Crisis comms lessons learned from Tesla’s tweets

Elon Musk made a very expensive tweet recently.

In case you missed this particular kerfuffle, you can catch up on the full timeline from PR Week here. This particular tweet was preceded by some other unfortunate tweets from Musk, which might have put this move under more scrutiny.

The timeline ends with this on September 29th:

“The Securities and Exchange Commission reaches a settlement with Tesla and CEO Elon Musk in which they both agree to pay $20 million, capping a tumultuous summer for Musk. He agrees to step down as chairman of Tesla’s board, and a company lawyer will have to sign off on his work-related tweets.”

There are a lot of takeaways from this situation for anyone either helming a brand account on Twitter or serving as a major face of a brand via their own presence on social.

1. Have a brand guide

No matter how social-savvy an exec is, ask them to humor your team by going through some branded media training. At the very least it’s an important way to learn some brand-specific language, communication strategies and more. This can be as simple as sharing some guiding documents.

2. Go deeper than a guide

For an exec or other brand face- like an influencer you’re partnering with- with less experience or questionable former behavior on social, go deeper and do a formal training rather than simply sharing a guide.

Go through exercises and steps involved in what happens if a tweet triggers a crisis, who the chain of command is for approving content when something goes wrong, everything connected to a crisis communication plan.

3. Do a post-mortem

When something goes wrong (because something will at some scale, eventually) take the time to sit down as a team and learn from it. Was any part of it avoidable or could it have been handled better? Don’t use it as a time to place blame, but as a time to cement better practices going forward.

Other lessons

PR Week’s piece highlighted some other important lessons: Don’t be afraid to stand up to your boss if you think they’re endangering your brand, be sure your execs know the rules of background and off-the-record reporting, and if you are the face of a company, be sure you can control what you’re putting out (if you know you have a temper and a tendency to tweet, think about putting some self-control measures in place like having to fully log in and out each time you post).

It does effect your brand, as we’ve seen first-hand here.


Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash