Porsche’s bold PR move, planning and embargoes

I am not the greatest fan of embargoes on press releases, especially if they are used as a matter of routine.  But I was interested to note a 9.00am embargo on the release yesterday from Porsche its plans to:

start judicial review process against Mayor and Transport for London over unjust 3000% congestion charge increase.

The reason for my surprise is that BBC Radio 4 Today carried an interview on the news story before the embargo time.  It makes sense in planning terms to target this agenda-setting programme, but then what does a 9.00am embargo mean for daily newspapers? 

Many have run the story today, with the Telegraph, for example, issuing it at 1.00am this morning.  The BBC ran it online from 12:53 yesterday. 

The story has already gained international momentum, and could be seen as a bold move, particularly in the motor industry, where it is more common for the trade body, SMMT, to be involved in expressing collective opinions on such matters

Also, when you have a very strong brand, raising your head above the parapet of public opinion, could be a risky move.  Another factor in this case, is that Mayor Ken relishes the chance to increase his own hot air quota in respect of taking on a luxury car maker.  The Guardian quotes:

The mayor, who is running for re-election in May, said he was amazed Porsche had decided to intervene and described the decision by the company’s chief executive, Wendelin Wiedeking, as a PR disaster. “The idea that a German businessman who earns £50m a year should interfere in this when Londoners will have their chance to decide on May 1 is quite incredible,” he said.

An interesting anti-German response, when the press release clearly shows the action is being instigated by  Porsche Cars GB, whose MD, Andy Goss is quoted.

I think the story raises an interesting point that we’ve been discussing in relation to plans within MIPAA to hold a high level PR conference towards the end of this year.  We’ve been discussing a STEP framework whereby a major issue, likely to be the environment this year, is analysed and tackled against the four key dimensions of socio-cultural, technology, economic and political. 

From the economic perspective, we are looking at the argument missing in the current focus on environmental motoring in relation to the costs of developing new technologies, against a political background of fiscally driving consumers into small, low-price, low emission entry models.  The cost of investment in technological advancements is normally borne by wealthier customers and their expensive niche, premium priced vehicles before such innovations are transferred into the more mainstream models.

Mass market customers seem unwilling to pay extra for “green”, so manufacturers are needing to invest without additional return to demonstrate their environmental social responsibility.  If higher end goods, such as sportscars, are to be driven out of the market because they cannot match the same environmental standards, then where does the money come from to invest in innovative technology?

For luxury brands like Porsche, these issues are obviously critical to their future survival, and so it is right for the PR practitioners to advise on strategies to engage stakeholders in understanding potential consequences.  It will be interesting to see what the communication outcome of proposing this legal challenge will be. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.