Elon Musk has made a name for himself as one of the greatest entrepreneurs ever born. From creating Zip2, a web software company; co-founding one of the most effective money-transfer services, PayPal; being the CEO of Tesla, and making Space X, Elon Musk has done it all. More recently, he’s dominated news headlines because of the confusing circumstances surrounding his recent purchase of Twitter. In fact, he’s held the title of the richest man in the world for a long time now. Unfortunately, he temporarily surrendered this title to Jeff Bezos in May 2021, after he tweeted that Tesla’s shares were priced too high and the company was no longer accepting bitcoin payments. To learn more about Tesla features you can visit That Tesla Channel.
Musk then slid down one spot further on the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index when he posted another tweet suggesting Tesla was selling all its bitcoin holdings. Despite following that up with a tweet clarifying that Tesla wasn’t actually selling these holdings, the damage was already done. Nevertheless, Musk reclaimed his title as the richest man in the world in 2022, with a net worth of $204 billion as of October 2022.
As one of the world’s most famous and adored tech entrepreneurs, Elon Musk has shown that he isn’t just one of the most prominent authorities in his industry. Beyond that, he can use public relations and marketing in his favor when trying to get the word out there about his many companies and brands.
How has Musk used PR and marketing successfully?
Public relations has significantly evolved recently, and with the emergence of instant communication forms like technology and social media, PR tactics need to develop to reach all channels. Elon Musk has proven that innovation, authenticity, and public relations are beneficial for any company trying to emerge in its target market.
It is undeniable that Musk has an incredible knack for engineering and being a businessman in general. In addition to that, he has gone above and beyond with his ability to use public relations to capture millions of people’s attention for his businesses. Not only does he implement effective PR strategies, but also he has been able to do it at a fraction of the cost of other companies. For example, his company Tesla spends on average $6 on PR and marketing for each car compared to other luxury car brands that spend about $3,500 for their PR efforts.
Let us look at tactics he has used and how they can benefit your company’s PR and marketing efforts.
1) Not underestimating social media
Social media is one of the many ways that people get their information. Musk is known for using Twitter to discuss his products and businesses. Furthermore, he takes the time to explain what he is doing, what he wants to achieve, and how his products work. He is an excellent example of how you can use social proof as part of a PR campaign. Since he already has a considerable following, he knows that any information he shares with the public will become news. While journalists may look to their inboxes for a news story, they are also using other channels to pick up on news that seems fair enough to write about. These alternative channels include social media platforms
The key to Musk’s success with social media is that he uses a more casual social media approach. A common mistake that companies make is relying on social media as a place to just promote their products and services. Rather than doing that, Musk uses it as a place to share and generate inspiration, ideas, and feedback from people all over the world.
2) Understanding the industry and community
One reason why Elon Musk has been so successful in all his endeavors is that he plans everything. He goes into a task with a well-thought-out plan of what he is trying to accomplish. While he does have a plan, he is also quick to promote and market his ideas with little time for skeptics to tear them down.
Many startups and companies fail with their product or service because they get carried away with an idea without conceptualizing and providing real solutions to customers’ unique values. The initial stage of any marketing strategy should focus on the value of a project and how the product or service will provide a solution.
With that in mind, Musk has always sought to ensure there is a specific need for a product or service before proceeding with it. This means that he has a clear path to follow when it comes to PR and marketing because he works with the needs of a particular target market in mind.
Some examples of this can be seen in his products and businesses. For instance, after going to a festival, he came up with Solar City, a solar installation company that is good for the environment. With PayPal, Musk co-founded the technology to create the first successful electronic system for payments. What was initially created as security software for handheld devices and mobile wallets had some issues with its initial concept but has now become a place for people to access money instantaneously. He also emphasized this as the Unique Selling Point when he was selling the company.
3) Being creative and passionate
The key to the success of a company starts from within. It is known that Musk will openly talk about his projects and dreams with the people around him. By discussing elements of his ideas and business with other people in the industry and his target audience, he demonstrates that he genuinely believes in what he is doing. This instills a level of trust among people. He has been voted as one of the respected leaders in the tech community and recognized as a leading voice in conversations about the future of artificial intelligence. Thanks to his recent achievements with Space X and Tesla, the world understands his position as an authority in the industry.
While he has gone through traditional marketing campaigns, he has also distinguished himself as one of the world’s most successful CEOs because he does not play by the “typical rules.”
As mentioned previously, Tesla has achieved media coverage by just spending $6 for each car on PR and marketing efforts. This shows that companies do not need to spend thousands of dollars on their media outreach efforts. They can either do it themselves or hire PR professionals with a high level of expertise at a low price. PR agencies like Pressfarm have experts who are there to create personalized and creative content. This content can then be sent out to journalists and media outlets to achieve media coverage.
4) Owning actions
As most of us know, Elon Musk is not the most traditional businessman. Controversy seems to be a part of his PR strategy, but it is backed up with a well-developed crisis management plan if needed.
“One of the pillars of Elon Musk’s PR game is controversy. And this is what most startups miss because they stay in their lane. On the other hand, Musk smokes pot on public podcasts, uses a flamethrower inside his company (and then sells it), puts one of his cars on the Low Earth Orbit, and smashes Cybertruck windows while on stage. Each of these things was not done (directly) to generate PR, and yet each of them was a powerful stunt that made everyone talk about Musk, Tesla, or SpaceX.”
– Jakub Kliszczak, Marketing Specialist at Channels.
As Jakub Kliszczak stated, none of the actions mentioned were performed to generate buzz, but they did. They achieved this because Musk owned up to everything as it happened or not long after. For example, on The Joe Rogan Experience, he was seen sampling a cigar laced with cannabis. While stocks dropped, many critics questioned his actions, and the media presented it as a story of his growing instability.
Musk came out on 60 Minutes saying, “I do not smoke pot. As anybody who watched that podcast could tell, I have no idea how to smoke pot.” Musk made another controversial move while he was trying to demonstrate the strength of the Tesla Cyber truck’s window glass. He expected the metal ball he threw at the car window to bounce off, but instead the panes fractured. Rather than ending the presentation, Musk did the rest of his presentation with the broken glass behind him.
5) Coverage is coverage
This is a fair statement for someone with the level of celebrity that Elon Musk has. He is known for being an eccentric genius. So whatever news is in the headlines about him is exposure to him and his brand.
“There’s no such thing as bad press. A Google search of “Elon Musk throws rock” yields 1,280,000 results, most of which are press mentions from Time, Bloomberg, and CNN. Would he have gotten as much exposure had the window not been smashed? No. Suddenly the entire world knew about the new Tesla Cybertruck.”
— Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, CEO of Big Buzz.
This is normal coverage for large companies and individuals that have already achieved positive media coverage. It is hard to say whether something like this could happen to a startup. However, the main takeaway is that whatever media mentions a company receive, they need to have a crisis management plan to fix it if needed.
6) Reaching for the stars
Sometimes, when companies venture so far out of their box, they may not yield the results they want. Even so, there is no harm in trying. In Musk’s case, he petitioned a SpaceX rocket to launch with a Tesla vehicle onboard rather than a test payload. To the world, it seemed outlandish and ridiculous. In reality, this move showed how effective setting unrealistic goals could be. Musk was able to get attention for his various businesses by going so far beyond the practical. He always seems to find a balance between crazy and practical and proves that there isn’t such a thing as “staying in your lane.”
Many startups and entrepreneurs may not have the budget or understanding to plan and execute something like that. At the very least, they can draw inspiration from Musk’s ideas. Every move he makes shows that companies need to be creative with their PR strategies and campaigns.
7) Branding outside the industry
Musk has already established his authority in the tech industry. He has also managed to present himself in other fields. He may not be the most charismatic person, but he makes up for it through his passion, effort, sincerity, and brains. In past professional interviews and podcasts, he openly discusses his fears and failures and his love for science, engineering, and technology. He has also made cameos on TV shows and movies that have futuristic engineering themes. Those cameos also reinforce his role as an intellectual and authority in the industry.
By using other tactics to connect with their niche, companies can also establish themselves as thought leaders in the industry. They can do this through guest posting or even creating owned media that supports the brand.
8) Hyping products before launch
The key to generating buzz about a product or service is to start the outreach process before the actual launch. Using social media, Musk has built hype and dropped hints to get people excited about his product launches.
This tweet brought lots of curiosity about Tesla and served as a great PR tactic. While it did not specify what was happening, people were merely waiting for the announcement to hit. It eventually turned out that Musk was announcing that Tesla cars were going to include self-driving hardware. Leading up to the announcement, the volume of posts and people trying to figure out what was going on generated quite a lot of free marketing exposure.
Now, as mentioned before, Musk has the ability and budget to create products just for the sole purpose of generating buzz. For example, Musk’s Boring Company wanted to create some cash for their Hyperloop and Loop. They created flamethrowers and “Dad Hats” to generate buzz about it.
“Musk’s Boring Company sold both flamethrowers and “Dad Hats.” But Elon Musk and The Boring Company aren’t really in the business of hats and flamethrowers. They were just a media-worthy way of generating cash for the company’s real focus — Hyperloop and Loop. Instantly, a link was created between flamethrowers and Musk’s high-speed underground public transportation projects.
The purpose of a product is usually to make a profit. When you sell more, you make more to sell. But products and profits can be utilized in other ways, too. Elon Musk has shown here that one cannot overlook the power of a product to generate buzz, and funding, for an enormous undertaking.”
– Louise Howorth, Account Executive at Braithwaite Communications.
9) Let fans be advocates
It is evident that Musk has a large fan base; they have nicknamed themselves “Musketeers.” These are people who closely follow everything that he does.
The best way to get more sales is by getting existing customers and fans to promote the business. This is a great way to provide insight to potential customers. After all, your current customers have already experienced what your company has to offer. They will also seem more trustworthy than anyone from your marketing department will. Engaging brand advocates from among your customers can be a difficult task. However, if your company has products or services that people love, these people will be happy to talk about it.
Musk creates advocates exceptionally well because he provides exceptional products, engages with his customers, and gains valuable insight from them. He brings his fans and customers along for the journey and makes them feel included in the decision-making process.
So, for companies to be successful, they should engage with their customers and potentially turn them into brand advocates. Asking them for feedback on products and services can be just the thing a company needs to improve and adapt to customers’ needs continuously.
10) Helping the competition
This may seem like a strange concept, but having competition in business is inevitable. You can either see this as a threat or an opportunity. As we know, Musk is a risk-taker and does not follow the rules. In fact, he embraces risk and sometimes even fuels the fire.
“Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open-source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.”
– Elon Musk.
In 2014, Tesla opened all their electric car patents promising not to sue any other company that wants to use them. Weird concept, right? Most companies want to have a patent so that their product can be uniquely theirs. However, it shows that Musk had an idea of the future of the entire electric vehicle industry and its market value over the competition. It also shows that he’s not worried about the competitors. By “helping them,” he reinforces the perception of Tesla being the best among other electric car manufacturers.
This example proves to companies that they need to be aware of the competition. At the same time, they should not be afraid to help the competition. For instance, if a prospective customer does not fit the product or service a company provides, they should pass it on to a better-suited competitor. This shows honesty and is a vote of confidence for the other company. It builds trust among customers and media outlets as well as other companies in the industry.
Throughout his career, Elon Musk has shown that he is rightfully one of the highest authorities in the tech industry. He can generate free press, align his brands with flattering media opportunities, come out on top of any controversial situation, and help his fellow competitors in the industry. Other companies should follow his methods with sincerity and adequate follow-through. Doing this will give any company a higher chance of being successful with its PR and marketing efforts. Musk has managed to stay true to himself and his brand message. He also knows that there have been aspects of his career that may have brought out a negative light. Despite these challenges, he has managed to develop an effective crisis management strategy and be creative with his approach.
“Persistence is essential. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up.” – Elon Musk