Groupon: From ‘Wildly Profitable’ to ‘Learning How to Communicate’

Groupon, a young company with a new business model and enough public backing to drive a headline-grabbing IPO, has opted for a more time-tested and proven approach with its communications strategy, now that its share price has fallen to Earth. With its track record of PR and marketing gaffes hopefully behind it—from a controversial Super Bowl commercial in 2011 to violating the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's "quiet period" rules for public offerings—Groupon inked its own deal of the day on Feb. 9 when it hired former Hill & Knowlton CEO Paul Taaffe to lead its PR efforts. 

Taaffe succeeds Brad Williams, formerly of eBay and Yahoo, who last year became Groupon’s spokesman and stayed just a few months before leaving, reports Bloomberg. During Williams' time, Groupon co-founder and chairman Eric Lefkofsky violated the SEC's limits of what companies can say about future prospects to potential investors when he said he expected the company to become "wildly profitable." 

Taaffe told Bloomberg on Thursday that Groupon is still learning how to communicate with the public. "It's a disruptive company and it's one of the fastest-growing companies on the planet," said Taaffe. "I saw the opportunity to help manage that growth and help tell Groupon's story better."

The company's decision to hire Taaffe, who has 20 years of agency experience, marks a step forward in shoring up concerns over its public image. Considering that Groupon's stock price has dropped 14% since going public in November 2011, it can hardly afford any other major missteps. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

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