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October 10, 2013
Let's Be Clear: Tesla Flubbed Crisis Communication
 
We need to return to the crisis communication aspects of the Tesla Model S car fire in light of a blog post by Peter Himler, of Flatiron Communications LLC, who, with the digital commentators he quotes, seems satisfied with the response of Tesla's chairman, Elon Musk, to the accident — a blog post three days after the fire occurred. Sorry, that's not crisis communication, it's after-the-fact commentary and explanation. When the media was calling about the accident, we got the inept response of Tesla's corporate communication director. No self-respecting public relations firm should be accepting of that sort of crisis response.

We think, and certainly hope, that Tesla's electric cars have a great future. But we're focused here on the rudiments of crisis communication by a company, Tesla, that's very much in the public eye. Initially, when it mattered most, Tesla's response wasn't good. There's a lesson to be learned here and we don't want Elon Musk's belated blog post to pass without making that point. Okay, he didn't know much about the accident shortly after it happened — that's the way it often is with crises. But having a crisis plan, and mounting an effective response around what little is known initially, is critical to any company, whether it hopes to take the world by storm or not.

It seems as  though Hanna Elliot who wrote the Forbes piece about the Tesla fire as "...A Textbook Problem — and They Should Fix It" has been taking a little heat for her reportorial enterprise. That's unfortunate. She performed a service to crisis communication practitioners instead.

Photo of Elon Musk

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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