Earlier this week we posted on the importance of CEOs going social.
It’s true that the modern CEO loses out by not actively serving as the human face of his or her company, but some of execs’ concerns about bad publicity are completely understandable. Neil Warren Clark, founder of the world’s most influential dating site eHarmony, proved that point this month when he sat down for an interview with Yahoo Finance and made some very strange comments.
First, in talking about how much he loves his wife, he said that he needs “a robot who can come in and talk with me” when she isn’t feeling chatty first thing in the morning. Then he began discussing his company’s biggest PR/business challenge to date: the lawsuit inspired by its refusal to allow gay customers to use its service. While we agree with his assertion that same-sex marriage will soon cease to be “an issue” and that businesses and politicians have “made too much of it”, the next quote is very telling. After eHarmony created options for gay customers at the insistence of the attorney general of New Jersey, the company:
“…literally had to hire guards to protect our lives because the people were so hurt and angry with us, were Christian people, who feel that it’s a violation to scripture.”
So the people most upset about that PR disaster were Clark’s own evangelical fans. He follows with the strangest quote of the interview:
“…eHarmony really ought to put up $10 million and ask other companies to put up money and do a really first class job of figuring out homosexuality. At the very best, it’s been a painful way for a lot of people to have to live. But at this point, at this age, I want America to start drawing together. I want it to be more harmonious.”
We have absolutely no idea what he means there, but we think everyone will agree: he would have been better off saying nothing at all. While odd comments like these probably won’t do too much damage to eHarmony’s reputation, they won’t win the site any new converts, either.
So we’ll say again: If you’re an executive or representative looking to bring more publicity to your business, you should be “personable” and avoid repeating the usual industry jargon of press releases. But unless you have no interest in swaying the public at large with your message, you should also avoid saying unnecessarily nutty things.