2/18/14
Posted at 0:18h, 18 Feb 2014 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Good morning, All,

Not everyone is good at public speaking, and hasn’t Tim Armstrong proven that time and again. OK, when he quite publicly fired the creative director at Patch, he did warn the guy to put the camera down. That was insubordination. But when he mentioned distressed babies while explaining why employees 401(K) benefits were changing, his remarks were taken out of context, and he would have been better served had he paid more attention to WC Fields, who never worked with animals or children. Probably not the best idea to mention them while trying to make justifications to employees, who are not predisposed to liking what you’re saying in the first place, not to mention the media being what it is. Let’s face it: it made for great headlines and a lot of ink, justified or not, during a more or less quiet news week: we couldn’t be totally absorbed with the Olympics or even #SochiFail 24/7.

Tim Armstrong should have had a better speech coach – or some executive coaching, period. Or a speech writer. Or even a better, a competent corp comm staff. The story managed to escalate so quickly, AOL back-peddled rather than to even attempt to do damage control. Or maybe Armstrong fired the wrong person when he set his sights on the creative director of Patch.

You might not have the $12 million a year salary that he does to afford such a coach, but as someone who attends many a presentation where entrepreneurs are pitching to potential investors, a lot of you don’t exactly make yourselves clear, either. Or know how to tell a good story, even when it’s your story. Beginning, middle and an end. Many a time we find that you’re so nervous/anxious about hitting every point, that you forget that you need to tell a story – articulately, meaning, so that we can hear you and understand what you’re saying. We know you have a lot of points to cover in three minutes or less. That’s what practice – and coaches – are for. Because we are personally in the room to cover the event for alleywatch, we’re often sitting in the first or second row, and we can’t hear you. So chances are that those investors, who aren’t sitting as close as we are, can’t hear you, either. If we can’t hear you, we ain’t writing about you. And if those investors can’t hear or understand you, well, you do the math.

AOL is going to balance its books, one way or another. They may have reversed themselves on the 401(k)s, but dollars to donuts, when this thing blows over, how long before the layoffs start? And the press will no doubt place the blame on Armstrong for even more headlines, when it’s they themselves who should rightfully shoulder at least part of it. Words have power. Choose yours wisely. Make sure you’re heard. And always make sure to send the right message. Clearly. Onward and forward.