Grievances Should be Aired Behind Closed Doors


There’s a great read in today’s Wall Street Journal, Inside the Showdown Atop Pimco. This story has all the elements of what reporters want—and everything executives and their PR staff dread. There’s an adversarial relationship, drama and juicy quotes meant to be private, from a brand that everyone knows and wants to read more about. In particular, an argument between top executives was recounted in full detail, on the front page of the paper. Yikes. Given their roles, business leaders make news when they do something out of the ordinary. Simply because of who they are, the actions and words of high-profile executives are of great interest to others. Conflict like this is a journalist’s dream.

When this type of discord occurs in front of others it is difficult to know exactly who may be listening. Clients or other visitors may hear the disagreement. A disgruntled employee may be taking note. Someone may be on a call.

I have had the misfortune of witnessing many blow-ups among senior executives.  Some eruptions have occurred in the halls, on trading floors and even in the reception area of a publicly traded company. In each case, one could easily see the danger of those disagreements spilling out into the public.

We can’t control every leak to the press, but CEOs and heads of businesses must understand the importance of keeping private matters private. Don’t let rifts sneak beyond the closed door lest you want the rest of world to get a whiff of your dirty laundry.

The next time someone asks me “What makes a good news story?” I will point them to this Pimco piece.

Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and business communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents.