Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whole Foods Makes a Whole Mistake

I understand why the Whole Foods board decided to ban company executives from blogging or commenting on any non-Whole Foods site, a decision that Houston Chronicle business writer Loren Steffy talks about on his blog. But it's the wrong decision.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey got in hot water, you may remember, for posting about the company's battle to buy competitor Wild Oats without identifying himself.

Steffy calls the new policy "stunningly obvious," but it's not. Yes, it's stunningly obvious that executives should not be revealing non-public information or pretending to be someone else in their online activities.

But no online participation anywhere outside of the the company's own sites? That's a mistake. Don't you want your people to be establishing an online presence, networking, and showing their thought leadership in relevant communities?

That's like telling the Wall Street Journal, "Sorry, you can't speak to Mr. Mackey, you're not a Whole Foods publication." PR folks have been getting angling to get executives into publications forever, because there is a real benefit. The benefits in the world of social media are similar, and Whole Foods is making a mistake by locking up their top people online.


Mary Schmidt said...

Mackey should have been handed a shoe box to clean out his desk drawer and then walked out. Not because he "talked" online but because of how he did so. He showed an incredible lack of maturity and judgment. I wouldn't hire the man to manage a fruit stand.

John Rosen said...

John: Your own post gives away the right answer -- when you have a big job at a publicly traded company, the ONLY appropriate interface with the press, the public, the Street, ANYONE other than family and friends, is under the direct supervision and orchestration of your PR/Corporate Communications team. Unfortunate? Yes. Silly? Probably. The reason so many CEO's and CFO's seem so bland, corporate, and make such nonsensical statements such as "We're reviewing the situation" when what they really mean is "We're scared to death of this recession"? Absolutely. But we live in a heavily-regulated and highly litigious society. The ONLY responsible action for a CEO is to be "handled."