Which? PR takes journalists for a ride

A press release from Which? that accuses car dealers of “taking customers for a ride” appears to do the same to journalists as it is hard to spot any real news or valid research here.

This is pure press agentry – which reflects that Which? is really promoting sales of its magazine with this story despite its loftier claim to be “the leading independent consumer champion in the UK”.

On the basis of 26 enquiries to car dealers, the release states 12 made “dubious or vague claims”.  You could say the same for the press release.

As it couldn’t find any actual evidence that the car dealers have broken new Consumer Protection (from Unfair Trading) Regulations, Which? whines that the new rules cannot be enforced effectively.

The entire release smacks of being written before any research was undertaken as there seems to be an aim to slate car dealers and deride the “misleading sales tactics”. 

Of course, it makes less of a story to identify that 14 (the majority) of the dealers were open and honest, or that 12 could have been clearer in their sales advice.  So, Martin Chapman (I presume he’s a press officer but he doesn’t specify a title) spins a release from a few phone calls and four visits into something akin to a Donal McIntyre “undercover investigation”.

I’m not sticking up for any car dealers using heavy handed sales tactics, as despite the pressures on them at the current time, a transparent approach is always the best way of ensuring customer satisfaction with any purchase.

But, phrases like “swimming with sharks” and “the ghost of Arthur Daley’s alive and kicking” (although there’s also no evidence of that fictional character’s demise) that are applied on the basis of a negative experience with a minority of a very small sample is pure rhetoric. 

This reflects as badly on the reputation of public relations as poor sales practices do on the image of car dealers.

Which? claims its “investigation was just a snapshot” – although it seems like a couple of hours to drum up a lazy feature and puffy press release.  That’s misleading PR in my book.

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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.

One thought on “Which? PR takes journalists for a ride”

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