Learning From Uber’s GBTA Media Miscues

Posted on August 5, 2014 by - Also by this author

Uber for Business launch at the Global Business Travel Association Convention, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, Los Angeles. Photo by Tim Crowley/LCT
Uber for Business launch at the Global Business Travel Association Convention, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, Los Angeles. Photo by Tim Crowley/LCT

Big money and a big splash do not necessarily translate into the best publicity for a business. One of the business impressions I tend to focus on given my line of work is how well a business or company portrays itself in the media, in its public relations efforts, and at press conferences and exhibits.

After profitability, the next most vital aspect of a successful business is its image and perceptions of targeted audiences. Impressions affect branding, good will, human interactions, and the emotions that ultimately drive the purchase of a product or service.

Uber, the headline-grabbing Transportation Network Company that needs no further explanation beyond its $17 billion valuation, took its first crack at the Global Business Travel Association last week, with a first-time exhibit on the trade show floor in Los Angeles and its first press conference at GBTA. The company formally revealed its Uber For Business service, geared toward business travelers. Details: LCT news article here

From a media standpoint, company debuts and publicity efforts can be painful to watch at times. Size and popularity do not guarantee message success. I’m offering some constructive criticisms below, not to bash Uber, but as practical lessons for anyone in the business world pitching a message:

Look and talk the part: Uber’s exhibit showed an earnest effort to connect. It was friendly, full of free gifts and featured a black Toyota Prius. The company obviously employs many smart, outgoing, and attractive people, under age 40 or so. But the hipster vibe and approach that works with its core youthful urban clientele doesn’t translate into a corporate business travel environment. People project your image, and that means having men and women at an exhibit who resemble and connect with the customers you are trying to reach. In Uber’s case, the company needs men and women of varied ages in business suits — with men in neckties and combed, shorter hair — and not the casual, fashionable looks more associated with tech-industry social events, night clubs or music festivals. And in all professional settings, avoid Millennial-speak: “You guys,” “It’s like,” “You know,” etc., etc.

Don’t be coy: At the Uber presentation on July 29, the representatives clearly did not want to answer questions. They opted for one-on-one chats after the formalities instead of an open audience Q&A. The audience pushed back and got its way, with the Uber reps going back on stage. If you are promoting a product or service and want people to spend money with you, you must be available to answer ANY questions any time in any format. Never look like you want to hide, or irritated about unexpected situations. The Uber reps undercut their message by being loathe to be challenged. In the viral media universe, you must communicate well. If you don’t know something, just be honest and say you don’t know, with a smile, and e-mail the answers to the questioner later.

NEVER show or admit weakness: Twice during the presentation, Uber reps admitted they were new to business travel or didn’t know much about it. You never say something like that publicly. You don’t draw attention to hidden vulnerabilities. Better yet, if you are introducing your business or product, do your research about the target customer and audience. That shows diligence and respect. Know who you are talking to by getting to know them ahead of time. Anticipate and plan for controversial or adversarial questions. Even if you believe you are a bit shaky in one area, don’t admit it. Business travel customers are looking for stability, security, and professionalism. That means you must project confidence in all circumstances.

Deal with the bad news: At one point, after a question about a 6-year-old girl struck and killed by an Uber driver last year in San Francisco, a rep’s resorted to this chestnut: “We don’t comment about pending legal matters, or allegations.” No, no, no! A six year old girl is dead. You can’t just treat it like a copyright spat. That’s a question to be expected, and you should have a better answer prepared, such as this or a variation thereof:

“All of us at Uber are heartbroken over this accident and are very sorry for the suffering of the family. We are confident that the criminal and civil justice systems will do the right thing in finding fault and delivering the right outcome. Until then, we can’t say much more because of what the lawyers always advise, but be assured that Uber will cooperate fully and honestly with authorities and all related parties in the aftermath of this tragic event.”

Takeaway word from all of this: In the always-on media world, you must be UNFLAPPABLE.

Related: LCT August Editor's Column On TNC Tricks 

View comments or post a comment on this story. (1 Comment)

More Editor's Edge Blog Posts

September 22, 2016

Looking Like Livery Trash?

The more casual and coarse society gets, the more chauffeured service can gleam with a counter-couture-culture.

September 2, 2016

Public Doesn't Like Driverless Cars The Way Techies Do

As the dates for autonomous milestones move up, motorists retain a healthy skepticism of self-driving vehicles.

August 22, 2016

Comment Sums Up The Uber Dilemma For Operators

Opposite sides rage against the ride app machine: When do you consider an app legit?

August 10, 2016

Two News Items To Make You Go: Ah-Ha & Oh, No

What happens when the big buses are chauffeured, while more sedans to the airport are driven?

July 6, 2016

Industry Pricing Problem Apparent On Airport Runs

I did a test recently of two almost identical limo rides to and from the airport. It's time to talk about rates.

See More

Facebook Comments ()

Comments (1)

Post a Comment

Submit

Blogs

See More

See More

See More

See More

LCT Store

LCT Magazine - September 2016 $12.95 COVER STORY: * How Do We Max Our Markets? * *



Connect

Experience the three annual industry events for networking for business, showcasing vehicles and products, and getting the tools for success.

Read About Your Region

What’s Happening Near You?
Click on any state to see the latest industry news and events in that region.

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Metro Magazine

Serving the bus and passenger rail industries for more than a century

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Please sign in or register to .    Close