Whatever happened to Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the alleged co-founders – or inventors, depending on whom you ask – of Facebook? The twins gained unwanted fame during their very public fight against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Claiming Zuckerberg stole their idea for a social network while they were all at Harvard, their protracted battle over who came up with, and thereby owned, Facebook was highlighted in the movie The Social Network. Their legal persistence won them $65 million compensation, but their reputations were seemingly irredeemable.
In the film they were portrayed as handsome, privileged jocks with a fancy pedigree, good connections, and a tendency to whine. They cemented their image as sore losers when they tried to sue Zuckerberg a second time (and failed). They became vaguely comical, and there was more than a hint of Schadenfreude when the media spoke about the Winklevii, as they came to be named.
But now their PR rehabilitation seems to be underway. The twins were featured in The New York Times Sunday Style Section. Key points? They are working hard and out to win, per usual – they competed in Olympic rowing – incubating major investments, including the shopping website Hukkster and a financial data company called Sum Zero through their firm, Winklevoss Capital. Photographed in suits in their Manhattan offices, not in spandex rowing outfits (as with previous PR mishaps), they are presenting a new face to the world.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for the Winklevoss twins. They may have lost the Facebook war, but they could still win the PR Battle.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: For effective PR rehab, close out the past and look to the future. The NYT Style Section may seem an unlikely forum to turn around a PR image, but given that there is no hard news to announce, this was a clear and sensible choice. Sunday’s feature gave the Winklevii space to clarify lingering issues while pointing forward with plans that have nothing to do with Facebook. What comes next may prove to be of interest as the twins rewrite their PR code.