An open letter to the PR people at Koenigsegg and Saab about communications – part 2

I just received an email in my inbox from Alfa Romeo about – their new and official global online community site. Registrations opening now.
I’ve already posted my own cobbled thoughts on the merits of embarking on a new media adventure once the Koenigsaab deal is stitched together.
But why just take my word for it?
Here’s some thoughts from a former automotive CEO, who used a blog to help develop various aspects of the company.
I’ll leave his name out of things for now. You can have that at the end.
In the early days, there was tremendous competitive risk in allowing information out ahead of the car’s unveiling. For this reason, we made a concerted effort to fly under the radar and maintain as a low a profile as possible. When we finally unveiled the car, we knew there would be questions. In fact, we knew that simply taking the wraps off the car would promote both a groundswell of enthusiasm as well as skepticism around a broad range of topics – political, social, economic, technical, and everything in between.
We saw tackling these questions as not only an opportunity to sell the concept ……, but also, and more importantly, to show rather than tell how we were different from big, established car companies-namely, by making ourselves accessible to the public, not just select industry insiders.
Internally, we considered this approach “managed transparency,” recognizing that while we couldn’t share every nuance, we should and would strive to be as open as possible in an effort to build trust and establish a dialog about the merits of our program. My first blog post…….went up as the car was revealed; it announced to the world not only what we were trying to accomplish, but also why…..
……While it’s challenging making broad generalizations about how and why companies should blog, I can personally attest to the following:

  • Simply put, a blog is a conversation. In the arsenal of marketing tools, it’s the most cost effective and it’s among the few that allows for an exchange of ideas. In the world of automobile manufacturers, the notion that a car maker would actually be interested in hearing what car buys think was then, and largely to this day remains, an anomaly.
  • Of course, for blogging to ring true, it needs to be more than an exercise kept up for the sake of appearance. At *******, we began with my blog, which provided direct access to the company’s…….CEO…….Whether people had questions about the design of a component, the marketing……, or what motivated folks to [purchase], they could expect a straight answer right from the horse’s mouth.
  • Earning trust and respect is a big deal for start-ups, but established companies have just as much to gain from doing the simplest thing in the world: engaging their customers in a conversation.
  • I think people confuse the importance of the two root words in “spokesperson.” I think the most important aspect is to be an actual person. This lesson was very much in mind as I began speaking as the voice of *******.
  • …..if I wanted to know how to best serve prospective customers [on a particular issue] I would also need to know how [details pertaining to that issue]. I found that the best and quickest way to get an answer is simply to ask them. This approach provides real world results, and it sets up a dynamic where customers feel like their input matters (and in this case, it most definitely did).
  • When members of the development team get recognition for their hard work and insights, and occasionally challenged on these very same areas, it fosters a sense of commitment and common purpose that no amount of traditional advertising or PR could ever hope to accomplish.
  • While we disseminated and tracked traditional press releases at ******* alongside our online activity, we made a point of reaching out to our customers first – ahead of the press – in a private forum whenever we had new exciting news to share about the company or car. In many cases, we had relationships with key bloggers that were the next in line for key pieces of info after customer had received it. With customers and the blogosphere pretty well covered, the significance of traditional press releases was greatly diminished.

For companies looking to forge a stronger, more meaningful relationship with their constituents and spend their marketing effort where it counts, a commitment to blogging and other forms of online dialog is an investment that is hard to match.
The full article, written by Tesla Motors founder and former CEO, Martin Eberhard, is here.

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