While artificial intelligence (AI) is still a way away from writing your pitches for you, it’s making newsworthy waves in its ability to drive your car for you. At the same time a number of pedestrian fatalities related to driverless cars has created some highly charged and negative news. All of which makes self-driving cars a hot topic for consumers and the media, but one where hype needs to be well-controlled. So how best to ensure positive news for autonomous car technology and establish your brand in this rapidly evolving market.
An expert panel of US journalists presenting at a PRSA event earlier this year, Inside the Newsroom: Exploring the Self-Driving Roadmap at Baidu’s autonomous driving facility in Sunnyvale, CA, shared their experiences covering the latest autonomous vehicle trends and the filter they apply to the pitches they receive.
Aarian Marshal, WIRED
Alexandria Sage, Reuters
Katie Burke, Automotive News
Russ Mitchel, LA Times
Tim Higgins, Wall Street Journal
The panel gave invaluable insight into how to engage them with compelling story angles:
First, you need to be able to explain what the car or gadget can do in one sentence. This is the key to a journalist’s heart. How many times do readers just skim the headline and not the full article? Journalists want to be able to understand the self-driving car innovation in bite-sized pieces.
Second, and this seems like common-sense, but we know it’s not always the case, make sure the journalist you are pitching actually covers those automotive topics that specifically relate to your technology and product. Whether it be autonomous vehicles, roads and regulations and/or connected cars, the more specific your targets, the better the chances your story will be picked up.
Lastly, focus on what your product does now versus putting all your attention on what the vehicle will be able to do in five to ten years from now. Be able to offer supporting proof points for your technology and its application today, while offering a vision for the future.
All the journalists at the conference called for no BS! Even if the autonomous vehicle industry was ready to give everyone an autonomous car right now, the world would still not be ready for several decades. Through messaging, make sure you are setting realistic expectations with your audience about your product. As the industry is still very young, with leaders still in flux, it’s a bit too early to claim you’re the best of the best. Don’t risk damaging your credibility with exaggerated claims.
We live in an exciting time with autonomous cars an important part of the future of transportation for consumers and commercial use. There are many milers to go though before the mass public and business adopts these vehicles into their everyday lives. In the meantime it is our job as communicators to work with journalists and thought leaders to keep pace with the accelerating industry, one lap at a time. But while we wait for the checkered flag, I’ll be riding and writing in the back of Baidu’s driverless car without a single hand on the wheel.
By Eric Bolin