Inside Elon Musk’s Covert PR Tactics


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Love him or loathe him, there’s no doubt that Elon Musk is one of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs of his generation — if not of all time.

Whether it’s news about one of his companies, rumors about his love life, or reactions to his latest controversial tweet, rarely does a week go by that Musk’s name doesn’t make the headlines.

This is all the more impressive considering how vocal Musk is against PR and advertising, and once tweeted that he doesn’t believe in “faith.”manipulation of public opinion.” In 2020 he has Disbanded Tesla’s PR departmentand his Twitter acquisition in 2022 was notorious for cutting thousands of jobs, many from the communication team.

In the past month, he also created an automatic poop emoji Response to all media inquiries sent to

Related: Elon Musk Charged with Building Code Violation and Failure to Pay Severance Pay, Lawsuit Claims

But if this leads you to conclude that traditional PR is no longer useful, think again. Musk is a media pro, but like a great magician, he doesn’t want to draw attention to it.

It took him time, patience and a lot of strategic know-how to reach his current level of fame. So rather than taking his public stance on PR at face value, let’s take a detailed look at the strategies Musk has used to make his brands household names.

Musk’s (real) approach to media relations

Tesla closure PR department was an unprecedented move in the automotive industry. But his decision was not made because Musk no longer wanted media coverage of his company. Instead, he didn’t have to worry about it anymore. In the last few months of Tesla’s public relations, the Tesla PR team has been met Hundreds of journalist inquiries daily – something most companies can only dream of.

Musk has never neglected Tesla’s PR. On the contrary: From the time it was founded to the present day, he has approached the company’s media strategy in an extremely practice-oriented manner. Because of this, coverage of him and his businesses has skyrocketed over time.

The Best Selling Biography Tesla, SpaceX and the search for an amazing future, details how involved Musk was when the Tesla name first caught attention, and personally led efforts to capture media attention and “fix” any negative press. He set a goal for the company to make one announcement each week, personally writing press releases and conducting media outreach to ensure he was achieving the desired results. Musk was also known to check for coverage of his companies at least once a day.

Related: Elon Musk says remote work is ‘morally wrong’, calling it ‘screwed up’

Here’s the first key lesson for founders and CEOs: Musk understands that leaders need to do this Pay close attention to the stories they share with the media, establish a consistent rhythm of communication, and build relationships with reporters.

Musk also knew (and still knows) the importance of growing relationships with certain journalists.

There’s a reason he doesn’t read publications, he follows them individual journalists. Instead of sending out a lot of general information to the media, Musk gave certain reporters exclusive first access to information. Such was the case with Kara Swisher, one of the most influential journalists in the industry, who often gave Musk numerous interviews. (Their relationship has since become frostysay the least.)

Far from neglecting the importance of traditional public relations efforts, Musk was a master at spreading the story he wanted to tell through steady public relations. Just have a look Tesla’s Blogs and Announcements to see this first hand.

As a public relations professional, he knew that these communications and his relationships with the media would help create an ongoing buzz that increased buyer interest.

Musk sells the dream

Beyond the basics, Musk understood that PR is much less about selling products and more about selling impact and emotion. With SpaceXFor example, Musk perfectly illustrated how to sell a dream through storytelling.

Related: “Think carefully”: Musk warns strongly against hiring Tesla employees

Announcements have always been full of visionary language and bold ideas. in one Interview 2011, Musk caused a stir with his hope of sending humans to Mars within 10 to 20 years. In 2019, following the sustainability trend, he announced that he wanted to build the first sustainable city on Mars.

As inspiring and memorable as these images are, the profitable day-to-day operations at SpaceX are a little more mundane. The company generates the majority of its sales by sending satellites into space on behalf of the company U.S. government provide High speed broadband internet to remote and rural areas worldwide. But if SpaceX has raised $750 million In the most recent round of financing, satellite and broadband were not the focus of the presentation. Because Musk knows that it’s the big dreams and challenging ideas that grab people’s attention.

Business leaders should take note of this. When communicating your business idea/project, you need to stand out from the crowd by emphasizing the big vision behind your winning model. Get to the underlying passions and desires of your customers – what makes them dream – and make sure the stories you tell resonate emotionally.

He controls the narrative in subtle ways

It’s clear that Musk knows PR, but he doesn’t want and doesn’t want everyone to know.

This is also evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t completely fall silent on the radio. Instead, he makes sure (as best he can) that the message he wants to convey is the story being told, diverting attention from his lawsuits against British cavers or the Tesla takeover.

Related: Elon Musk labels San Francisco ‘post-apocalyptic’ as another major retailer leaves on crime charges

For example, he launched one in December 2022 controversial Twitter poll He’s asking the public to decide whether to step down as CEO of the platform.

After more than 17 million votes were cast 57.5% of respondents voted to oust him, Musk announced he would step down “once a suitable replacement is found,” raising many doubts that he would follow through on the poll results as promised. Still, he kept his word on the appointment Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter on May 12th. The interesting thing here is this musk I never intended to remain in office as CEOBut his “public referendum” ensured that the issue dominated the headlines for months.

Musk also wanted to draw attention to his actions Public dispute with NPR after labeling the news agency “state-funded” and “close to the state” along with many others on Twitter. Though those labels have since been removed, the story continues to receive ongoing coverage thanks to new information tidbits of information that Musk is making available to the public.

These labels also prompted a surprising, impromptu interview with BBC reporter James Clayton on Twitter Spaces, which made it clear that Musk had no intention of being a passive participant, to which Clayton commented: “several times it felt like he was trying to interview me.

While no one can fully control media coverage, it’s important to work with reporters to increase the likelihood that your business will receive positive coverage. And should there ever be a PR crisis, the relationship with the media means you can provide more of a form of damage control.

Musk knows media coverage matters, and his PR skills have gotten his brands where they are today. Building a pipeline of announcements, redirecting the narrative toward positive stories, and creating a memorable vision are all valuable ways to generate media coverage that doesn’t falter.

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