Tesla Doesn’t Even Need the Press at This Point, So Why Bother

Ever since it delivered its first car, Tesla has been doing things differently from other carmakers. The decision to dissolve its PR department and effectively sever all ties with the media falls in line with everything else.
Tesla doesn't need the press because it has Elon Musk 1 photo
As such, it should come as no surprise. Because Tesla doesn’t even need the press at this point.

Earlier this week, word got out that Tesla had dissolved its PR department and had no plans to ever bring it back again. This marked an industry first but came as no huge shock, since just days before, Elon Musk had gone on the record to complain about the more or less stupid press that failed to grasp the momentous developments showcased during Battery Day and, because of it, had dubbed the event underwhelming.

That Tesla has had a stressed relationship with the media is hardly a secret. The company, and Elon Musk in particular, has favored certain outlets and downright shunned others, and constantly refused to go on the record with either, or to provide a straightforward answer when it did. From day one, Tesla has sought the praise but avoided criticism like the plague.

If Tesla were a tech startup, it would make sense for it to ditch the traditional PR way and opt for a more personalized connection with the target audience. But Tesla is, as of the time of writing, one of the most profitable carmakers and a billion-dollar company. It operates in an industry that relies mostly on an old-fashioned, symbiotic relationship with the media, where companies invest millions to send out press releases, organize press events and have journalists try out products.

Consequently, the move to give all this the middle finger is a historic one. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Since the rumor came out, plenty of virtual ink has been spilled on think-pieces, op-eds and genuine rants on how this will negatively impact Tesla (because now there will be no active way to control the narrative when things go bad), how this is nothing short of an F-you to the press, and how Elon is being too Elon for dictating it. All this is right to an extent, but so is the fact that Tesla doesn’t need the press right now.

First of all, that PR department had hardly had any activity for the past year or so. Questions and inquiries would go unanswered, and requests for comment were always ignored. Lamenting the dissolution of a department that was merely symbolic at that point is a demonstrative display of grievance in this context.

Secondly, Tesla is at a point where it doesn’t have to go through the usual channels other carmakers go in order to get word out in the media. It has Elon for that. When you have Twitter and Musk’s itchy fingers, and especially when you have a community like Tesla’s, you don’t need to suck up to journos or put out press releases for your every move.

Tesla is often being compared to a cult in the relationship it fosters with the customers / fans / supporters, Musk’s cult-like public persona, and the way the community works together for its own progress and against detractors. All these will serve for a PR department better than the one Tesla had and hardly ever put to use.

Is it arrogant of Musk to assume Tesla can do it without the press? Surely so. Is it childish of him to take it out on the press and the public at large because he didn’t like feedback on Battery Day? Absolutely. But is it a surprising move, or one that will end up costing Tesla more? Doubtful.


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