Facebook is in serious trouble with its stock tumbling. The company recently lost more than $50 billion in market value as a result of revelations that British company Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million Facebook users without their permission.
Facebook says this does not constitute a data breach and both companies deny breaking the law. Whether you’re a Facebook fan or not this is clearly a company in trouble.
In PR, there’s an old maxim: Only unleash your CEO for very good or very bad news. If your company is expanding, stocks are rising, new headquarters are being built then you may well want to shout it from the roof-tops, even if it’s just to annoy the opposition. When your reputation is being put through the wringer, you may not want to face the press, but hiding really isn’t an option.
Perhaps the most famous case of an invisible CEO during a crisis is Lawrence Rawl, who was CEO of Exxon at the time of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Rawl “provided a casebook example of how not to communicate to the public when your company messes up.”
To date, the Facebook CEO seems to be following the Rawl playbook and you’d be forgiven for asking the question: Where the hell is Mark Zuckerberg?
So far, the company’s two most prominent executives, Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, have said nothing about Cambridge Analytica and the subsequent fallout.
A company spokesperson issued this statement: “Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”
A few executives have spoken up: Head of marketing, Carolyn Everson, said she was ‘beyond disturbed’ about the data breach and Andrew Bosworth, or Boz, the company head of AR and VR posted a long series of FAQs for journalists and others.
In the UK, MPs have summoned Zuckerberg to give evidence to the Department of Culture Media and Sport over the “catastrophic failure of process” behind the Cambridge Analytica data breach. In the US Congress wants to hear from Zuck and the consumer watchdog, the US Federal Trade Commission, which has the power to levy large fines has reportedly opened an investigation into Facebook.
The Exxon Valdez dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into pristine Alaskan waters. Facebook appears to have dumped personal data belonging to millions of its customers. If Zuckerberg doesn’t want to be remembered as the digital Lawrence Rawl, it’s time he stepped up to the plate.