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

If this deal where Koenigsegg buys Saab is finalised in the next few months, then we’re all at the edge of what could be a grand age for both companies and the Swedish automotive industry, too.
Sure, we’ve all got questions about how this is going to work, whether there’s enough money behind it and what models will come in the future. But we have to assume that with an announcement made and the public acceptance of it that ensued in much of the motoring press, that there’s no backing away now.
With all due respect to Merbanco (my first choice) and Renco (my last choice), this is the sexiest deal of the lot. Having announced the engagement, Koenigsegg and Saab are now in bed together and this deal HAS to come through.
With that in mind, and assuming a successful transtition, Koenigsegg-Saab are facing an opportunity of once-in-a-corporate-lifetime proportions. They could do this later, but they’d be better off doing it right from the get-go.
You guys need to put Saabs United, and many of the other websites like it, out of business.

When I started Trollhattan Saab in February of 2005, there were no other English language Saab blogs around that I was aware of. I’ve not checked his archives, but it’s possible that Etienne was running his Saabhuy website prior to this.
There were, of course, several forums online, dating back as far as 1988 when Scott Patterson started Saabnet. Other forums include Saab Central, Saablink, Saabscene and the various regional club forums.
There have been a few weblog-style sites pop up since TS. Most notable is Saabhistory, and then there’s Turbonines, which started more recently.
This is still a fairly manageable inventory of webmasters for Saab’s PR people to liaise with. The forum guys run their own shop and generally are happy to carry the news that Saab provides, or that members dig up and post in a news section of the site. The club sites are far more localised and provide real opportunities for people to connect on a personal level.
It’s the blog sites that have brought about the need for active engagement by Saab’s PR people.
Blogs take a bit more active management because their authors have a voice. Bloggers report news (we salivate at the prospect), but it’s not just the news. We are Saab owners. We are passionate and we have opinions. Where you have someone with an opinion and a readership, it’s in the company’s interests to get involved.
What I’d like to suggest – and not for the first time – is that the PR people from Koenigsegg-Saab not only get involved, but that they get involved to the extent that they shut the bloggers down. Me included.
One of the good things about the Koenigsegg-Saab deal is that it’s attracted a lot of interest for both companies. The number of news stories about Saab has increased exponentially and there will be a definite clinginess to the interest because of what I’d refer to as the Koenigsegg infusion into these stories.
For me, as a blogger, that means there’s going to be more to talk about. But it also means that there’s going to be more people doing the talking. A bigger market attracts more players and already, there’s signs of new entries in the Saab blogosphere in particular, and in social media in general.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a new site being developed called Saabtalk. It’s a private initiative and is in no way affiliated with Saab or GM. But take a look at the demo site that’s online now and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is an official site. Scratch the surface and I’m sure an educated Saab person will identify that it’s not, but I’m quite certain that many visitors will feel it is genuine when they first encounter the site and have a look around.
All credit to the developer(s), who are IT professionals with a Saab interest. They’re developing a slick interface there. But if I was working for Saab, I’d have to wonder what’s going to happen to my message if this website takes off.
And the one that comes after that.
And the one that comes after that.
Saabs United is well known as an independent site. It doesn’t use any of Saab’s corporate branding or presentation and it has a definite, separate voice. It’s positioned that way deliberately.
But as the interest in Saab grows in line with new model releases and the cross-pollination between Saab and Koenigsegg, what of the new sites that will pop up in what will be a much more attractive internet marketplace?
We are approaching the point where Saab and Koenigsegg themselves have to supply that new site as the definitive voice, and the definitive source of Saab related news and media.
The one thing I didn’t cover earlier was the emergence of social media. Sites like Facebook and Ning have allowed people to connect in ways that mean they’re no longer just a reader, but they’re creating content themselves. They don’t own the content or derive much benefit from its creation beyond the satisfaction of paticipating and connecting, but there is an owner out there.
It’s time for that owner, that beneficiary, to be Saab themselves.
The Saab website has evolved a reasonable amount in the last few years. It’s got a little slicker in presentation. They’ve developed a few more multimedia sections and interactive sections such as the widget, and more recently they’ve created the Saab Newsroom. It’s a commendable effort but is still an online presence that lacks cohesion and authority.
It’s almost 2010. The possibilities for creating an engaging site that allows consumers to interact with the company are endless.
I’m a blogger, so I always put that medium first and foremost. But the incoporation of forums and other forms of social media is now something that’s definitely wihin reach and what’s more, it’s still a green field endeavour in automotive industry terms.
Such an adventure would give you direct contact with your consumers.
It would give them a voice to feed back information to you directly, information that you’d probably pay a survey company tens of thousands of dollars to collect and collate otherwise.
Such an endeavour lets you take away the middle man – the mainstream media – in getting your message across to your customers – your way.
Such an exercise would build consumer loyalty like no other marketing exercise you could undertake – and at much less expense.
Such a forum could give your technical staff direct contact with the people they develop stuff for. Here’s a tip: your staff enjoy sharing their knowledge – in general terms (not giving away secrets) – with your customers. And your customers love, absolutely love – to receive that sort of information.
How do I know this? It happens here at SU from time to time.
I know that this post has been a little scatterbrained, but the essence of the message is this:
Koenigsegg and Saab have a wonderful opportunity. The emergence of The Koenigsegg Group, with Saab included in that group, is going to coincide with a huge increase in interest about things to do with that group. It’s also going to coincide with an age where building communities online has never been easier.
Now is the time for them to act and bring their community together. They have the authority. Of course they have the sources, too, for the stories that need to be written. These things take years and hundreds (if not thousands) of articles for an individual to develop.
They can do it straight away.
The potential payoff for such an action is huge, and if they don’t do it, then someone will. I think it’s best they control their own message and moderate their own community.
Some of you will be thinking “he’s just writing this because he wants to run that operation”.
True and not true.
Yes, I’d be very interested in getting involved if I were called to do so, but history tells me that that’s not likely at all. I’m more interested in seeing Saab and Koenigsegg take that opportunity and make the most of it.
No-one’s done it yet in the automotive sector and Saab has the perfect scale of clientele to make it happen successfully.
Saabs United should not exist by Christmas and if they were to do this and do it well, then I’d more than happy to turn the lights off here.

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