IPOs are a big deal and if anyone should be aware of how big a deal it is, and how disastrously wrong it can go, it should be your company CEO.
So it comes across somewhat stupid, when Tinder’s 29 year old CEO Sean Rad, goes on to give a blisteringly bad interview to the London Evening Standard. In the original article, Rad confesses to be “addicted to the app”, being “begged” and “taunted” by a supermodel to perform sexual acts on her; and to top it off, confuses being attracted to smart girls as sodomy.
While hilarious to the rest of the world, the joke of an interview might not sit well with The Match Group’s board members. The company, after all, is set to hit the New York stock exchange for more than US$3 billion this Friday.
And it was not as though Rad was an unsupervised child let loose in a candy shop. All these statements were made whilst having Rosette Pambakian, vice-president, communications and branding, next to him during the interview. Rad even admitted that Pambakian had already given him a lecture on how he needs to be careful of who he dates.
Clearly, she should have also given him a “lecture” on what he says to the media.
At one point in the interview, when Rad confused being attracted to smart girls as sodomy, Pambakian said: “That’s it! We’re going to be fired”.
Maybe, that’s not such a bad idea, or is it? Should the comms person take the blame in this case?
Speaking to Marketing, Lars Voedisch, principal consultant and managing director of PRecious Communications said it is the communications person’s job to make a company’s CEO understand that in front of the media he is a spokesperson. However, he did not think Pambakian should take all of the heat. He said:
We are conditioned to answer questions - but as a spokesperson, your job is to tell your story and smartly weave at least one key message into every answer.
Think about it this way: Usually a journalist already has a story or angle in mind even before meeting the CEO. If you just answer those questions, you give up control and let the journalist decide what to write about.
“Your job is to accept that you have to be in the driver seat during an interview. First step to achieve that is to be clear of what the key messages are you want to bring across for the benefit of your brand,” explained Voedisch.
Usually, the worst interviews happen when spokespeople think they don’t need to prepare and can just "wing it".
“We always insist on sitting down with our clients before every interview - even if it’s just for 10 minutes over the phone to prepare on what’s the objective of the interview, what is the story you want to tell, what questions to expect,” said Voedisch.
Scott Pettet, senior VP APAC of Lewis PR also added that this was indeed an odd interview for a company about to embark on an IPO and questions why he decided to give the interview in the first place so close to a critical juncture. Pettet said:
This is certainly the point where the PR function needs to kick in and provide stern guidance.
He explained the decision to proceed with the interview was "ill conceived especially as it appears to be mostly a profile piece on Rad". Moreover, it really did not seem to serve any real corporate purpose.
"Given how ill prepared Rad seemed, the communications person had in fact failed, the moment the interview began. It shouldn't have ever taken place."
(Photo courtesy: Sean Rad's tinder profile)