Yahoo is dominating headlines once again and once again it’s not in a good way. All Things D broke the news earlier this week that CEO Scott Thompson was to step down. From there, the negative stories went on and on. The overwhelming reason given for the changing of the guard seems to be due to an error or lie (depending on who you ask) on Thompson’s resume that an activist shareholder had made public. It’s got to be frustrating to be a PR manager for Yahoo these days. Here are three things Yahoo should consider to salvage any public favor it may have remaining.
Stick With the New Guy
After Thompson’s resignation, Ross Levinsohn was apparently named interim CEO of Yahoo. Yahoo should seriously consider removing “interim” from Levinsohn’s title as – from a public perception standpoint – it will be damaging for Yahoo to get yet another new CEO considering it has had four new full-time CEOs in a five year stretch. It’s difficult for anyone – from shareholders to users – to believe Yahoo is going anywhere good with no one really running the ship long enough to steer it anywhere. The longer a search takes for yet another CEO only compounds the problem. This seems to stem from shareholders that call for such moves as ousting a CEO and not considering the PR damage being done along the way. It’s time to stop the leadership madness if Yahoo is to salvage any positive reputation it may still have.
Tell Us What You Really Think
Assuming Levinsohn gets the nod to remain CEO, he should move quickly to lay out plans that are clear to shareholders, users and all parties in between. And no more trying to make everyone happy or vague “fluffery” either… “We’re going to innovate for our users” or “We’re prepared to finally move at lightning speed to serve our customers better” or “We’re going to be at the forefront of providing meaningful content.” Etc., etc. Given the state the company has put itself in such vague public statements just do not cut it and will only draw more ridicule. I understand the need for confidentiality in what Yahoo will actually do but at this point, you need to throw a dog a bone before he bites you – again.
Go After Google
I mentioned in a previous post how Yahoo could make their PR manager’s jobs easier – and create a true public perception of a company on right path. Yahoo should have clear – and bold – plans and this would certainly help in shifting PR perceptions. Here’s a re-post of that section from the previous post…
Forget search. I mean develop a mobile OS. That’s right, another mobile OS. It doesn’t even have to go to market. Just showcase you can do it. Auto manufacturers often develop concept cars that never get sold. They use them to borrow innovation for makes that will get sold. It also adds prestige to the auto brand – “yes, we can build great things.” Yahoo should take a page from this and do it too, with a mobile OS that illustrates it could be competitive. Then, promote it – a lot. Do so, even if it never catches fire or is never even sold. It just may turn out to be worthwhile to sell but at the very least it will add some prestige for Yahoo, if done right. It can also draw strong engineering talent to a company seemingly seeing an exodus in such talent. This talent will likely bring new bolder ideas to the table as well.
Yahoo should also compete with Google Docs. The company would do well to have an equivalent or better solution than Google Docs. With an estimated 300+ million Yahoo Mail users, Yahoo Docs can easily be marketed to a large user base already having Yahoo Mail accounts. Like a mobile OS, Yahoo Docs would help showcase that Yahoo can be a technology company and a media company at the same time.
There are many more technology considerations Yahoo can make but in my opinion, the company’s closest competitor – or at least the company it may be most compared with – is Google and going after Google by providing competing technology solutions should go a long way for Yahoo. It will also take strong PR and marketing efforts to go with it – innovation and publicity need each other for maximum success. Yahoo does not come across as a savvy marketer and it needs to change this too but, it needs to have something to ‘Yahoooo’ about to start…