Elon Musk kicked up a Twitter storm last week, essentially saying (among other things) that the media unfairly picks on Tesla because Tesla doesn’t advertise. He went on to infer that the makers of gas guzzlers and fossil fuel companies get more favorable media attention because they pump millions of advertising dollars into the media’s coffers.
It’s easy to imagine Tesla’s PR department reaching out to scorned journalists with something along the lines of, “C’mon, that’s just Elon being Elon. Let’s not get distracted from pursuing that story on new tire rims for the Model X.”
Back to Musk’s hypothesis, I asked our crack research team to dig deeper into this. Putting sentiment of the coverage to the side — extremely time-consuming to evaluate thousands of articles on whether they leave a positive, neutral or negative impression — they took a look at the raw media coverage on Tesla versus two sets of competitors — fossil fuel companies and car companies. The following data sets were pulled from the Factiva database, top sources in the U.S. stripping out news releases and wire service stories.
Let’s start with big oil.
The data suggests Tesla has been crushing these companies in the media since 2015 and enjoyed better than a 2X advantage last year.
Turning our attention to auto sector, I selected two premium brands that have been fortifying their respective hills for some time.
No surprise that the premium car makers achieve a higher media profile than the oil producers. What would you rather read about, the evils of fossil fuel or how BMW has turned to leather craftsmen in Portovenere, Italy, for its latest 7 Series?
Still, we see Tesla in a dominant position against brands that have been around forever.
Again, we didn’t break down the articles by sentiment, but I feel on safe ground in saying that the vast majority of coverage on Telsa over the years has been positive with some media properties swooning over Musk as if on a gondola in Venice. He’s graced countless magazine covers ranging from Fortune to Rolling Stone.
If anything, one could argue that the media subconsciously, if not consciously, covers visionary inventors with less scrutiny than established companies.
As for what’s behind Musk’s flawed perception, I think it goes back to the science showing that when a person gets a performance review that is 90% positive, the person will often fixate on the 10%. “What do you mean I need to delegate more. Can you provide examples?”
Must make things interesting for Tesla’s PR department when reporting on “wins” for the week.