“I am not a crook.” President Nixon
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman” President Clinton
“We promise not to screw it up.” Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer
Well, you can’t fault Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer for being honest and upfront. Earlier today Yahoo! announced that it had paid $1.1 billion for microblogging service Tumblr. Nice acquisition, big headlines and all that. However, when I read a number of articles about the announcement the thing that jumped out at me was Mayer’s comment. While CEO’s, especially in the tech sector, are known for hyperbole and hype, I found it refreshing to see such candor from Mayer. But I’m curious to know what led her to issue such an off-the-cuff remark? Could it be that social media has become such a big part of our world?
Her comment appeared in numerous articles but it seemed to first appear on her Twitter account. I realize that we live in a 24 hour news cycle world full of sound bites and infographics, but her self-deprecating humor felt to me as one of those “what have I got to lose” moments. More important, I feel that this is a perfect example of how social media has changed the game. In the past an acquisition like this would have a press release (politically correct language approved by corporate lawyers) and a series of interviews for the leaders of the two companies. But now, with social media, news and comments are out there for public consumption immediately.
To me this is an example of the PR tactic of shifting the story. I believe that people will be talking about Ms. Mayer’s comment more than about the news itself. Yes, Yahoo! has had its fair share of screw-ups and has made some poor decisions, but by making fun of itself, Yahoo! has bought time to make the acquisition work and has helped to shape its image. The question is…is this an image that the company wants?