Students often wonder how public relations is used as a promotional tool. Compared to advertising – which is very transparent – public relations and news releases are hidden from the view of most consumers. Yet, public relations is a critical tool in the marketing toolbox. It is relatively inexpensive (compared to advertising), can be targeted to specific news outlets, can be easily focused on a specific geography and industry, is a simple way to “influence the influencers,” and it lends an aura of credibility when consumers read a story in the news.
Although public relations may look like independent news, all of the efforts are initiated by marketers in order to get attention from the media. Think of it this way: The target market is comprised of editors and writers for news releases, not the consumer. The news releases are focused on providing important information that the consumers of the media outlets want to hear about.
One company that stands above the rest when it comes to public relations is Tesla. The company is a non-stop news-making machine, headed by CEO Elon Musk.
- Tesla uses social media extensively. It does not use traditional advertising, but instead relies on media coverage to help promote its products.
- In November the company announced a live stream of an event in Los Angeles preceding the LA Auto Show, held at Tesla’s Design Center. This event launched the new electric Cybertruck, retailing for $39,900 – $69,900.
- Tesla also provided information on its Web site about the new truck.
- In less than a week following the announcement, an estimated 150,000+ pre-orders (at $100 each) have been placed for Cybertruck, and there were millions of web hits and stories generated.
- All this was accomplished with broken windows in the demonstration, but without a single paid advertisement!
So now tell us, where does news come from?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Start by discussing the value of public relations.
- A video of the news release distribution process can be seen at: https://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/
- Use the ‘Tesla Cybertruck’ announcement as a PR example. Have students do a search on the phrase using their phones or laptops.
- How many hits are there? How many videos? Does the news expand to outside of the U.S.? What is estimated the dollar value of this reach?
- Compare the information in several articles with the information included on Tesla’s Web site: https://www.tesla.com/cybertruck
- Have students select a company or product. Then, have students find business articles in the news and trace the articles back to information provided by companies.
Source: Bloomberg; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; CNN News; Wired magazine, other news sources