In an interview with Reuters, Bartz made one foolish statement after another, and then did the same thing talking to the Wall Street Journal -- whether it was writing off Apple's (AAPL) iAd service, not knowing when to shut up regarding Yahoo's Asian business partners, or seeming to think that she could be the next Steve Jobs. Bartz clearly missed learning the 5 things executives should never say in public.
It's not as though this is the first time Bartz has been controversial, questionable, or even clueless, in public:
- When asked about former discussions between Yahoo and Microsoft (MSFT) about an acquisition and what it would take, the Bartz reply of "boatloads of money" was Internet discussion fodder for some time. And not in a supportive or positive way.
- Bartz actually said, " We'd be better off if we had never heard the word Microsoft," somewhere between rounds of negotiation for a deal, showing her indifference to be pure bluff..
- She was unable to clearly state what Yahoo does.
- She's been publicly dismissive of a major shareholder.
- A year after the Microsoft acquisition fell through, she was asked about whether she'd take the offer today, she laughed and said, "Sure." Any company is potentially for sale at the right price, but it's clumsy to blurt out like that.
- Bartz declared that Yahoo had never been a search company, even though that's how the company started.
Bartz's pronouncements, observations, and repartee would be blazingly foolish if she kept them in private. But in open forums they raise new questions about how a chief executive can know so little about corporation positioning, the media, public relations, competitive monitoring and analysis, or even honorable conduct.
There are a number of things that any executive, CEO level or not, should know never to say in public based on experience, savvy, and common sense. Clearly we can't count on everyone having seen the list, so here it is:
- If you're in the middle of negotiations with another company, don't mention the details. You run a chance of spoiling the outcome.
- Don't dismiss a competitor who is bigger and badder than you.
- While they own shares, investors are family and you don't bad mouth even the black sheep in front of others.
- Don't talk about what you're going to do. Just do it. Talk about what you've done.
- Don't swear at the press. It makes you look petulant and childish.
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