Marketing Insights

Tesla PR Department Still Nowhere to be Found

Tesla has been operating without a public relations department for more than a year now and there’s no indication that things will change at the automaker.

Tesla has been operating without a public relations department for more than a year now and there’s no indication that things will change at the automaker. 

The first big move within the PR department occurred when Keely Sulprizio left the company in December 2019 to take a job with Impossible Foods. Sulprizio was the last person known to be the head of the former PR department.

Once Sulprizio left Tesla, every other member of the PR department either departed the company or took on new roles within the company, effectively ending the PR department.

Reporters began taking notice when questions started going unanswered. Emails have been sent out every now and then from former press people at Tesla but not in an official capacity.

Where Does This Leave Tesla?

The main PR department, which was working in the United States, is no longer operational. However, there are still a few PR people working for Tesla in other countries. Despite this, those people are not answering press inquiries. 

Instead, CEO Elon Musk has been answering questions, albeit infrequently. Musk has taken to answering a question every so often on Twitter.

Musk has gone as far as saying that Tesla will not be implementing a PR department again because he does not believe in “manipulating public opinion.”

The PR team at Tesla was never large. It remained a small group from the time Tesla was a startup to 2020 when it became the most valuable automaker. 

One of Musk’s recent tweets about journalism was centered around following individual journalists:

“I find it more helpful to read/follow individual journalists, rather than publications. 

Any given publication is going to have wide range of views, albeit vast majority of stories about any subject are negative, perhaps reflecting innate human biases.

Citizen journalism FTW!”

Financial expert Gary Black tweeted at Musk pleading with him to bring back the PR department for the sole reason that the company is planning an expansion into India and China. Musk responded with:

“Other companies spend money on advertising & manipulating public opinion, Tesla focuses on the product. I trust the people.”

Musk Has Attacked the Journalism Profession Before

Attacking the profession of journalism is nothing new for Musk. He went on a Twitter rant in May 2018 about journalists and how they operate today.

“Problem is journos are under constant pressure to get max clicks & earn advertising dollars or get fired. Tricky situation, as Tesla doesn’t advertise, but fossil fuel companies & gas/diesel car companies are among world’s biggest advertisers.”

Musk went on to say that he would like to create a website where the public can rate the truth of an editor, journalist, or news outlet. He wanted to call it Pravda, which is Russian for truth.

“Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda …”

In April 2018, Musk and Tesla were quoted saying the following in a blog post on the company’s website in response to an investigative piece by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting about the company’s failure to report work injuries:

“In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.”

Does Tesla Need a PR Department?

For those who argue that Tesla needs a PR department, statistics from other public-facing arenas say otherwise.

Tesla’s YouTube channel has 1.92 million subscribers. At least 25 videos on the channel have been viewed a minimum of 1 million times. Musk’s personal Twitter account has 53 million followers.

The Twitter audience alone outperforms the top 10 largest newspapers from 10 years ago in the United States, according to Jeffrey Sharlach, a PR professor at NYU.

Up to this point, everything has gone smoothly for Tesla and Musk. The company joined the S&P 500 after reporting its largest quarterly profit in company history. Tesla stock rose by more than 500 percent in 2020, adding an estimated $100 billion to Musk’s overall wealth.

However, something is bound to go wrong and when it does, Tesla won’t be able to put out the fire if it doesn’t have a PR department. Reporters will either publish stories without hearing from Tesla first and include information gleaned from social media posts, videos published online, and by speaking to Tesla’s competitors. 

When a company employs a strong PR team it is able to handle a crisis when it arises. There will be no one to answer questions, release a statement, or handle the backlash from the public when something goes wrong with one of Tesla’s vehicles.


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