5 PR Tips from Observing Tech’s Most Influential Leaders
From data privacy regulation to “apology” tours, Big Tech CEOs are maneuvering through public relations crises at what seems to be an exponentially increasing rate. But, many of their responses are perceived as stunts or “window dressing” and have received negative coverage.
Here are a few PR tips based on the experience of some of the industry’s most influential leaders:
1.Be careful with self-promotion.
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently called for government regulation of the internet in a Washington Post article, the self-promotional aspect was clear as day. When it comes to media interviews and editorial content, reporters want the facts, not advertisements. Being self-promotional diminishes trust between the media and sources, and is likely to result in wary journalists.
2. Treat crises seriously.
With Twitter facing ongoing backlash for its inability to prevent the spread of fake news and extremism across its site, co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey decided to go on an “apology tour,” making numerous TV and media appearances in order to ask for forgiveness for Twitter’s shortcomings. While applauded for taking the initiative, Dorsey was highly criticized for his lack of emotion and failure to take the matter seriously. In crisis situations, apologizing and appearing sincerely sorry are two different things, and the difference will not go unnoticed.
3. Every action has a reaction. Stand by your position, and own your press coverage.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ decision to raise the company’s minimum wage was met with great praise, but also vast criticism. When it comes to public relations, there will always be critics. Rather than backtracking, Bezos maintained his position, and even took control of his coverage by calling out other major retailers to follow his lead. Such a move shows strength, rather than weakness.
4. Use extra caution with multi-hat CEOs.
While the majority of the Big Tech CEOs hold multiple leadership roles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is probably the strongest example when it comes to erring on the side of caution. His feud with the SEC over his tweets has brought into question his ability to run Tesla, hurt the company’s stock, and resulted in his removal as chairman. Whenever the CEO is also the face of the company, there needs to be some form of control and communications discipline: online, in public, and in the press.
5. Know your comfort zone.
From his 2017 U.S. tour that generated quite a bit of mockery, to his testimony in front of Congress, Zuckerberg continues to be disparaged for his stiff persona and robotic character. A crucial PR lesson: know where your clients excel, and where they don’t. Placing them in uncomfortable situations, such as an interview where they may be less knowledgeable or on live television where they may appear unnatural, is not helpful. That’s not to say don’t do it. But provide them with media coaching, interview practice, and properly prepare them at the forefront.
By Zoe PiSierra, Junior Account Executive