Coverage or behaviour change?

A press release on behalf of car supermarket, caught my eye because its topic – motorists filling their cars with the wrong fuel is one I remember using about 15 years ago when I worked for a motoring organisation.

Here, though there appears to be a different purpose to the story.  As a motoring organisation, it was in the interests of the members – and of course, the company – to reduce the number of misfills. 

Seeking to change behaviour for easy to avoid breakdowns was one of the PR strategic aims – since it had a direct impact on the profitability of the organisation and was beneficial to a key stakeholder group.  I produced fact sheets and other advice for members in this regard as well as routine media relations activities.

Motorpoint uses the issue to generate coverage regarding the fact that it will be the first car supermarket to sell the new Ford Mondeo with an “intelligent” fuel filler system, (which apparently will prevent the chance of a fuelling mistake).  The aim here is to get people to buy the vehicle from Motorpoint.

Is there any difference between the two purposes?  Is a release giving advice from an “expert” in an area more likely to be successful than one with a more overt marketing agenda?  Does adding the misfuelling context add validity to the Motorpoint release? 

Although, my strategic objective was a behaviour change to reduce misfills, didn’t I really have a tactical objective of seeking media coverage to promote the organisation just the same?

Both uses of the misfuelling data are really of “soft news” value – so why would a journalist want to use one over the other? 

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.