Magazine article Management Today

Smoke & Mirrors

Magazine article Management Today

Smoke & Mirrors

Article excerpt

The chief exec wants to become a TED-style opinion leader. Can the comms chief stop him making an even bigger fool of himself?


As communications director, I've always viewed PR as a kind of giant condom for the company, so that any contact with the outside world is safe and has no embarrassing consequences. My job would be a lot easier if we had zero contact with anyone but, sadly, that is not going to happen until we find a way of doing business without customers. It's also not going to happen because everybody under 30 who works for Smokehouse is a one-person PR company, telling the world everything they need to know about the company and a lot of things they don't. But that doesn't worry me as much as our bewigged chief exec, Lynton Spivey, making a speech at an industry forum. It's time to practise safe execs.


Spivey wants to become an opinion leader. There are three problems with that, one of which I shared with him. The ones I didn't share were that he has no original opinions and virtually no leadership skills. The other factor is that in the Twitterverse it's the general public who are the opinion leaders. We corporate types are merely opinion followers sweeping up our little Tahrir Squares after the juggernaut of public displeasure has camped out there. Spivey standing up at a conference and venturing an opinion is tantamount to an incitement to revolution. The only consolation is that Spivey's speech coincides with a crunch World Cup match.


One of the reasons Spivey thinks the time is right to become an opinion leader is that he has upgraded his hairpiece. It's a remarkable piece of work, to be fair, and you honestly can't see the join unless you angle the mini-spotlights in the boardroom to all focus on his head, which, obviously, I did. When he started to sweat, I should have pointed out that's exactly how it feels on stage in front of 800 people. Anyway, it's too late to talk him out of it. He's in the programme and he's talking about Lean Innovation, which is a 'paradigm shifting' idea he has had and will shortly be inflicting on the company. Frighteningly, he has also seen a couple of TED talks and now wants to roam about the stage as if he has lost a contact lens. …

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