What Would Bill Do? Media Coach Bill McGowan Takes on the Week’s News

Tim Cook

Pic via Reuters/Telegraph

It’s Friday, which means another edition of our series in which Bill McGowan — Clarity Media Group founder and coach to execs from FacebookAirbnb and more — weighs in on the week’s most interesting and controversial stories.

Cook to Perfection

Apple CEO Tim Cook wins the “Pitch Perfect” of the week award.  Not only did he share his sexual orientation in a thoughtful and dignified forum (BusinessWeek essay) but he demonstrated how the tone of coming out has been transformed over the past decade.

In the past, public figures have often struck a tone of reluctant admission when stating they’re gay.  Who can forget the weasel-like way former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey came out (only when his political back was against the wall awash in scandal) with his bizarre, “I’m a gay American.”  Some overpaid and under-qualified political consultant probably told him to say it that way thinking that injecting a little patriotism would soften the blow.

Clearly, Cook’s essay came from the heart (even though he couldn’t resist the opportunity to cram it with a number of glowing references to the Apple brand). Cook made his announcement a proud declaration by referring to his orientation as a God-given gift.  The move came across as completely authentic  and made the world view the biggest brand on the globe in very human terms.  What they call in corporate cliché land a “win, win.”

The “Bully” is Back

Now that Monica Lewinsky is devoting herself to combatting bullying, perhaps she should pay a visit on NJ Governor Chris Christie. This week, Christie fed his voracious appetite for pummeling people less than half his political size by shouting down a heckler at an outdoor political event updating Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.

The 2016 hopeful didn’t exactly demonstrate a flair for statesmanship in berating the heckler, former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady, to “sit down and shut up.”  This probably wasn’t the best tone for Christie to strike just months after declaring in his mea culpa “bridge-gate” scandal news conference, “I am not a bully.”

Do we want our politicians showing backbone and not taking trash talk from provocateurs?  Sure.  But do we want to watch them come so easily unglued by a local heckler?  I don’t think so.  Seeing how easily Christie’s buttons can be pushed doesn’t instill a lot of confidence that he could maintain his composure sitting across from Vladimir Putin.  If you doubt that Christie was rattled, check out how many times he went for his water bottle amidst his exchange with the heckler: three times within 53 seconds.  In poker, that’s called a “tell” that signals that you’re bluffing.

ISIS-itis Claims Victim

Analogies are like jokes.  When they bomb, they can do a lot of damage, so select them carefully and road test them on a friend before they become a sound bite you regret for the rest of your life. Alex Friedman, President of the Pennsylvania Taxi Commission found this out the hard way this week.

He exercised the extremely poor judgment to publicly state that a division of the popular car service Uber was akin to ISIS.  I’ll give you a second to stop shaking your head and pick your jaw up off the floor.  Yes, that’s right. Friedman declared at a Philadelphia Parking Authority meeting, “I try to equate this illegal operation of UberX as a terroristic act like ISIS invading the Middle East.  It is exactly the same menace.”  With a faux pas that bad, the meter will likely be running on public ridicule for quite some time.

No doubt the producers of Homeland are furiously writing scripts in which Carrie Matheson matches wits against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the Abu Nazir of the sharing economy.