Public disagreements between the CEOs of major companies have been carefully orchestrated for some time now. Of course there is always the odd case of a boss going off-piste and causing a stir.
But in an age of constant media coverage, social media mobs and a general public armed with high-definition cameras, planning and controlling your public disputes are absolutely crucial for big business.
This year, the sleepy summer months have been a battleground of debate. The main issue being market consolidation and in particular the BT/EE merger, with numerous industry figures offering their opinion.
It has been interesting to see the different strategies used by those involved. BT released some pretty bold statements publically about Sky’s position in the TV market, but it has also used other routes to deliver its message. CEO Gavin Patterson used an interview with the Daily Telegraph to suggest that there might be ‘10 years of litigation’.
John Petter, the brand’s consumer division CEO, attacked Sky’s dominance in the pay TV market at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch. Although both could be interpreted as off-the-cuff remarks, it’s highly unlikely that they were not planned.
The power of being quoted rather than releasing a strongly worded statement adds to its impact. Speaking to a room full of journalists rather than sending them a press release normally gets more column inches and bigger headlines.
TalkTalk used a different approach to making its own provocative statements. The quad play firm used its submission to the CMA to suggest that Vodafone was exiting the MVNO market. It was an unusual way to make the accusation – we can only speculate that either TalkTalk didn’t know it would be published or thought it was an easier way to get this information into the public domain. Either way it demonstrated the multitude of avenues that are available to a company when it comes to public relations.
As the mergers and acquisitions in the industry continue to progress we will no doubt see many more methods used by companies to deliver their message.