Runaway Executives: There are some things PR pros can’t fix

Executives self-destructed at both Yahoo and Groupon this week – remarkable to watch from the outside, gut-wrenching
if you’re on the inside.

And because the implosions happened at the very top of both organizations, I am reminded that there are some things even the best communications professionals can’t fix.

In the best situations, corporate communications executives proactively guide company behavior to avoid damaging pitfalls. That’s only possible to do when the C-suite values the expertise of a PR pro.

But if your CEO or your Board members are behaving badly and won’t listen, what’s a PR pro  to do?

At Groupon the head of corporate communications quit after just two months on the job. Veteran Brad Williams walked just as Groupon CEO Andrew Mason appears to have jeopardized his company’s initial public offering.

Seems Mason, was so perturbed about negative news reports about Groupon’s cash flow that he wrote a long memo to employees in defense of Groupon’s business model. That memo found its way online, in what some folks say was a well-orchestrated plant. Unfortunately the release of that information may have violated the “quiet period” rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission and now the IPO is on hold.

As for Yahoo, their family feud played out this week when the Chairman of the board fired CEO Carol Bartz over the phone. Then Bartz informed her Yahoo staff about it via email.

It’s true that Yahoo’s stock jumped because analysts believe Bartz’s departure may be the only hope of saving Yahoo from its rapid decline. But the very public melee has triggered a lot of speculation that now Yahoo may be a take-over target or for sale, while others wonder out loud how Yahoo can ever find a first-rate CEO to take the job?

No doubt, a group of communication pros will be tasked with rebuilding reputations after the fiascos at Groupon and Yahoo, but not before serious damage was done. Unfortunately with lo0se cannon executives, public relations always feel like a hazmat assignment.  If executives are hell-bent on driving the train off the cliff, there’s little others can do to change the course.


About Matt Silverman

Matt Silverman is a marketing and communications executive who proactively manages corporate reputations and builds brands. Matt is the Vice President and Managing Director of R&R Partners, a marketing and communications agency ranked among top 50 in U.S. by Adweek. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of R&R Partners. View all posts by Matt Silverman

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