Tina Brown: Newsweek and tough talk

tinaborwn Tina Brown: Newsweek and tough talkTina Brown, the editor of Newsweek, has an image problem.  In her brief tenure she can point to a 20 percent rise in newsstand sales and a 2.6 percent increase in subscription renewals but her press coverage over the last week? Terrible.

Jolted by a series of high profile departures, staff at Newsweek appears to be buckling under her allegedly tough management. The New York Times quotes her lamenting to staff: “It’s all hell, it’s agony” while she officially describes her vision as “constantly evolving and improving.”

Her PR is depicting weak leadership. The trick is to appear imperious and above the fray. Stop interviewing. Communicate with advertisers and readers via strategically leaked memos where Tina sets the tone.

The PR Verdict:  “C Minus” to Tina Brown for giving the impression she is losing her nerve.

Stop the polite interviews. Focus on leaking decisive internal memos. Point to circulation successes. Lather, rinse and repeat.

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What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. The tactic of deliberately leaking internal memos is one that had not occurred to me but appears to be used quite regularly by communication managers. In governmental organizations leaks have generally been used as weapons by challengers in power struggles, not by the senior management to show off its own record. Given all the excitement caused by Wikileaks and the consequences for many governments and political leaders, the strategic leaks recommendedd by the PR verdict strike me as cynical and risky. I could see situations where this could backfire: leaks might provoke the staff even further and initiate counterleaks.

  2. All true – and you are right – it certainly does have risks.
    Leaking well crafted internal memos is particularly useful when you need to get a message out in the public domain but don’t want to set a precedent by issuing a press release or give an interview – which would overstate the importance of the news. In this case, with Tina Brown, some comments in an internal memo on recent departures and her ongoing plans for the magazine – would have given her airtime and put management changes in context. The leaked memo would have eliminated the need for giving interviews and responding to media questions beyond where she may have wanted to go.

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