As automotive journalists and editors we are inundated with press releases from an industry which is arguably the most exciting, complex and global.
We wouldn’t have it any other way, even if we occasionally moan about the rubbish topics picked to go under a meaningless headline, because just sometimes a golden nugget shines out among the pyrites of the publicity machine.
With a particular interest in the components industry which is really the skeleton and organs of the industry I tend to seek out some more unusual industries which support the vehicle manufacturers. There are some real gems to be found among component makers and often they highlight models which the vehicle makers would rather not talk about for two years or more.
That is one way to knock out a newsworthy item, but there is a rising trend towards another method of publicity and that’s reader or owner reviews and I spotted an advertisement for such a service while trawling the webpages of a search engine.
It goes something like this: You buy a Blogs 1 and think it’s the best thing since whenever and you contact the maker who may well point you to their owners’ website where similarly satisfied Blogs 1 drivers are also raving about their models. Upload your praise and its published for others to read.
Fine for the owner who possibly gets their name in lights, fine for the builder of Blogs 1 as well and this practice has led to a support IT service of companies which garner the good Blogs 1 stories, edit and put them onto the manufacturers’ sites.
However, it’s irritating for those who have not had such a good experience of the Blogs 1 or poor dealer support, reliability or other issues, as their story is unlikely to be picked for the Blogs site by the agency processing the pieces, or the manufacturer/ importer if handled directly.
So instead of having facts we have fake news, which may or mayn’t be right in whole or part. But who’s to judge? Certainly not the average Blogs 1 owner as they will not see the bad reviews and the manufacturer may be shielded from the poor publicity as well for commercial reasons.
I have yet to see criticism of a model used on a manufacturer’s site where owner feedback is published. If you want to find out what a model is really like there are plenty of discussion fora for them and they often prove useful if you have a particular problem to sort or part to locate. But therein also lies a danger in the accuracy, reliability and consequences of comments made and answers supplied.
So I would urge manufacturers to beware of creating their own fake news, directly or indirectly, and instead monitor the forums where owners express themselves and reply with accurate, reliable and above all else, honest help.
Trump fake news with fact.
Robin Roberts | Chairman WGMW