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Uber’s PR Strategy?

The latest in a long line of PR issues for Uber including (driver assault cases, an unapologetic CEO, & now a driver's strike over the weekend)- Yet Uber has remained unapologetic about all of these issues, is this the right strategy?


11 Replies

Andy Bosselman
1
0
Andy Bosselman Entrepreneur
Founder at Arithmetic
I imagine you have both Uber and Lyft icons on your iPhone. Which one do you use most?

As companies like Tom's gain traction by selling us on making the world a better place, it's interesting to see some companies be openly dick-ish.
With Uber and Lyft, one company is unapologetic, ruthless, even defiant of regulators. While the other is friendly.

I know this, yet I always choose Uber.

It's not a warm and friendly brand like Asana or Etsy. But when I want a car to come pick me up, I guess I'm not looking to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Or even a fist bump.
Steve Simitzis
0
0
Steve Simitzis Advisor
Founder and CEO at Treat
Uber's PR strategy seems to be "we have the best product, the market has spoken, the rest is noise" and otherwise they don't do anything to get in front of this stuff. Time will tell if that works or blows up in their face.
Andy Abramson
2
0
Andy Abramson Advisor
CEO, Comunicano
Uber doesn't comment because drivers are not employees. If they commented on the situations they would risk taking responsibility
John Philpin
0
0
John Philpin Entrepreneur
People | Passion | Platforms
no - but it fits with their 'culture' - if 'Uber culture' isn't an oxymoron.
Michael Brill
0
0
Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
As AndyB implies, different categories favor different brand attributes. Would you rather roll up in a black sedan driven by Darth Vader or a Yaris driven by a Clifford the Big Red Dog furry?

Very few people *really* care about whether someone is being treated poorly. Otherwise you would have never bought that iPhone with the cover from Amazon that you use to call your Uber.


Edward M. Yang
0
0
Edward M. Yang Entrepreneur
Managing Partner at Firecracker PR
Uber is the rare company where bad news slides off then like Teflon. Their market leadership, brand aura and legion of fans seem to defy the negative publicity. I wouldn't use them as a typical case study on how bad PR doesn't matter. It does. And in the tech industry, we know all too well that today's market leader can be tomorrow's punchline. I wouldn't be too arrogant if I were them.
John Philpin
0
0
John Philpin Entrepreneur
People | Passion | Platforms
as michael b writes

"Very few people *really* care about whether someone is being treated poorly."

.. which I think is sad for the human race, cannot be denied andunfortunately as we continue to live inour ever protected and isolated bubbles, becomeseven more true. Not just with uber - everywhere. look around you. listen to public discourse.
David Schwartz
0
2
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
This strikes me as an odd thing to mention in a forum focused on entrepreneurship. Some folks might see this as a "PR issue", but I somehow doubt Uber does. Theranos is going through something similar right now as well. If you read what their founders are saying in response to the criticism, it's easy to come away thinking, "boy, they sure are arrogant and ruthless", but I don't think that's anywhere close to accurate.

The founders of these companies have a vision that depends on the use of equipment and technology that doesn't exist today.

Every time I've had an idea and I talked to people about it looking for funding, a few of the potential investors always asked me this same question: "How can you build something using currently available tools and technologies that lets you "simulate" what you ultimately want to produce, in order to prove that the business model is viable? Build these things by hand if you must, but figure out a way to prove there's a market for your idea."

Both Uber and Theranos are examples of this. They're being criticized and called arrogant and ruthless for building a business using existing technology and equipment in order to prove the viability of the business models that they envision. It will be years before the things they need are actually available. What they're dealing with today is sort of a "proof-of-concept prototype". Why should they give a crap what anybody thinks?

Uber doesn't like having to deal with their drivers at all. While I can't say with any confidence what Travis Kalanick's vision is exactly, I'm pretty sure it involves a business model where his software powers many fleets of driverless vehicles that show up on-demand and take you wherever you want to go.

He cannot build a fleet of driverless vehicles today; so he has to use the next-best-thing, which is mobs of people who use their own cars and who love to complain about the fact that they're being mistreated by a company that virtually ignore them. Well, yeah, that's their business model. Why should they address a bunch of negative BS when it's nothing more than a temporary side-effect of the fact that they cannot use the technology the MOST WANT TO USE TODAY -- driverless vehicles?

As entrepreneurs, we often are faced with building out something using existing tech to prove to potential investors that our business models are viable. The investors understand EXACTLY what's going on, but the rest of the world ... not so much.

Would YOU choose to get sucked into these distracting sideshows rather than focusing on your core business, knowing that refusing to do so will inevitably make YOU look "arrogant, aloof, and ruthless" to everybody but your investors, who will be telling you to keep focusing on your vision?

If this was YOUR company, would you regard it as a legitimate "PR issue" or just a distraction?
Edward M. Yang
2
0
Edward M. Yang Entrepreneur
Managing Partner at Firecracker PR
David Schwartz, the issue with Uber isn't its focus or lack of focus on its core business. It's the ethically questionable things they do that makes one shake their head. Is it a legitimate business practice to order and cancel 5,000 Lyft rides? Peter Thiel called Uber the "most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley". How about Uber suggesting they dig up dirt on journalists who write negative things about them?

This is the type of blowback you can expect when you not only cross the line but you obliterate it:http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2472326,00.asp

This isn't a "distracting sideshow" as you put it. It's a disturbing pattern of "win at all costs" mentality. I find it personally repulsive, regardless of the success Uber achieves.
Daniel Drew Turner
0
0
Interaction Designer, Xerox PARC
Personally, I use Flywheel. Same level of service, plus I am more secure knowing the drivers have had background checks and carry commercial insurance. Also, the whole thing pays back into the tax base of the city I care about.

(Not to mention the "data posts" on Uber's blog are very poor scholarship, if not outrightly deceptive, as their assertion that Uber's presence correlates with lower DUI rates. There is at most a rough correlation, going only by their assertion, as the do not make their data nor their analysis public, so there's no way to check.)

Plus, yes, I think someone used "dickish" above. True that.

Mostly, I use the not awful public transit. I've taken a cab maybe three times in the last few months. I encourage people to check out Flywheel.

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