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How Tracy Myers Handled His PR Nightmare

In business, bad press will happen. It's not a matter of if but when, be prepared. We hear it all the time, our customers have a voice, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others, bad press can go viral, you better watch how you treat your customers, they're just a tweet away from telling the world! While all of that is true, the opposite is true as well. What do I mean by that?

As a business owner, you have access to the same tools that your customers do. You can create a video and post it on YouTube, write a post and publish it on your blog, even send out a tweet or create a status update. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to do these things, but they can have a tremendous impact on your customers and future customers. We all know that bad PR can be detrimental to your business, but it doesn't have to be if handled the right way. When tragedy strikes be open and honest, take the blame if it's yours to take, tell your side of the story and be genuine.

Recently, a dealership in Winston-Salem, Frank Myers Auto Maxx, was struck with a PR nightmare. To keep it brief the FTC contacted them, and a few other dealerships, about the verbiage used on a few YouTube videos. The verbiage? "We will pay off your trade no matter how much you owe."

The FTC said that it could be misleading and while nobody complained about the verbiage used, the FTC was being proactive in protecting the consumer. Well, that was a few months ago and while Tracy Myers, dealer principal of Frank Myers Auto Maxx, complied with the FTC by taking the videos down, as well as removing verbiage from all future ads, the local media painted a different story, after reading the Press Release the FTC issued on March the 12th, 2012.

Not being one to sit back and let the PR storm run it's coarse, Tracy Myers created a video telling his side of the story, you can see it here:

  • You can view the FTC press release that Tracy mentions in the video HERE.
  • As well as what the local news station posted on their site HERE.

If you take a look at the second link above you will notice that the local news station mentioned something about a settlement, which, to me anyway, sounds like fines were levied. If you watch the video above you will see that was not the case, there were no fines, no settlements and no complaints.

So, instead of sitting back and just taking it, Tracy did the right thing by telling his side of the story. He did it in a very straight forward way, he didn't bash the FTC or the local news station. If he had taken a negative tone in his video I feel things would have been worse, much worse. Even for a beloved local business like Frank Myers Auto Maxx, it could have cost him business.

What can you learn from this? Be transparent. Be open and honest. Talk to the people that matter most, your customers, and tell your side of the story.

Views: 823

Tags: Auto, Frank, Maxx, Media, Myers, PR, Social, Tracy


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Comment by Ric McCoy on March 17, 2012 at 4:37pm
Well done Tracy.
Comment by Brett Stevenson on March 17, 2012 at 12:06pm

This the perfect example of an honest, straight forward, and correct way to handle a PR crisis at a dealership.  Tracy did a great job of leaping immediately on the situation to explain the situation, and more importantly cut off the potential for consumers to let their imaginations run wild.  This story is correctly limited to simple language that the FTC objected to.  Without this quick, honest, non-defensive explanation, the public could imagine much worse circumstances than actually existed.  In PR, quick response to contain the story to is brilliant, pro-active crisis management.  As Tracy noted, local media, which is typically starved for any kind of major local story often feels the need to inflate, dramatize and expand a story, which in itself is poor journalism.  I can assure you that the sales department of this station was going insane knowing that their own news department was hurting an advertiser.  But the separation between news and sales is necessary.  In this case, and in many similar cases, this news department was making a mountain out of a molehill for their own benefit.  Shame on them for not being balanced.  At any rate, all dealers should take careful note of how Tracy handled this.  Compare this to how other, much larger companies have fumbled situations and you can see how a story can burn out of control.  Kudos to Tracy Myers for his effective PR crisis management.

Brett Stevenson

Publisher - Dealer Marketing Magazine

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 17, 2012 at 10:35am

John - You make a very valid point about the PROPER use of Federal Government resources to serve and assist the American population.  Whoever the FTC miscreant was to go after Frank Myers Automaxx for this ridiculous reason is an example of government gone wrong.  My nephew works for AZ CPS and rescues babies from crack whore mothers, drug dealing parents and child molesters... THAT'S an example of government employees serving and protecting those in our society that need government protection.  The fact is that almost every dealer pays off whatever is owed on a trade-in regardless of what that amount is when a deal is agreed to.  I do not agree that the advertising in question was misleading or false... it was ADVERTISING!

Comment by John L Mecham on March 17, 2012 at 10:30am

Stuff like this makes me want to go home and tear off the stupid government approved tags on everyones pillows that reads: "Due not remove this tag under penalty of law".

We have way too many government personnel who must be bored...

Great job Tracy in jumping on this issue so aggressively and sincerely.  You made the right move to correct the wrong perception created by the media.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 17, 2012 at 10:25am

Tracy - I have every confidence that you will turn what far too many dealers would see as an insurmountable and inevitable disaster into an opportunity to show Americans everywhere that car dealers are an integral part of what makes America great!

Comment by Chip King on March 17, 2012 at 10:06am

Well done Tracy.... you epitomize the best in our community.

Comment by Tracy E. Myers, CMD on March 17, 2012 at 10:04am

Ralph, I am humbled...not only by your kind words but by the unbelievable outcry of support that I've received. This mornings count? More than 1,600 emails, texts, social media messages/forum posts and phone calls from dealers, customers, family members, government officials (!) and even members of the national news media. David Johnson also deserves a big thanks for his excellent blog post that presented both sides of the story factually and without any sensationalism. That's the way it should have been written in the beginning. The big stir that's been created caused a respected member of the news media to send me a message via Twitter this morning. I can't mention names yet BUT we've got a conference call Monday morning to talk about visiting his morning show in New York to discuss the rest of the story and to meet his "friends". ;) Fingers crossed.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 17, 2012 at 9:43am

This is an excellent example of how to handle an impending Public Relations crisis by a car dealer... I have admired Tracy Myers for years as one of the most creative and innovative car dealers in America. The issue his dealership was singled out for could have easily been ANY DEALER IN THE COUNTRY... Tracy just happened to win the FTC "Gotcha" Lottery.  His proactive and fully transparent communications and activities will turn this PR nightmare into a story with a happy ending.  Like most challenges, Tracy approached this one as an opportunity to set himself and his team apart as the kind of business people want to do business with.  You go Tracy... You have been and continue to be one of my dealer heroes!

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