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A place to discuss terrible public relations and marketing.

Friday

23

January 2015

Today In Unfortunately Very Successful PR

by Conrad Updog

Uber is an altogether disgusting company that maintains an air of casual misogyny, treats its drivers like trash, unethically sabotages its competitors, plays fast and loose with user data, tries to intimidate the press, and doesn't give a flying fuck about rider safety until it feels its bottom line is being threatened.

If those links aren't enough evidence of Uber's disrepute, consider this: In the year 2014, CEO Travis Kalanick unironically used the phrase "hashtag winning."

In an effort to repair the damage done to its image by the steady stream of reports that the company is not paying its drivers anywhere near what it says it does, Uber released a survey it commissioned, which found that 78% of drivers said they were satisfied with the driving experience.

Additionally, the survey said Uber drivers were making as much or more than taxi drivers, and that in New York City, Uber drivers are were making about twice as much as those who drive cabs.

While these statistics are fairly impressive at first glance, Newsweek points out the rub: the survey polled only 601 drivers of the company's 160,000+ drivers.

More importantly, only 11% of drivers asked to take to the survey did so, even though respondents were compensated for their time. It would stand to reason that the 89% of drivers who chose not to take the survey most likely had less positive things to say than the 11% who did.

Perhaps those drivers were afraid of giving a negative review to a famously vindictive company.

Here's Newsweek:

"Several drivers interviewed by Newsweek indicated that they were disinterested in taking the survey or feared its impact on their livelihood. One driver noted that had they been selected to take the survey, they would not reply out of fear that negative answers would be used against them. Uber drivers can be frozen out of using the application if their rating, based on rider feedback and activity on the application, falls below a certain number. The driver who spoke with Newsweek thought the survey could impact their rating, though the survey and data did not indicate this would be the case."

The Wall Street Journal also points out that the survey's wage figures didn't include the money Uber drivers pay for gas, car maintenance, and insurance.

Of course, the low survey response rate and the exclusion of these expenses did nothing to prevent the Uber PR team from winning the positive impressions they were seeking.

Here's a sampling of the headlines...

The New Republic: "Uber Drivers Love Uber, Says Uber Survey. Here's Why You Should Believe It."

The Washington Post: "Now we know how many drivers Uber has — and have a better idea of what they’re making"

Business Insider: "Uber Just Released Its First Report On Its Drivers — Here Are The Numbers"

Buzzfeed: "Uber Takes A Deep Data Dive On Its Drivers"

For the most part, the stories mention the low survey response rate off-handedly, but do nothing to investigate whether the drivers who declined to fill out the survey did so because they were afraid of what might happen to them.

Outstanding misdirection, and a big win for the shameless human beings who work to protect the reputation of a dude who refers to his company as Boober.

Conrad Updog

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