What's your problem?

Three months ago, our PR agency decided that our CEO needed to do more press activity and the other exec board members agreed - and what a mistake!

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Although he's had some media training, he's been far too forthright about our company and our strategy. Also, this so-called celebrity has gone to his head and he's swanning around as though he's Alan Sugar. It's grating on all of us but the PR firm thinks it's great. What do I do?

A: I can quite see why the PR firm thinks it's great. All those column inches generated as a direct result of its skills and contacts: excellent justification for some new fee negotiations.

But cynicism aside, it might even be great. It all depends on whether or not there was an agreed objective and an agreed strategy. I find it difficult to believe that your PR agency simply announced that your CEO needed to do more press activity and that your board passively agreed: that would have been deeply unprofessional. Surely some sort of planning must have been done? Was your company losing out because of its low public profile? If so, how could that best be remedied? Was PR the best bet? And how would the effect of any such activity be measured?

All very basic stuff, but absolutely essential if expensive decisions are going to be based on anything more solid than hunch and whim.

So it's just possible, if your CEO is closely identified with the company, that his newly acquired status has real commercial advantages. If that's the case, your criticism smacks a bit of personal envy.

On the other hand, you may be absolutely right. If the only reason for launching this PR offensive was to feed the ego of the chief executive, and there's absolutely no evidence of it having had any beneficial effect on the company as a whole, then you and your colleagues need to do something. But please be sure to base your constructive comments not on the Alan Sugar-like behaviour of your CEO - which however true would sound petty and subjective - but on the need to apply a bit of standard discipline to any marketing expenditure. A simple request to the PR company for a strategic plan and some evaluation criteria might be all that's needed.

It may not stop him swanning around immediately - but at least it should deny him any further whiffs of the oxygen of publicity.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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