Category Archives: Executive Visibility

Beware the Donalds

RumsfeldTrumpEvery few years a mavericky, break-all-the-rules type of leader bubbles up into the public consciousness. He wows people with his “blunt” talk, “refreshing candor” and willingness to address complex issues in a very simple and straightforward manner.

A decade ago it was Donald Rumsfeld. While U.S. Defense Secretary, his treatise on “known knowns and unknown unknowns” made him the darling of the lecture circuit. It even resulted in a book deal – Known and Unknown: A Memoir. And much more recently, Donald Trump has climbed up the GOP presidential nominee rankings through a sometimes-incoherent strategy of attacking almost anything that moves. Supporters admire his “leadership” and “take-action” style, if not his depth and nuance.

Leaders like the Donalds usually have a shelf-life, but the internal and external damage they may do can live far beyond the FOX News and CNN news cycles. The Donalds are charismatic, and serve as role models for many other leaders, including C-level executives.

CEOs who tire of having constraints placed on them with media will point to people such as the Donalds as proof that they should be able to speak bluntly and without talking points. After all, the Donalds prove that people love outspoken leaders who are not afraid of saying what people are secretly thinking.

So here’s some free advice for PR people who work with C-level executives: Don’t let them listen to leaders like the Donalds. Both Rumsfeld and Trump are outliers, and CEOs who seek to model themselves after them will quickly find out that you can’t count on lightning striking every time. And if they try, the clean up will not be pretty.

For Gov. John Hickenlooper and 9NEWS, Social Media Makes the Spotlight Burn Brighter

Gov. John Hickenlooper - from official Facebook page

Gov. John Hickenlooper – from official Facebook page

As connections were made last week between the recent murders of a pizza deliveryman and the director of Colorado’s Department of Corrections, and then a surprising link was made back to Gov. John Hickenlooper, the news cycle began to pick up speed. On Friday, it came to a head. An interview between Gov. Hickenlooper and 9NEWS reporter Jace Larsen caught not only our attention from a communications perspective, but also created local and national headlines.

As PR professionals who maintain relationships with both clients and journalists, there were a lot of takeaways from the heated interview. Lesson for clients: losing your composure on camera – no matter how intense, personal, valid or not – creates footage bound to be shared. Lesson for journalists: while it’s important to ask pressing questions, it’s important to also know your limits and the limits of your sources.

But what’s particularly interesting about this situation is not the actual interview itself, but the conversation the interview has sparked, particularly on social media. Fewer than ten years ago the original story would have aired and that would have been the end of it. Today, thanks to websites and social mediums like Facebook, Twitter and blogs, constituents in the Denver area and beyond are taking an active part in voicing whether Gov. Hickenlooper or Larsen was in the right.

Read more after the jump…

Reputation Management Programs Temper Public Missteps

Groupon LogoCEO gaffes never cease to amaze and the past several years have been rife with prime examples. Whether it’s former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s insistence on sailing yachts in the days and weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s references to Obamacare as fascism or Chick-fil-A President Don Cathy’s anti-gay remarks, top business executives keep us guessing.

As further evidence, earlier this month former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason had us scratching our heads when he compared his leadership successes and foibles to completing levels of the 1980s Nintendo game, Battletoads.


Read more after the jump…