I just want to be popular!

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Laura Bedrossian.

maysssserIf you’ve ever seen the musical “Wicked,” you know it’s an excellent show, with great music, but now I’m wondering if this is the foundation of Marissa Mayer’s PR strategy for her interview with Vogue.

What do I mean? If you know the words to the song ‘Popular’ from said musical, then you may know where I’m going with this. One character tries to help the other to be seen in a more desirable way. The title says it all. However, to elaborate, here is a direct quote:

I remind them on their own behalf to think of celebrated heads of state or specially great communicators.
Did they have brains or knowledge?
Don’t make me laugh!
They were popular! Please – It’s all about popular!
It’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed so it’s very shrewd to be very, very popular.
Like me.

Now, Marissa is certainly not the first CEO to grace the pages of a consumer magazine—the founders of Google, the CEO of Netflix, even Mark Zuckerberg and others have done the same.

So why is Marissa’s spread getting all of the attention? And why is the word “appropriate” being thrown around? Maybe it’s the image of her upside down on a couch. Or perhaps it’s the way in the interview she is trying to make her intelligent self seem more appealing to the general public (part of the interview made her sound like a character out of the ‘Sweet Valley High’ series, she just needed to throw in a few “likes” and “ums”). Either way, this isn’t a question of if she did the appropriate thing. It’s a question of whether this was the right move for Yahoo.

As industry practitioners, we know that not all PR is good PR. While this interview wasn’t necessarily bad, I just don’t see the value of her interview for her company . . . which she is the face of.

She’s made many smart strategic business choices, which are mentioned throughout the piece, but specifically one item that was a huge win for Marissa and Yahoo, was the acquisition of Tumblr and that along with other successes is mentioned in a paragraph that quotes Adam Cahan, Yahoo’s head of mobile. Why isn’t she being quoted directly on this? In fact, more of the “business discussion” is buried on the last page of the feature.

Sure, we learned that she’s “smart and sexy,” but what does that tell me about Yahoo? I don’t care that the CEO has those attributes. Perhaps an interview in a different magazine about how she’s focusing on running her company and throws in messaging that convinces people that Yahoo isn’t subpar to some of its competitors would have been good. That’s the direction I would have advised.

So what did this interview with Vogue really do for Yahoo? Well, I for one learned that its current CEO was once pregnant, while wearing expensive designer shoes and working at Yahoo, but I’m not certain that was one of the key messages she was trying to get out. It did make for a nice sidebar for Vogue, though:  “Pregnant in Prada”—see our Marissa Mayer–inspired maternity wardrobe.

My advice to you, Marissa? You are clearly an extremely intelligent, successful woman. You wouldn’t be the CEO of Yahoo if not and you have the potential to be leading others to make similar choices. Stop giving fluff interviews that do nothing for the company that you are heading. Just stop. Being popular isn’t everything and certainly doesn’t make Yahoo a better product or brand. Making smart strategic decisions does and that includes how you sell yourself to the public.

6 thoughts on “I just want to be popular!

  1. Pingback: Digital Data Diva | Rep Man

  2. That I don’t know. What I do know is Yahoo’s chief marketing & communications officers have zero authority. Marissa literally decides each, and every, interview. That’s beyond absurd.

  3. Spot on, Julie. I recently penned a column in Inc. Magazine in which I suggested Marissa was receiving poor PR counsel. I was wrong. According to excerpts from a soon-to-be-published book about Ms. Mayer, she insists on reviewing the names of every Yahoo executive who is planning on speaking to a reporter and the reporter’s name, and personally decides whether it will occur. She micromanages everything, including PR. That’s why so many of her direct reports left Google as well as the reason why she was demoted by her previous employer.

    • That’s really interesting, Steve. I would love to know which ones she “yay’d” and “nay’d” and why.

  4. You’re right; the VOGUE story did nothing for Yahoo…but it apparently did something for Mayer’s ego…which is the reason I suspect she did the glamour spread. Sometimes people do things for self-serving reasons for their own personal gain.

    • That’s a great point, Julie. I mean, if it’s been her dream to be interviewed by Vogue, great. I still would have advised against it. From my POV it just makes me think she’s a bit shallow, even if she isn’t in reality.