“Cover for me!”
You can almost hear someone screaming those words as you read the latest development in the Groupon PR debacle. It’s bad enough to have a CEO who can’t keep his mouth shut during a quiet period
while struggling to explain to investors and the public how his company plans to turn it around ahead of an initial public offering.
Now, a public spat with a reporter is making things worse.
Over at peHUB
, Connie Loizos wrote an informed analysis of Groupon’s problems from the media to very real projected cash constraints. It’s an ugly scene, justifying the lede, “Groupon is having a lousy August.”
Following the departure of the company’s in-house PR chief
, a partner from Brunswick Group, Groupon’s agency, stepped into the fray, reaching out to Loizos to tell her the story was “inaccurate” and “silly.” He also referred to the piece as a “nastygram,” directing Loizos back to the “leaked” memo from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason. Loizos recounts the conversation
over at peHUB.
If Mason directed Brunswick Group to call the reporter—and at the moment that’s pure speculation—then the real lesson here no longer involves PR. Instead, it shows what happens when a CEO becomes obsessed with talking to the media and controlling the message personally. CEOs not only need to know how to value a PR function, they also need to understand how to let go of it and let it work.
The media is only one constituency a CEO serves. And sometimes, it’s a lot smarter to choose your CFO or board of directors over the press when you’re absolutely desperate to talk to somebody.
Tom Johansmeyer is group marketing director of Cross Border, which publishes IR magazine, Corporate Secretary, and the recently launched Inside IPO.