Charting the Industry: Yahoo CEOs Fail Miserably With Media

As proven again with the case of Yahoo’s former CEO Scott Thompson, a company’s top leadership is a magnet for media attention. But based on a content analysis of opinion-leading domestic news outlets, “media magnetism” can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances: During his short term as Yahoo’s leader, Thompson experienced both extremes before his resignation on May 13 amid allegations that he’d padded his résumé.

According to Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME Research, the global communications research firm which conducted the analysis, “The presence of a CEO who understands the dynamics of news and social media can be a reliable source for delivering corporate positioning in ways which are much more easily controlled.” As such, savvy PR pros provide media training and interview support to manage the best possible result. But just as the media focus can be used to positively represent a company, it can also work against those who get caught in crises.

The threshold for Thompson was low: Yahoo’s reputation in the media had deteriorated to the point where the company’s share of voice was 18% positive and 40% negative. Carol Bartz, Thompson’s predecessor, accounted for 17% of the company’s coverage (see chart below). During the first four months of Thompson’s tenure, Yahoo’s image improved to a much more favorable view with 34% positive/14% negative coverage driven in part by his media image.

Since the disclosure of Thompson’s résumé error, positive momentum reversed course. As of May 18, the company’s reputation had plummeted to 48% negative, with 57% of all coverage dominated by news of Thompson.

According to the data, the departure of Thompson achieved the desired effect for the company: In the days following his exit and the naming of Ross Levinsohn as interim CEO, Yahoo’s negative coverage had practically disappeared. PRN


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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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