Amith Prabhu: PR is never about great products alone but about great storytelling

12 Apr,2016

By Amith Prabhu


Tesla’s announcement of launching the Model 3 on March 31 sent media into a tizzy with Elon Musk leading from the front via Twitter. The frenzy was so high that only a few days after the announcement did one realise that none of all the hype was created by paid media or what has traditionally been referred to as advertising. In fact, the entire buzz was created by earned media or how Public Relations has come to be known as.


The best part if the car has neither been reviewed or test driven and yet witnessed an unprecedented advance booking. The fact is, that there was no great product to be seen or felt, only to be heard of. Thousands of people were putting a $1000 down payment with a blind belief.


The storytelling prowess was winning. In some online discussions I was part of some worthy experts cited how this was not about Public Relations but about a great product. That itself was a self-defeating argument as there was no product at present but there would be one in the future. And people had reposed faith in something they had not seen and touched but just heard of through earned media.


This happens once in a way. The goodness of a movie is known only when watches it. But more than often some movies are house full for the entire weekend of their release through advance booking just because the producer, director and actors created a great impression on the minds of moviegoers in the days preceding the release. But movies spend heavily on advertising.


Have you ever seen an advertisement for the Model 3 by Tesla? Despite there being not a single ad the cars sold like hotcakes on the internet creating history. The reasons to own one could be diverse. On Quora there was a thread that suggested that potential buyers wanted to be the first to own one. There were more fans of the company and its founder than believers of a great product.


It all boils down to great content being created to connect with stakeholders about a product that is easily two years away from hitting the roads. This traction has been carefully built by using media carefully to reach out to future buyers who have put down a thousand dollars without spending a penny on a brand ambassador but using Elon Musk as one instead.


In the political world, a great example of this situation is Narendra Modi. He was an interesting political product. Most of India had never experienced but only heard of his dynamism. Yet, his powerful storytelling won him a 30% vote share in the summer of 2014. The aftermath is there for all to see. He did spend a lot of money on paid media or advertising but that came at the later stage. His rise to the top was mostly a function of earned media.


The bottomline is that Public Relations is never about great products alone but about great storytelling. If done properly earned media can achieve much more for a product than paid media can. Time will tell how the Model 3 will perform.


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