I’m a pretty competent public relations manager. Ask anyone I’ve ever worked with about my work ethic and my dedication to the principles of public relations, and they’ll all tell you the same thing. I’m better than most.
So, when I see articles like this one, it makes my blood boil. Here’s an excerpt from Friday’s report:
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Fired This Man In Front Of 1,000 Coworkers
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong fired Abel Lenz, Creative Director at AOL Patch.com, in front of 1,000 coworkers.
AOL is reducing the number of sites in its local news network, Patch, from 900 to 600.
Today, Armstrong hosted a conference call with Patch employees to explain the news.
During the call, according to a source, Armstrong told Lenz to “stop taking pictures.” Then Armstrong said “You’re fired.”
Later in the Business Insider article, it explains that Lenz routinely took photos of all-hands meetings and posted photos to the company’s internal website. I’ve heard the audio file, and you may have heard it today on the news.
I bring this up only because my entire career in public relations has had a heavy emphasis on internal communications, which includes newsletters, internal websites and the event photography required to make those things work. In fact, in my last major job in our nation’s capital, I spent a great deal of time doing this kind of event photography — the very thing Abel Lenz was fired for doing. It was my job. I had to do it. And, in this case, Lenz was fired for doing his job.
What this illustrates to me is that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has no clue what a public relations team does or how it benefits the company. In fact, the PR team cleaning up Armstrong’s mess is the same one that was only doing its job when Lenz was fired.
Although I’ve been doing several freelance jobs under my own PR consultancy (BK PR Solutions), I’ve been wanting to get back into a full-time position in corporate public relations. However, there is nothing in my DNA that would ever permit me to accept a job at a company where the leaders I support didn’t actually understand what I do. Of course, this is par for the course for AOL, which still thought that dial-up Internet sales was a viable business model more than a decade after people starting jumping ship for DSL and Cable Internet providers.
My heart breaks for Mr. Lenz, and I’m sure this publicity will result in him quickly picking up another job. Let’s hope he lands at a company that understands the value of a good public relations team and how it can help raise its profile.