Thanks to Carl "Union Jack" Foster for the idea and headline.
Ever have a horrible experience with a superior brand? It's one thing to have that experience as a consumer; it's quite another to have it as a public relations counselor to a world-class corporation.
We've had the privilege of representing many Fortune 500 corporations over the years, and most have employed superb, in-house corporate communications executives. But, the exceptions have forever influenced their employers' image and reputation in my mind.
– Our direct report at a global organization easily qualified as one of the most reprehensible clients in agency history. In addition to picking her nose in front of the team and emitting various noises from multiple orifices, she devised nicknames for our account executives. 'So, where are hairy knuckles and chesty today?' she'd ask one of our team members. She was derisive, corrosive and offensive.
– Our direct report at one of Silicon Valley's true legends loved to bully and belittle our team. He'd use such epithets as 'stupid', 'moronic' and 'idiotic' to describe our strategic recommendations. Then, when I'd confront him and ask that he cease and desist, he'd plead ignorance. 'Me?' I'd never say anything like that, 'In fact, my wife would kill me if I ever used those words with our kids.'
– More recently, the head of two separate business units within one well-known company, hired us to represent both entities. After six months, she decided to end one relationship, and shift the business to a smaller firm. That was fine with us, since our direct report gave more mixed messages than a presidential candidate. But, then the senior executive hinted that she'd end the other relationship if we didn't agree to eat some of the unpaid fees of the former. Needless to say, any feelings of pride associated with representing the well-known brand disappeared faster than a New York Mets winning streak.
Nowadays, I cringe whenever I hear the names of these three august organizations. And, it's because each had an Apple i-Pad type image that was tarnished by a Microsoft Zune-type employee's behavior.
While a boorish PR director, CMO or business manager's actions usually won't adversely impact the image and reputation of a great corporation, they will produce a ripple effect.
The first executive, for example, now runs a West Coast PR firm. I don't know much about that organization but, by simply naming her the top dog, the firm's ownership is telling me that results trump people. Sadly, it also confirms legendary Brooklyn Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher's statement that 'Nice guys finish last.'
It's a shame to see bad people drag down good organizations. It's even worse to see these same thugs re-surface and continue to do wrong at new venues. There ought to be a law.