Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Dough Factor

Oh, wait, I mean the D'oh! Factor ... as in what happens when your CEO likes the media a wee bit too much, and talks during your company's quiet period before the IPO.

Marc Benioff, whom I have heard from some friends of mine is a handful, might have screwed the pooch because he couldn't keep his mouth shut during an interview with the New York Times. The story was not that flattering a portrayal of Benioff, but rather characterized him as a "boyishly brash chief executive whose large personality matches his bulky 6-foot-5-inch frame," "a mess of insecurities" and then quotes a former CEO from Salesforce that Benioff "loves the media attention and courts it like no one else in Silicon Valley."

Not exactly the way you want your founder and CEO to be characterized during the quiet period ... then again, not many PR persons would want the CEO to invite a reporter to shadow him/her during the quiet period.

Naturally, the New York Times covered the follow-up story - the hee hee, look what we did - less than 10 days after the first story.

Here's the fun part ... how do you control a relatively uncontrollable CEO or executive? How do you control an executive that loves the press and craves the attention? What is a public relations professional and/or firm to do?

From the same above friends, I have heard that Benioff is exceedingly charming, but that the characterization in the NYT is pretty much on the money.

POP! Public Relations is currently in a similar situation, but not as extreme. During a few recent analyst and media briefings, one of the vice presidents went into future plans for the product, laying out the product timeline. I explained to him that those are things to keep under wraps, as if the company didn't deliver it could hurt longer term goals and plans for the company.

POP! does not want to put this executive under wraps, because he is probably one of the better technical people at the company, and fully explains the product in simple terms for analysts and media - he's golden. I watched him on a sales pitch, and he flowed beautifully, and the customer ate it up.

What it comes down to is that we're just going to have another "come to Jesus" talk with the executive, and bring him in line. He's too good on the calls and meetings to put a gag order on, and he complements the CEO's folksy manner very well.

In future briefings, it will just come down to having either IM open, or in person briefings. If he opens up too much, I get to do my favorite thing with executives ... kicking them under the table. Yes, a little kick in the shin will do wonders on an executive - make sure you have a good relationship first - and will reinforce not to mention certain things.

If you can't kick them, just reiterate and reiterate on what can and cannot be revealed.
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