Poor Yahoo! The communications execs there just can’t seem to catch a break—or, if you’re coming at it from a more cynical standpoint, they just can’t seem to do much right.
In the wake of a handful of missteps—among them leaked footage of former VP of corporate communications Brad Williams sleeping during the company’s annual meeting, and the departure of chief communications officer Jill Nash following news that she allegedly leaked a confidential job performance review—the newest communications VP, Eric Brown, is now under fire. His crime: Being too nice … or something like that.
Here’s the situation: On Brown’s first day of work (Monday, July 6), he sent an e-mail to Yahoo!’s global communications team, which read a lot like a high school senior’s yearbook page. Consider this excerpt:
“Where I grew up: Warsaw, Virginia– a tiny town about 90 minutes from Richmond, Virginia and 150 minutes from Washington, D.C. For those of you who are American history buffs, Warsaw is about 10 minutes from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and 15 minutes from the birthplace of George Washington.
Where I live now: Sunnyvale, California. Can’ t beat the commute.
College: William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. BA in English. Loved lit crit. Senior honors thesis was on post-WWII masculinity in American society as represented by the works of Norman Mailer.
If the Internet didn’t exist, what I’d be doing right now: teaching literature to high school students. I believe that at some point in my life, I have to return to society what it has given me. And I’ d be a better teacher than firefighter or doctor!
Favorite place on Earth: Paris. I try to go there 3 or 4 times a year and have a couple of very close friends who are kind enough to let me crash with them. Second favorite is Hong Kong.
My first car: a Buick Skyhawk in a horrible shade of brown– the thing was so ratty that I had to add oil to it every other day so it wouldn’ t break down– it made its last hurrah on a cross-country trip from Virginia to California and made it over the Rocky Mountains without any issues but then was quite unhappy crossing the Sierra Nevada range.
My guiltiest pleasure: ice cream in bed with the Kindle– the ice cream HAS to be Ben & Jerry’s (LOVE being on this floor with the conference room names!) and my favorite is Peach Cobbler.”
It’s all very sweet, really, and most likely done as a gesture to seem approachable. Of course, the strategy backfired when the memo was leaked to blogs, where Brown was subsequently mocked endlessly.
All things considered, it’s not a communications faux pas of crisis proportions, but it definitely raises a red flag. After all, what was the top PR person at one of the biggest companies thinking when he sent such a flippant e-mail? He of all people should have known what events would transpire once he pushed “send.” Or, have we become so cynical that we can’t even appreciate a nice gesture?
By Courtney Barnes