Being a motoring journalist is a privileged job. You slosh around in a loan car, typically for a week or so, and then you write about it. Or as is becoming more common, film and upload the experience to the YouTube and to the social media (which is the more profitable revenue stream). Typically you contact a manufacturer’s press department for a loan. If at all possible. Some say no others say yes. Some automotive press departments are just so unapproachable and seething with arrogance we don’t go near them. The latter, for the most part, is restricted to a handful of self-important non-entities. These people are ambitious, want to climb the career ladder and will happily crush you with a smile to give meaning to their pitiful existence.
Often, these individuals are derisive by nature, borderline rude or talk-to-my-hand-not-to-my-face dismissive. But only if they view you as a complete waste to humanity. To the established motoring press who have name recognition it is “yes sir, what can I do for you sir, of course, sir, yes mame”.
Admittedly we still don’t have instant name recognition. We (DCB) are a complete waste to humanity. Nevertheless, we do not need validation to this exclusive club by means of a loan car. We can move on, we can hire a car. Review. Done. However, there are times when PR people cross the line of PR diplomacy. And that honor belongs to Lindsey Dipple. the ever-lovely Press Fleet Manager for Jaguar Land Rover UK.
The automotive industry is a truly international business. Unfortunately, the so-called “ever-lovely” nice-people-person Lindsey Dipple lady has an arsenal of weapons at her disposal to wipe away those whom she considers being lower than dog turd. Bullying and belittling behavior is a hymn sheet from which she reads.
Dipple’s behavior was towards us was targeted, subtle, twisted yet direct, borderline intimidating in an ever-lovely nicest-people-person way. In many ways, she reminds us of Annie Wilkes from the movie 1990 Stephen King movie Misery.
If she thought such behavior would finally silence us whilst using JLR UK PR as her throne from which to serve her venomous self-righteous bile, then clearly she miscalculated. We are idiotic enough to respond.
She walked into her own minefield without a map.
Even by basic PR standards, Dipple’s behavior crossed the line and merited a response.
We took our time and then said things in direct response without giving the back story. The now-legendary if infamous Jabba jibe ensured our reputation was irreparably damaged. But we didn’t have a reputation to begin with, so nothing lost on that front.
As our PR advisor said, we should have detailed what happened instead of throwing the first stone. We didn’t realize people were actually reading the first act. Nobody reads this multi-award-winning car blog.
Fortunately, I did not personally experience the wrath of Lindsey Dipple. I am an Anglo Saxon, with shiny teeth, blond hair and blue eyes. My colleague has not a trace of Anglo Saxon heritage and was the unfortunate recipient of Dipple’s unpredictable but thoroughly nice-and-nasty slap down. But the story starts a few years ago. At the SMMT Test Day. The SMMT Test Day is an annual automotive industry event.
Only invited motoring journalists are invited. Quite unexpectedly and somewhat by accident, we received an invite out of the blue. All the major car brands are present, from mass car brands to ultra-luxury. And you get to test cars all day.
It is like a fly being drawn to amber nectar.
Anyway, so we attend the Test Day. Friendly atmosphere, friendly people, lovely warm weather. Awesome test venue. We visited as many stands as we could, drove as many cars as the day would allow. Then my colleague visited the Jaguar Land Rover stand.
As he excitedly walked over to the stand (it wasn’t too busy) he noticed the PR people looking cautiously back at him. It made him feel uncomfortable. Like the man with no name walking into a crowded saloon that suddenly falls silent. My colleague later told me “It felt like slow motion, like walking up to a firing squad”. Despite the unease, the lure of the amber nectar was too much to resist.
The SMMT Test Day is for accredited media only. You are approved before the event. You have to supply your driving license to verify your age because many of the cars are age-restricted for insurance purposes.
You are given a tag/permit, wear it around your neck, it’s color-coded so that the PR people visually can ascertain your age, without the need to ask.
My colleague was approved to drive everything on offer. So at the JLR stand, he approaches Lindsey Dipple (JLR Press Fleet Manager) requests to book a car and is immediately asked if he is old enough. She just pulled the trigger of suspicion.
Unfortunately, my colleague did not react too well. Having just driven a £300k super-saloon without any issues he now faced an ice-cold, thousand-yard stare from an individual who questioned his eligibility to drive. Yet he was fully approved, age verified, with hs driving permit on display.
Almost immediately, without thinking or offering any hesitation, he responded calmly by saying “that’s insulting”.
I am told there was a momentary silence, a brief awkward standoff… of sorts.
Well, he signed the necessary form, and he did drive a Jaguar and Land Rover that day. But the damage was done. The SMMT Test Day event allows one to build up contacts and establish relations. At that moment the relationship with JLR was dead on arrival. Yes, there were friendly exchanges afterward, but it was through faux smiles and gritted teeth. Suspicion on one side, WTF! on ours.
Later, I asked my colleague why he responded in such a manner. He said, “it was totally instinctive. Did she think I was an illegal immigrant who jumped over the ring-fencing and faked my way into the event?”
It’s the “coded message” that I didn’t understand until much later. And to be fair, following the event, Jaguar Land Rover did invite us to their driving day events.
Admittedly my colleague should have been more conciliatory, as he often is. However, having spoken to a number of journalists since, without prompting they immediately responded in the same manner.
Whether this collective thought justifies my colleague’s response is a different matter. What has been said can not be taken back.
So, many weeks later my colleague receives an invite via email to attend a Jaguar Land Rover event. We’re on a mailing list so we automatically get invites. Great, we’ll attend. We do attend. A Driving day near Gaydon. Fantastic.
After the day is over we are banned from attending future JLR events because we failed to post a review. Our mistake. The initial desire was to see what a driving day involved, what sort of access we have. It was our first foray into the world of these driving day events. At the next event, we’ll post a review. As we found out It doesn’t work like that.
We explain ourselves and were back in. To be fair again we receive regular invites because there is a decent-minded individual within JLR UK PR who lacks Dipple’s strategic, self-destructive madness. But we still have to go through Lindsey Dipple. And we’re not too keen to interact with her. So we delay.
So let’s fast forward the story to the last interaction we had with Jaguar Land Rover.
We finally responded to an invite. But then the invites suddenly dry up. We don’t think twice about it. Many weeks later, out of curiosity, my colleague calls Dipple. At her suggestion, we will attend the next scheduled driving day.
Weeks go by, we don’t receive any confirmation.
Weeks turn into months, we’re not particularly fussed. They must have forgotten we’ll go to another, they organize quite a few every year. We’re sure to get another invite. We don’t act immediately, a few more months roll by. No invites. No worries.
Then one day my colleague decided to make that call to Lindsey Dipple. Merely to secure a place on a JLR driving day. Remember it was at her suggestion. Our intention is to make this the last JLR driving day and we’re done, we did our best but feel this isn’t working at all.
We’ll attend to sample the latest JLR vehicles, that is our main focus. And for sure we’ll post a review.
My colleague could have contacted the decent-minded member of the JLR team, but he wants to go through Lindsey Dipple. I guess to make amends Mandela style. There is no Mandela moment.
Over the phone, my colleague introduces himself to Dipple and immediately her response is “uuurrgghh!!”.
After all this time Lindsey Dipple finally reveals what she wanted to say. The gritted smiles of pretense from previous interactions were an indicator, but we were certainly not expecting this. Grinding professionalism yes, bullying behavior no.
My colleague calmly listens on. This is a conversation where he should know his place.
Evidently, Dipple’s friendly persona is just a facade hiding a decently spiteful and nasty for no reason persona. She did at least engage in a conversation. But I am told, at that moment, she exhibited a condescending attitude.
As the conversation draws to an end, she snaps, “you don’t offer a return on investment” followed by what seemed like a long silence as if to say “I have finally got you by the balls now, I’ve been wanting to say that to you for a long time”.
My colleague is stumbling for words at this point, umming and ahhing. The ROI interjection is Dipple’s crowning glory. It’s checkmate for us. We are defeated. My colleague has a desire to ask if Dipple can be more specific, provide statistics to back up her argument but decides not to.
Judging by her passive-aggressive-very-annoyed telephone manner my colleague felt that asking such a simple question was like putting his head into the jaws of a hungry alligator.
We still don’t understand the ROI slapdown. We know of websites that are lower ranked than us who do get JLR press fleet access. We even met a journalist who boasted that he once lived in the same area as Dipple. and despite having a car blog with no scaleable value or ROI he gets access. I guess that’s nepotism at work.
But we had long given up on getting access to the JLR press fleet. It’s no longer of prime importance to us if the PR department is so dysfunctional that it allows and seemingly encourages such behavior as was unleashed by Dipple. We were merely interested in attending a driving day, and we followed Dipple’s suggestion, even though we had little faith in her.
What astounds us to this day is that she let rip, presumably, in an open office environment. Clearly, this is a playbook she has read from before. And clearly, her behavior is most probably high-fived by those with whom she shares the same office space.
We can only assume that Dipple made her plan to cut us off long ago. Which is fine. You make a binary decision early, a simple yes or no is sufficient and we move on.
And you do not use such a prestigious office to act like a Chelsea supporter throwing banana skins at people who don’t look like you. That’s what she effectively did to my colleague.
So why are we still bewildered to this day? My colleague is British born and bred, from an ethnic minority. We concluded that Lindsey Dipple is simply a racist.
This isn’t the first time we have experienced oddness from the JLR UK PR team. But this example crossed the line. And this is our response, a permanent record of what we experienced with this out of control press office.
Irrespective of the industry we regard PR professionals to be ambassadors. Dipple’s professionalism is from the Max Clifford PR era. That style of PR… it didn’t work then and it most certainly does not work now nor will it work in the future.
For Lindsey Dipple being ever-lovely and lacking professionalism towards certain groups of individuals is a conscious binary decision.