Musk’s Default Response To Media Is A Pile Of Shit – How NOT To Engage With The Media

Musk’s Default Response To Media Is A Pile Of Shit – How NOT To Engage With The Media

In this guest post, Anthony Caruana and Kathryn Van Kuyk, co-CEOs of Media-Wize, muse that Elon Musk’s fractious relationship with the media has lessons for all…

Many businesses have felt the unwanted scrutiny of the media interest. Without doubt many business leaders have wanted to automate a message to journalists like Elon Musk has at Twitter this week, but many are savvy enough to know it is not going to win the battle nor the war. 

Relationships matter when dealing with the media. They are based on an understanding that the media is a conduit to communicating with your audience – customers, potential customers, partners, lawmakers and the wider community. 

Journalists seek information on behalf of their readers and being treated with disrespect and disdain is not going to shift media reporting on your business. It will only increase negative sentiment and distrust. It is one way to quickly destroy credibility, brand reputation and ensure your message will be presented through a distracting filter – in this case with poop emojis reigning supreme in the story and distracting from the real issues at hand.  

Every business should have a process in place to respond to the media. But Elon Musk’s disdain for the media has reached new lows. When an email is sent to Twitter’s press team, an auto-responder now sends back an auto response with a poop emoji.

Musk has been firing employees for months. Ever since his takeover of Twitter, he has laid off thousands of employees including the company’s PR team. Clearly, the number of messages hitting the press office has required a rethink so Musk has turned on an autoresponder. If you send an email to press@twitter.com, it replies within seconds. It’s fun, try it if you’re bored, just for a laugh! 

As comical and childish as this is, it talks to a broader issue of why businesses need to invest time in understanding how to deal with the media. The media is an important channel for amplifying messages. You need to be cognisant of how you present your brand. What values are you trying to communicate at all times? 

Journalists won’t stop doing their job if they get zero response to their questions or at worst get the poop emojis. They will continue to scrutinise and dig and investigate. It is important to understand whether or not you engage, say no comment, send a poop emoji or whatever, that is still grounds to write a headline and a story about your organisation. People will still speak out about their experiences with your organisation and you’ll continue to slide down the slippery slope of public opinion and lose credibility that may never be regained. 

At this point, nobody would be surprised in a few years from now that Twitter has folded and we talk about it in the same breath as an old Nokia phone. This is a masterclass in how not to manage the media. 

A far better and safer tactic is to learn to manage the media in alignment with your brand values, ensure that spokespeople are well trained to handle media scrutiny and can remain calm and not get angry or dismissive under pressure. 

Have PR experts in place to manage the day-to-day liaison with the media, who are experienced in knowing what the media wants, how to write and package communications that present your organisation in the best possible light and critically become trusted advisors to your senior leadership team. 

Or just send the poop emoji, it is up to you. But as people who have worked as journalists and in PR for a combined 50 years, we strongly caution against it. Take a deep breath, pause, think and present in an honest, authentic way. 




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Anthony Caruana Elon Musk Kathryn Van Kuyk

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