PR in the age of authenticity - Lessons from Chevy's 238mpg Volt

GM just announced that their upcoming electric-drive car, Chevy Volt, will earn an EPA rating of 238 miles per gallon. Wow…incredible…but maybe too incredible. Apparently the EPA has told GreenCarAdvisor that they have not tested a Volt. Adding to the concerns about GM’s math, Nissan had fun with the announcement, tweeting on its NissanEVs twitter account that the upcoming 2010 Nissan Leaf would be rated for 367 mpg under the same formula. Even though the Leaf, a pure electric car, doesn't have a gas tank.

In a world where consumers are craving authenticity, puffery (real or perceived) has no place and seems really out of sorts with a Green message.

But what if your message is do you sell it without overselling it? How do you sell the incredible and maintain trust?

I asked Margaret Ryan, a San Francisco based marketing strategist who was an early employee at America Online. While there she helped execute numerous marketing programs that fueled AOL’s hyper growth from 300,000 to 30 million members in five years. Since them she has successfully told the story of dozens of breakthrough products and services for companies such as BabyCenter, ShopStyle, Tickle and

Here are her tips for Selling the incredible:

1- Be honest. If you want your message to be heard you must first be believed. Telling the truth is essential if you want to earn the trust of the media, employees, customers and shareholders.
2- Keep the message simple. Unnecessary information won’t strengthen the message, if anything it dilutes it.
3- Do your research. Incredible claims will invite skepticism: be prepared. If you have supporting data in hand, skeptics offer another opportunity to enforce your message.
4- One size does not fit all. Tailor your message and your delivery to your audience whether it is your customer, the business community, the green community, or a combination.
5- Timing is everything. Put your message out there when it is going to be most effective. If the timing is off, a brand announcement can become a crisis situation. Always be prepared to respond in both scenarios.

This post was originally published on


You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All