HP: Playing the Blame Game is All That’s Left

At least HP is consistent. For several years the company has been on an epic slide, rocked by leadership changes and a questionable business strategy. In 2010 its stock price stood in the $50 range. As of Monday, Nov. 26, it was $12 and change.

The latest crisis to hit the company? Last week, CEO Meg Whitman contended during a quarterly earnings call that Autonomy, a software company it had acquired a year ago for more than $11 billion, had misled HP about its financial results before the acquisition. Thus, HP was taking an $8.8 billion write-down of Autonomy's value.

Not surprisingly, analysts and investors were livid, and the business media showcased the story as one of a long line of miscues by HP. An article in the Financial Times stated: "As HP’s reputation as the company that cannot shoot straight has grown to almost legendary proportions, its stock price has collapsed." And that's one of the nicer articles.

Meanwhile, as HP blamed Autonomy founder Mike Lynch for the trouble, Lynch fired back, saying HP was aware of Autonomy's accounting practices, and bad leadership at the once-proud tech giant was the reason Autonomy did not thrive after the acquisition.

Playing the blame game is not a recommended tactic in the Crisis 101 handbook. HP's strategy does nothing to lift HP's sagging reputation—even if Autonomy was deceptive about its revenues back in 2011, as today's Wall Street Journal hints at.

Yet the blame game is a messaging strategy HP feels it must play—if only to survive. Already investors have filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming HP knew about Autonomy's practices before the transaction. And the press continues to hammer HP on clear "red flags" that should have been caught before the $11 billion deal was made.

In any case, HP is in desperation mode, and if ever there was a time to put the onus on others instead of owning up to its own failures, this is it.

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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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