When it comes to recent Google Plus news, what we have from Google is a failure to communicate.
To recap, last Thursday Vic Gundrota, senior vice president for Google Plus, publicly announced his resignation by this rather touching Google Plus post And Then.
His boss, CEO Larry Page, responded with his own G+ post to Gundotra’s.
The cat was out of the bag the previous week with this post on the Secret app: “Vic Gundotra is interviewing.”
Of course the news exploded in the technology media and speculation continues to echo around the Internet. Including Google’s own survey asking if G+ would be missed as reported by Curtis Jacob?
What was missing was a proactive Google PR response.
Why did Google mismanage this news?
What’s mystifying is that a company of Google’s size has all the resources in the world to protect its brand and reputation, and manage its communications more effectively.
It’s not like they didn’t have a warning with the Secret App leak.
With more than 540 million users, shareholders and a brand and reputation to protect, it’s a surprising PR fumble.
So why did Google let the Google Plus story get away from them?
They simply failed to be proactive in managing the issue.
It’s not unusual in software, technology-driven or entrepreneurial companies to misjudge or ignore the brand or reputation implications. Call it chutzpah, hubris or entitlement. The outcome is very predictable for any of us who’ve consulted to these types of companies during our careers.
Poor issues management. Crisis communication failures. Week internal communications. Failure to mobilize resources to manage reputation better. And most of the time a story that gets far ahead of a company’s ability to reel it back in.
Just a few specific PR fails and examples of lack of care, concern or planning regarding the Google+ leader’s departure, G+’s 540 million members and the product’s future:
- Instead of leading with the news, Google spokespeople were confirming rumors, denying others and reacting with denials or clarifications
- No “official” news release regarding G+ developments (as of Apr 27) in the Google newsroom or investor relations page
- 1,000+ G+ staff already reportedly reassigned
- Vic Gundotra’s pic is still on the Google corporate Imagespage (as of April 27)
I don’t know. It’s kind of PR 101 isn’t it?
What are the implications of the Google Plus PR fumble?
It’s a strange way to handle a predictable firestorm.
It suggests one of three things about Google’s view of PR.
- Google failed to anticipate the issue, the degree of reaction and the need to be proactive. The implication is PR is not very high up the food chain at the technology/engineering-focused company.
- Google has already made its decision to substantially change the G+ product.
- It doesn’t really care about the G+ product and its estimated 540 million users. At least that’s the message they’re sending. And it speaks volumes.
In other words, Google doesn’t appear to care and its lack of communication to date reflects and reinforces that message. Even if it’s not true.
Over at competitors like Yahoo and Facebook, they must be smiling ear to ear at G+’s stumble.
In fact, there are lots of parallels with other technology leaders like Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple. They create and launch incredible products but so often miss the boat with the human factors, the user experience (Apple excluded) and the PR and reputation management.
Sound familiar? It’s a curious way to communicate, but it’s not out of character for Google.
It was a very tough week to be in PR at Google where engineering rules and PR drools!
The fascinating thing will be what happens next for the G+ social platform that was so promising when it launched.
Maybe Google is just not as agile as it used to be?
Author: Jeff Domansky
Visuals: Secret App, TechCrunch, Jeff Domansky
How much Google can you take? CNET
Google+ Is Walking Dead TechCrunch
Google+ survey asks what if G+ didn’t exist? Curtis Jacob G+ post, April 24
What Would Happen If Google Really Did Kill Google+? MarketingLand
Official: David Besbris Will Be New Head Of Google+, Takes Over For Departing Vic Gundotra MarketingLand
Report: Google to end forced G+ integration, drastically cut division resources Ars Technica
Google+ Head Vic Gundotra Leaving Company ReCode
Google+ chief Vic Gundotra departs after 8 years CNET
Larry Page Google+ post, April 24
And Then Vic Gundotra resignation Google+ post, April 24
Vic Gundotra is interviewing Secret App, April 19