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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: 859

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


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Comment by Tracy E. Myers, CMD on March 19, 2012 at 4:31am

"Thank you" for all of the positive feedback regarding this video. A few comments, if I may.

@Reyn Mansson: I certainly appreciate a person with your experience taking your valuable time to give me feedback. Please know that I agree with your assessment of having a media professional represent you. In fact, I have a media agent on monthly retainer. We spoke about this for a moment and decided NOT to talk about it. We felt that it would be better if it were real and unrehearsed. Scripting it would have made it come across as scripted and that is the opposite of what I wanted. However, in most cases my media agent is invaluable to me and I couldn't agree more. As far as addressing the public when the settlement was reached in the Fall was not allowed. We had to wait until the "official" press release was issued. Besides that, no one knew that the FTC version was going to be so dramatically different on paper than it was during conversation. Lesson learned.

Today should be interesting because I've got a conference call scheduled with some "friends" on a conservative national morning show (that hint should give it away even though I can't currently mention it). They are wanting to discuss to see if the government VS small business angle is strong enough for their show. I still haven't made up my mind whether I want to take this any further...I'll keep you in the loop.

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 18, 2012 at 10:41am

@Chip King - I agree with you.  It is clear "heartfelt and clearly real".  It has a double whammy when, as David Johnson says, his own customers jump to his defense.

Comment by David Johnson on March 18, 2012 at 9:18am

Something I didn't mention in this post that is very important is the fact that Frank Myers AutoMaxx is loved by their customers and has a strong local following. Having said that, both of these things are important when tragedy strikes.

I've seen where many of Tracy Myers' customers have come out and defended him. To me, that's even more powerful than the video!

Comment by Chip King on March 18, 2012 at 7:01am

To me the lack of "rehearsed and professional preparation" is what makes this as good as it is. It is heartfelt and clearly real. The 11 minutes passed quickly for me. And there is the fact that a national news show picked up on it..............

Comment by Reyn Mansson on March 18, 2012 at 6:51am

I'm a bit of a specialist in reputation management, I spent 4 years in an ad agency with many political and public agency clients where this sort of situation presents itself far more often than it will in vehicle sales. This is an excellent reactive response to the FTC media release and the local TV station's biased coverage. I sent links for the FTC press release to several motorcycle dealer GMs I know that have made similar statements in ads. Few dealer principals would have gotten this together in about 24 hours. Small criticisms; it is a bit rambling and overly long at 11+minutes, self-directed commentary tends to run that way, a run through with a PR person could have tightened it up quite a bit. If Tracy were a client, I would have counseled not to threaten the TV station's ad buys publicly on a video, that's a negative and can be seen as unfair suppression of a free and independent news department. That sort of position creates an adversarial relationship that not going to be productive. I would have looked to a competing station to come cover the MYERS side of the story for their news. I am not above proposing a quid pro quo opportunity to a station's ad sales staff to get the news departments attention but not in the public realm.

The proactive positive media opportunity was lost however. The proper time to have taken this issue to the public would have been when the initial settlement was reached. You could have spun the dealership as cutting edge consumer friendly and helping the FTC achieve better consumer communications standards.  A YouTube video about why the 5 clips were deleted and a story pitch to the consumer editors in the local media outlets, both print and broadcast, about AUTO MAXX's consumer-positive revision of their sales message to better serve the consumer and set a higher standard for auto sales would have given AUTO MAXX the high ground.

This is why consulting with MEDIA professionals is a wise investment. You don't represent yourself in legal court proceedings do you? You shouldn't go unrepresented to the court of public opinion either.

Comment by Tom 1TeamSynergy Wiegand on March 18, 2012 at 5:26am

People, organizations and government see rights and wrongs mostly from their world-view of What's In It For Me, and/or their entitlement causes.   Even rights are painted as wrongs in a world-view of bashing whatever, whomever, however and whenever one chooses.  Tracy chooses the higher road.  Yea Tracy!  Tracy sees the What's In It For Them Godly view of loving neighbor as ourselves.  Tracy is grounded in the Word.  This is what is truly clear and obvious.  Spread this Godly example for what it is, putting everyone else before oneself or self interest. 

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 17, 2012 at 7:06pm

This is the ultimate way to deal with bad reviews.  This is transparency. Although this is not a bad review as most of think of it, this is truly the ULTIMATE.  You show what you do when faced with adversity, with problems, with criticism. Kudos to Tracy!

Comment by David Johnson on March 17, 2012 at 6:02pm

I second that Ralph!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 17, 2012 at 5:48pm

David is right... Especially listening to the video from Tracy.  he really handled the whole matter well and I am sure he is going to come out of this with more positive than negative.  Most dealers would see their businesses decimated by a federal FTC probe.  I am rooting for Tracy to increase his business!

Comment by David Johnson on March 17, 2012 at 4:52pm

Wow, there are some great conversations surrounding this post, I wish that every dealer in America could learn about what happened here so that they could learn how to better handle situations such as these. There will be more crack downs, this wasn't the first nor will it be the last. Well done Tracy!

For those of you reading this, share it with as many of your dealer friends as possible. There is a lesson to be learned here, a BIG lesson.

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