With one decision and 11 words, Tesla founder Elon Musk may have changed the course of the Russia-Ukraine war. Musk announced on February 26 that his satellite network Starlink was providing Internet to embattled Ukrainians, giving them communications capabilities that had been endangered by Russia’s invasion. Ukraine’s military has used Starlink to great effect, drawing positive headlines from top media outlets.
Only a market leader could have this kind of impact. It’s the best PR in the world – and it’s the result of Musk investing years into building a personal brand on the back of another market leader – Tesla, which has spent years building a supply chain that has allowed it to navigate the unexpected nickel supply shortage.
Nickel is a key element in sheet metal and electric car battery manufacturing, and the Russia-Ukraine war has caused prices to skyrocket. Tesla’s impressive battery supply chains include partnerships in nickel mines, development of an in-house nickel-based battery, battery recycling, and cheaper iron-based batteries. The strategy is impressive, forward-looking, and definitely leads the industry at a time when electric car companies are struggling; and it earned it positive coverage at the business outlet Insider.
Here’s why market leaders get great – and often free – PR:
- Media outlets want to piggyback on your brand recognition by covering you more often than the competition. Just a few days after examining how many electric car manufacturers are navigating the nickel shortage, Insider’s exclusively covered Tesla’s approach. The first forced many companies to share the stage; the follow-up starred the market leader.
- People want to be associated with your success. This creates influencer marketing opportunities, where others validate your message in the press and in social media. It was easy to find auto, energy, and technology experts who wanted to connect their names with Tesla for the Insider article.
- You can have a greater impact than your competition. Tesla’s recycling strategy will create a more environmentally friendly industry in future decades; and its unusual use of iron-based batteries will make electric cars more affordable. Media coverage of your market leadership can change your industry, consumer behavior, and much more.
Being a market leader isn’t always clear sailing. Musk has his share of critics. However, most negative press has a short window of relevance, and many critics are irrelevant to your success. Tesla faced a slew of bad press after brief closures of its California and China plants earlier this year, but the company kept moving forward, and those headlines are now an afterthought.
Becoming a market leader takes years of planning, investment, and execution. You can’t fake it on the way to the top, but there are many benefits once you’re there. And just like Musk, you can change a news cycle, an industry…and maybe even a war.