4 min read

Driving Digital PR in Automotive: How to Win

Driving Digital PR in Automotive: How to Win

Working agency-side in digital marketing often means that you’re expected to be a jack of all trades, with industry expertise stretching across sometimes dozens of verticals. However, that also means it's very easy to become a master of none… 

But that’s where the power of specialising in your discipline comes in, especially in Digital PR, when it can sometimes feel like you’re keeping up with the news on more subjects than humanly possible. The true secret to understanding how to secure your client coverage in relevant news stories is to truly understand what their target audience thinks. 

When looking at Digital PR for automotive, specifically for car dealerships, the best thing to do is to put yourself - pardon the pun - behind the wheel of the consumer. That’s what some of the Honchō team did last week on our LinkedIn webinar, Driving Digital in Automotive

But where does Digital PR fit into the automotive industry? And more importantly, how do we make people care? 

Well, that’s what I’m going to tell you, but first, let’s start with a disclaimer: I am not an automotive expert. What I am an expert in is understanding how the news cycle and the minds of consumers (readers) work. 

So, if you want to figure out how to improve your automotive Digital PR efforts by understanding your target audience, and the news agenda, read below: 


How to make trends in the automotive industry work for your brand

It’s no secret consumers are feeling the pinch. Even with inflation rates coming down, it doesn’t really feel like anything is getting any cheaper. I, for one, have scrapped the idea of affording Lurpak ever again (Aldi Nordpak loyal), and I couldn’t tell you the last time I paid attention to the fuel costs when filling up (probably also important to note that I drive a coral hybrid Fiat 500)

And rising car insurance costs are enough to make me want to become an adult electric scooter rider, with data from Confused.com finding costs have increased by 58% over the past 12 months. This means the average annual comprehensive car insurance policy is now £995 - ouch. 

Then you have things like Low Emission and Ultra Low Emission Zones. It’s fair to say these boys have had their fair share of negative coverage ever since they were first introduced in 2019. We all know the benefits in combating climate change, but as someone who doesn’t even live near one, it still feels like a bit of a sting to add to the costs of being a driver. 

Because of these rising car ownership costs, drivers are also now more likely to be skipping out on the ‘non-essentials’, like servicing and repairs. In fact, RAC data shows that a quarter of young drivers (26%) say they’re putting off necessary repairs to their cars, and nearly 3 in 10 (28%) are not servicing their cars as often as they should. 

But this is where brands can really take charge of their authority in the press and ensure they’re commenting on things they know their customer will be reading. 

No one likes to feel like they’re being sold anything - that’s just basic psychology. And when people read an article about your business in a news publication that feels like it’s selling them something, they’ll spot it a mile off. That is, if it even gets that far. 

Rather than falling into the trap of singing about the benefits of things like getting your car serviced (drivers already know them), think about ways that you can help to save drivers money on the essentials. Offer them hints and tips on how to make car ownership work within their means without exerting themselves, and the rest will fall into place. 


How to speak to the everyday consumer

I’ll spare you me banging on about how PR and sales are two very different things, and offer you one very simple solution: don’t ignore the negative press. 

Because car ownership is such a big chunk of the monthly budget for about 75% of the nation, people care about it. And when people care about something, there’s always going to be negative press about it.

For automotive, a big chunk of that negative press is EVs, but people aren’t silly. They know the objectives behind EV sales and the government's targets, but people fear change - and for automotive businesses, that can be particularly scary when they’re at the centre of it. 

When there’s negative press, it’s very easy to shy away from it. But impartiality is one of the basic ethics of good journalism, and even if your opinion doesn't quite match up with the ‘agenda’ of a news story, get in there with an opposing voice of reason, and offer people a solution to the problem.

Similarly, there’s SO much opportunity for automotive businesses to simplify the often stuffy, confusing, and inaccessible automotive industry news. But, more importantly, show how this news fits into everyday drivers’ lives. 

I’m not an EV driver - yet - but I’m very aware of the fact that one day I probably will be. So, when there are important EV announcements, I want automotive experts to explain it to me in layman's terms, and tell me how it’s going to matter to me as a fuel driver. Like they (Einstein) say, if you can’t explain it to a six-year-old (me in this case), then you don’t understand it yourself. 


How to improve your automotive Digital PR

Making automotive accessible to everyone is one of the easiest ways to secure coverage for your business in the press. As mentioned, much of the news we read about automotive is a bit inaccessible, so it makes the industry feel like this big bad, scary thing that people shy away from - even if they spend two hours a day driving a car.

In the UK, 7.1 MILLION adults read at, or below, the level of a 9-year-old, so whether you’re creating content for socials, blogs, or more importantly, news, make sure you’re speaking to everyone. Don’t have them coming away from your content having to do more research to understand what they’ve just read. 

A nice way to put your Digital PR ideas into practice before you create them is to think about ‘The Pub Theory’. I can hear literally every Digital PR expert in the UK rolling their eyes reading those words, but The Pub Theory is one of my favourite idea validation techniques. 

Imagine you’re sitting in the pub with your friends - are you going to start chatting about the newly released EV updates? Probably not. But, would you tell your friends about an article you read that explained that “the new EV updates mean fuel drivers have to *do something really super important*”? Probably. 

Everyone wants to drive their car in a way that will avoid fines, keep them safe, and not break the bank. Don’t overcomplicate it. Just help them get there. 


Looking for support with your organic search strategy for your automotive brand or digital PR? Get in touch now.

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