The Elon Musk anti-media meltdown threatening journalists with a website to rank their work certainly caught our attention at Little Red Rooster. Naturally, it caused quite the backlash among reporters, but also received support from nearly 700,000 Twitter followers… assuming they were party to all the facts and it’s a fair vote that can be verified.
To recap, the Tesla boss took off on a Twitter tirade ranting about news outlets’ credibility after a Consumer Reports review refusing to give a recommendation for his car company’s allegedly troubled Tesla 3 model.
Cutting the story short (we imagine Musk hates that), he suggested a solution to his problem with the media was a website of his design to rate the “core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication.”
Somewhat uncomfortably, the multi-billionaire (fact-checked) said it should be called Pravda, the Russian word for ‘truth’, but also a propaganda-laden leading communist newspaper. Was he joking that he wanted to lead some kind of revolution or was he merely lusting after a mouthpiece that would only spout Musk-speak?.
All in all it could be construed a PR disaster for the man dubbed a marketing genius by some – unless it was intended to deflect attention from a failing automotive business – and that’s just one reason why we need to try and interpret Musk’s tweets before passing judgement.
Does he just have the hump with certain media? Were they really being disingenuous. The media doesn’t have to agree with him after all do they?
Musk then blamed journalists claiming “they are under constant pressure to get max clicks and earn advertising dollars or get fired”. He went on to tweet it’s a tricky situation because Tesla doesn’t advertise, whereas fossil fuel car companies spend big in that area.
This might ruffle a few feathers, but it is almost certainly true of certain publishing houses where revenue streams are being squeezed to such an extent they are having to take, shall we say ‘special measures’, to remain in business. Everyone has their price, don’t they?
That said, tarnishing all media with the same brush – a conclusion plenty of observers jumped to – is a dangerous and misguided game. One very vocal opponent was Greg Sargent of the Washington Post who accused Musk of a “clever rhetorical trick” by appropriating the idea of public confidence for cynical purposes. Another attempt at Musk marketing genius?
Perhaps some would be more favourable if Tesla was spending money with them, but Musk does receive plenty of positive press too and can boast a media fan club of sorts to counter the naysayers.
It’s worth reminding ourselves what makes a good journalist. It’s someone who separates fact from opinion, although we appreciate this becomes more of a grey area when it comes to reviewing a product. In that instance it boils down to how much you value that journalist and that publication or platform.
Do we need Musk to regulate that or can we make our own judgements? Press regulation is definitely back in the headlines and debate is healthy, but our argument would be it needs more than Musk at the head of his own website calling the shots.
So where does Little Red Rooster and good PR fit into this equation? First off we’re careful to court close relationships with leading journalists that we feel the public trust and that we have faith in to write fair and accurate articles about our clients.
If, in our opinion or that of our clients, we feel they’ve failed in that responsibility we would approach them for an informal chat to explore how we could resolve things – a fair and measured response.
The best way to safeguard yourself against such a situation is to work with brilliant clients to begin with. We have carefully curated our portfolio of exceptional clients, we fully believe in the ethos of each brand and it goes without saying we love the industry-leading products they make.
Working with someone for the sake of a pay cheque is not the way of the rooster. After some careful consideration there’s every chance we might entertain the opportunity to look after the PR for any of his companies, be it Tesla or SpaceX (imagine the press trip potential) but only if they satisfy the criteria set out above.
As for the press, at Little Red Rooster we fully understand the media is never going to write what clients want all of the time, but if they are fully informed of all the facts, through our exceptionally close relationships, we are giving them the best chance possible.