Inventor and Renaissance man Elon Musk has been compared to such historic figures as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Benjamin Franklin. While these geniuses toiled in semi-obscurity, Musk came up in the information age. What's more, he is arguably the greatest scientific showman of our time.
As a marketer, chances are you are not planning to take a rocket to the moon in the near future, but there is still a lot you could learn from Musk's media mastery.
Musk clearly understands how to game the press, his followers and the general public. His announcements are carefully designed to build excitement and interest in his projects and boost admiration for Musk himself.
The publicity is impeccably orchestrated, with each announcement building on the last one, and setting up the next:
- In August, Musk announced his Hyperloop project, travel pods that use magnetic levitation to speed through underground tunnels at 700 mph. By specifying that Hyperloop would get from New York to DC in 29 minutes, Musk chose an example guaranteed to get the attention of the East Coast intellectual and financial elite, groups that don't follow him as closely as his Silicon Valley cohorts.
- In September, Musk chose a space industry conference in Australia to share revised plans to travel to the moon and Mars. He capped his talk with a promise to use that same interplanetary rocket system for long-distance travel on Earth. He shared a demonstration video onstage, claiming that his rockets will allow passengers to take "most long-distance trips" in just 30 minutes, and go "anywhere on Earth in under an hour" - all for the price of an economy airline ticket.
- In October, while the nation was debating the effectiveness of FEMA's response to Puerto Rico, Musk tweeted out an offer to help rebuild the island's electric grid with Tesla solar and battery systems. Since then, Tesla has shipped hundreds of solar-charged Powerwalls to Puerto Rico to power the areas where people still have no electricity. Not only does this help hurricane victims, it boosts Musk's reputation as a genuinely nice guy and makes you want to root for him.
What campaigns or announcements can you pair together to position yourself as an innovator and create momentum for your business? Don't just put out a press release--think about launching your next project with a little more flair.
Here are three things Musk does that you can do too:
1. Pair yourself with other thought leaders.
In interviews, Musk likes to mention past innovators he looks up to. He's repeatedly cited Ben Franklin as "one of the people I most admire." This approach positions Musk as a thinker and problem-solver on par with some of history's greatest inventors.
A smart businessperson can learn from this technique. Think of the thought leaders in your field and find a way to draw parallels with your way of thinking of ideas for your industry.
Shun the obvious--we all wish we were Steve Jobs. Dig deeper and evoke someone who is or was famous for achievements relevant to your business or career path. Be subtle about it, explaining how you learned from this person's example, or adopted their philosophy. There's an art to the humble brag!
2. Avoid the spotlight a little.
Musk insists he doesn't want to be in the spotlight. He is known as a minimalist in public relations and marketing. For someone who eschews publicity, he manages to garner a lot of press. His every announcement comes with his trademark matter-of-fact fanfare.
The truth is, he does want publicity, and so should you. Just be sure to hire a professional to help you choose the right vehicle for your announcements, and craft and control the narrative.
3. Create a repeatable "moon shot" goal.
Whether it's NY-DC in 29 minutes, sending power strips to people in need, or using a rocket to get from one side of the Earth in under an hour, Musk's announcements have captured the world's attention.
Granted, few businesses have big news that a grand a scale. Still, with a little imagination, you might be able to create a moon shot goal for your company.
It may not be big news for the entire world, but it could be big news for your industry and your customers. As an entrepreneur, it's your job to show your customers the future. Just take a page from Musk.