The issue between The Times and Tesla was somewhat resolved after Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times Public Editor, investigated the review and published her response. Musk then tweeted, “Appreciate thoughtful @Sulliview article. Faith in @nytimes restored.”

If you have thoughts on how Musk and Tesla handled the story in The Times, or if you have other examples of similar situations we could all learn from, please drop us a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Martha Wampler Behm

Martha is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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