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Elon Musk has had a long, complicated relationship with the media.

Now, he is ready to have no relationship at all.

A blog post from electric-vehicle industry site Electrek revealed that Tesla has become the first major automaker to disband its public relations department.

The Details: The last person to lead the global communications effort at Tesla left the company in December, and according to the report, other key staffers have shifted roles internally or quit. Inquiries to Tesla's press inbox have reportedly gone unanswered for more than a year.

Elektrek said the disbandment was confirmed “at the highest level at Tesla.”

Why It Matters: Most major auto companies spend billions of dollars per year to maintain large marketing and communications efforts. Corporate and product messaging are carefully curated, and media/advertising strategy is handled with great care.

Tesla, on the other hand, has famously resisted pressure to spend on advertising.

Instead, Tesla has a much more "guerilla" approach to marketing:

  • Elon has nearly 40 million followers on Twitter where he routinely breaks news, discusses technological developments, and pontificates on the company's valuation.
  • In February 2018, SpaceX launched a cherry red Tesla Roadster into space. Orders, no doubt, also skyrocketed.
  • Last week on a NYT podcast Elon said, "Tesla at this point is not in mortal danger, as it was, say, three years ago" and Tesla "will be worth more in 5 years."

According to the company's 10-K:

"Historically, we have been able to generate significant media coverage of our company and our products, and we believe we will continue to do so. Such media coverage and word of mouth are the current primary drivers of our sales leads and have helped us achieve sales without traditional advertising and at relatively low marketing costs."

The Takeaway: You might not need a PR department when your CEO is a walking billboard.



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