Communication Breakdown: Tesla Dissolved U.S. Media Relations Team
— and it makes little difference whether you’re one of the big boys or a smaller outfit, like ours.
While Tesla used to be wildly proactive in reaching out to authors, sometimes just to complain about articles, it’s been enacting radio silence for quite some time. Other automakers will at least provide you with a boilerplate corporate response — assuming they haven’t issued one already. But it has been complete static from Tesla for what feels like years, leaving the firm little reason to continue paying people whose sole responsibility was to totally ignore the media.
Considering the sad state of modern-day journalism, we’d almost be willing to take Tesla’s side on this one. But the company has been involved in far too much bullshit for it not to be taken to task on occasion and CEO Elon Musk frequently says things that leave us scratching our heads.
All was made clear on Tuesday, however, as Electrek reported the automaker no longer has a PR team. The outlet had noticed numerous publications bemoaning how it had been months since they’d gotten any responses from the all-electric brand and reached out to an inside source that said nobody was even working in media relations anymore.
Keely Sulprizio, the last person known to officially be in charge of PR/communications at Tesla, left the automaker in December of last year to join Impossible Foods. Following her departure, virtually every other member of Tesla’s PR team either left or moved to other positions at Tesla.
After Sulprizio, Alan Cooper was the most senior member of Tesla’s communications team, and in February, his role was changed to director of demand generation, but he has now apparently left the company.
Gina Antonini, a senior manager on Tesla’s comms team for three years, saw her role changed to director of external relations and employee experience at Tesla in February.
It just keeps going on like that, with every PR person being promoted to another department or leaving the automaker for greener pastures. While supremely disappointing, it doesn’t actually change much in regard to the Tesla’s relationship with the media.
Elon Musk has repeatedly expressed his general distaste for the press, which he believes treats Tesla far too harshly. But it has also become clear that the business isn’t interested in playing with anyone that’s not keen on supporting its corporate messaging. Granted, all automakers want you to say things that makes their marque come off as the industrial embodiment of perfection. But most will still cooperate if you fail to repeat their press releases verbatim with a plastered on smile.
That relationship seems to be weakening as well. But not at a pace where we expect legacy automakers to similarly disband their PR teams. It would be a huge risk for them to take, especially since they’re magnitudes larger than Tesla Motors and lack its hardcore fan base. On a longer timeline, this may not pan out well for Musk and company either. Leaving the media to make up its own mind about something seems a dangerous game, especially as the hype for this particular brand dies down. But there’s little sign of that happening presently, making it seem a semi-valid strategy for now.