Alex Friedman, president of the Pennsylvania Taxi Association and general manager for a Philadelphia cab company, recently drew the ire of the Internet when he compared the rise of popular ridesharing service UberX to the rise of the terrorist group ISIS. “I try to equate this illegal operation of UberX as a terroristic act like you see ISIS invading the Middle East,” Friedman said. “It’s exactly the same menace.”
It’s a pretty upsetting comparison: ISIS is a terrorist group that has killed thousands of innocent civilians in cold blood, including Western journalists in their quest to establish a fundamentalist state based on their own twisted interpretation of Islamic law. UberX is a smartphone app that lets private individuals use their own cars to pick up passengers and drive them wherever they’re going.
UberX has undercut the cost of taxi service in many cities, and users often find the app’s GPS features very convenient. So it’s logical that taxi companies feel under attack. But a poor choice of words turned what could have been a powerful policy argument against UberX into an embarrassing incident for Friedman.
As this episode illustrates, words matter. Often, they matter more than people think. That’s why it’s important to rely on experienced strategic communications professionals who can help you make your point while avoiding dangerous pitfalls.