prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Uber’s Image Problem

Posted by prof e on November 29, 2014

UberPerhaps you’ve heard of Uber, the smartphone-enabled ride-sharing alternative to traditional taxis. Uber, along with Lyft and Sidecar, work on the premise that a person with a car can offer a service to someone who need a ride, and make a few bucks in the process for both the driver and the company. Now that most everyone has a smartphone–and with real-time location services knowing your every move–connecting drivers and riders is really pretty simple.

But Uber, like the other start-ups, has a few natural enemies. Taxi cab companies don’t like having their business syphoned off by competitors who are not licensed and have little to no overhead.

But it is Uber’s CEO and a senior VP who may become the company’s greatest liability. CEO Travis Kalanick, whose aggressive leadership has been credited with the quick rise of the company, has ruffled more than a few feathers with his aggressive business practices. Uber has been accused of violating its own privacy policy and tracking users for suspect reasons. (You can read more about that on the ACLU blog.) And recently, Uber VP Emil Michael has suggested that Uber should investigate journalists who have been investigating Uber.

Specifically Michael targeted Sarah Lacy, co-editor of the Pando Daily website. Lacy has been critical of Uber’s treatment of women and has been leading the call for Uber to clean up its act. And for that, according to The Tech Bulletin, “A top executive of Uber explained a Nixonian plan to dig up dirt on the journalists who are critical towards Uber and sully their reputations.”

One doesn’t have to be a PR pro to see that this is not a smart move by Uber. Picking a fight with journalists is seldom a good idea. As Bill Greener, press aide to Gerald Ford and Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970’s once said, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel” (Lewis).

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7 Responses to “Uber’s Image Problem”

  1. Alejandra Gutierrez said

    It’s true due to the fact that the VP try to dig some dirt on the journalist and they did stupid things so in terms of an PR perspective they made themselves look bad. For the Public Relations, you have to build a certain relationship with the public and the organization. In other words, having this personal close relationships means the organization is more truthful to the people. What is a good way to build this good relationships? Well the people always tend to believe what the press says and the review says a organization is honest and good, then it means the organization is working well with the people.

  2. Kun Xie said

    As the last part of the article indicated, picking a fight with journalists is never a good idea. It’s true some journalists may have been critical of Uber’s policy here and there, but a war with intentional raging attitude towards journalists is just foolish. No company is perfect in policy and it’s the company’s tactic for a more beneficial purpose to figure out a way to sort out a positive solution for any Public Relations’ problem instead of confronting it with an uncompromising attitude.

  3. Isaac Cobbs said

    Uber can disagree with the press all they want. If they feel like they are given a bad name from journalists that claim they are alienating licensed taxi drivers, they have the right to voice their opinion. However, it’s not good to fight with every journalist criticizing them. They need to understand that if they are accused of violating their own privacy policy, that it’s something the media will want to talk about. They should take this criticism as advice (which is the whole point of criticism) to follow their policy as it’s stated. They shouldn’t take offense to the press and should know that the more they take offense to these journalists, the more journalists would want to talk about it.

  4. Katherine Garcia said

    Why would anyone start a fight with a journalist when any bad publicity can hurt an organization or company? Uber is within their rights to disagree with the press but violating their own privacy policy is pretty shady, and the press is going to delve into a story like that. However, this sort of bristling defense is only going to draw more bad publicity their way.

  5. Katelyn Mithlo said

    Obviously it isn’t a good idea to start a fight with a journalist, especially if that journalist is looking into your company. A well respected journalist can manipulate its readers to believe almost anything they write about, because their readers should trust them if they continue to read their writing. PR wise, what that journalist writes about your company could make it or break it.

  6. Yama Radtke said

    I think it is very foolish of the company Uber to try and discredit journalist by digging up dirt on them. In terms of public relations it is going to appear to most people that Uber is attempting to cover up something by attacking journalists. Most people will assume that a large corporation like Uber is hiding something. And like the Confessions of a Media Manipulator slide stated, anybody can bring attention to their blogs and with the owed that a journalist holds, can make life miserable for Uber. The definition of public relationships is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” It doesn’t look like trust will be built between Uber and the public.

  7. Alex Merisko said

    It seems like this company needs a lesson in media manipulation. It’s important to realize that if one strives to run a successful company in the technology driven world we live in, then they must accept the importance of potential clients and their opinions such as bloggers. The fastest way to success or failure according to “Confessions of a Media Manipulator” begins with mainstream bloggers who spread ideas and opinions like wild fire. So I think Uber should be more conscientious about their image when their company is being talked about in a negative light like on the ALCU blog.

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