A couple of weeks ago I was driving north on Keystone Ave. in Indianapolis when suddenly… rrrrrrRRRRRwwww . The sound came out of nowhere, and it wasn’t too loud. Then—and here’s the worst part—I put my foot down on the pedal to accelerate and the tachometer shot up to over 3,000 RPMs! Before I could react, my car launched into gear and sped up like rocket. Instinctively I put on my hazard lights and pulled over to the side of the road.
After I mentally patted myself on the back for handling a car mechanical issue like Tony Kanaan, reality set in: my car was toast; I needed a new set of wheels.
For me, sitting in a car dealer’s office is about as fun as visiting the dentist. Nevertheless, I found that some important public relations skills translate over to buying a new car. The first is research.
You should determine which vehicle fits your needs and narrow down the targets for further analysis. In this way researching to buy a car is equivalent to the research PR professionals do when they create media lists. Rather than using Cision to find reporters, dealerships are your search engine to find a vehicle. Public relations professionals are naturals at the research part of the car buying process.
It’s also important to know the market and determine the best and worst time to buy a car. For example, you’re more likely to save money by buying a car at the end of month when dealers are more desperate to reach their quota than at the beginning of the month. When to buy a car is like pitching a story: there’s a limited window of time to make the most impact. As public relations professionals we know not to pitch to reporters on deadline. Car buyer should also know not to buy a car soon after the new car models are for sale.
While taking a car for a test drive, be sure to inspect the brake pads, tire wear, condition of the engine and note any scratches and dings if you’re looking at a used car. Just like car hunters should research the car, PR professionals should read recent articles from the reporter they intend to pitch.
Public relations is all about effective communication. Pitching is a give-and-take: when the PR professional provides a journalist information, they receive coverage in return. Moreover, as PR professionals we’re naturally careful with words.
An effective communication tactic is—wait for it— silence. Let the dealer do the talking, after all, they’re the people actively selling you a car. If you wait long enough you may receive a price reduction or an added feature.
The SWAT approach is effective for negotiating a car deal. For example, say you’re looking to spend around $25,000 for a car.
Terminate negotiation: Anything over $26,000
You can initially offer a price far lower than the Kelly Blue Book value of the car and wait for the counter offer. The moment the dealer feels like the sale is slipping away is when you’re most likely to get the best deal. In a sense, sticking to the prices you have in mind is like staying on message in public relations. Consistency builds recognition and improves understanding, both for a brand and an offer on a car.
Just like PR professionals must research, communicate and negotiate in order to gain coverage for a client, a car buyer researches, communicates and (most importantly) negotiates before buying a purchase. The purchase of a new car is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. But for a client, leaving the company’s brand in the hands of PR professional is just as important.