Tactical concession

By June 11, 2011Presentation Skills

An early entry for Most Brilliantly Opportunistic Press Release of 2011 comes from Volvo, who bounded onto the news cycle yesterday and pedalled away gracefully, securing a mountain of press coverage.

Coaching negotiators, I meet plenty of people who like to fight for every inch of every contentious issue. In many cases, that’s what they think negotiation means.

The Volvo response reminds us that a tactical concession can work much better than a corporate dead bat. Rather than churning out a defensive, humourless message like “we reject the suggestion that Volvo cars could rightly be described as ‘ultimately dour'”, they implicitly accept that the description once fit, and they move on: “Clearly before labelling the plot, Labour politicians of the time hadn’t acquainted themselves with the Volvo brand in the last decade with cars like the new S60 and V60 bringing a new dimension to the brand in terms of design and driver appeal.”

Having moved the reader from ‘Volvos are dour’ to ‘Volvos used to be dour but aren’t now’, they cosy up to us, slipping in a few brand attributes along the way: “If only the Labour party had been like today’s Volvos – dynamic, agile and innovative – perhaps the UK economy would have been in a better place than it finds itself today!”

Self-awareness, humour and a conspiratorial wink change a potential PR headache into a wave of publicity. It is founded on making a tactical concession that lets you move on.

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