Pfizer CEO on PR Offensive
If you have problems, the best PR method is to acknowledge this and then to state what you're doing about the difficulties.
And this is exactly how Jeff Kindler starts out his new role as Pfizer CEO.
He knows every major newspaper has written about the tough fight between him and the two colleagues who lost out on the CEO job. So now, suddenly, "informed sources" are leaking.
Take the WSJ today. They have a most interesting article headlined, "CEO Can Mend Division Caused by Race to Top."
I'll pull out a few snippets and comment on those:
Less than two hours after Pfizer Inc. named him chief executive last month, Jeffrey Kindler reached out to the disappointed losers in the highly visible 18-month succession battle.
Over the next two days, Mr. Kindler chatted by phone several times with Karen Katen and David Shedlarz, his inside rivals to lead the world's biggest drug concern, people familiar with the situation say. "I need your help. The company needs your help," Mr. Kindler told each executive, according to an informed person.
So here we have the first "informed person" talking. Only Mr. Kindler was on the phone with Ms. Katen and Mr. Shedlarz and it is clear he wants the world to know that he did try to reach out to them.
Pfizer's intensely watched horse race polarized staffers. Days before outside directors promoted Mr. Kindler, they received an anonymous letter criticizing his leadership style.
Please note that while the WSJ refers to the "anonymous letter" which the board and New York Times received, it isn't clear if the WSJ really received a copy of this letter.
Last Monday, his first workday as CEO, Mr. Kindler sent an email to each of the company's roughly 105,000 employees praising Ms. Katen, Mr. Shedlarz and Mr. McKinnell for contributing "so much to the growth and success of Pfizer."
On Wednesday, Mr. Kindler, Ms. Katen and Mr. Shedlarz held a 90-minute conference call with senior managers "to show unity. Everybody [in management] understands [Ms. Katen and Mr. Shedlarz] are hurt and they're a little shaky and they could get offers and walk out millionaires," the informed person says. During the call and at sessions with other staffers, a Pfizer spokesman says, Mr. Kindler pledged to put "people in the best possible position to succeed." The spokesman declines further comment.
That's the second time we have an anonymous "spokesperson" happily telling the WSJ what is going on. Of course, Mr. Kindler wanted the WSJ to know.
Mr. Kindler, 51 years old, joined Pfizer in 2002 as its top lawyer. By contrast, Ms. Katen and Mr. Shedlarz have spent their entire careers at the drug maker. Ms. Katen, 57, heads the human-health group, Pfizer's most important unit. Mr. Shedlarz, the 58-year-old former finance chief, is well known on Wall Street. "I love this company," each wrote in separate company-wide letters last week. Neither missive praised their new leader, however. Ms. Katen acknowledged she felt "personally disappointed" by the board's decision.
Here's the unmistakable WSJ style of reporting, without being offensive. Neither missive praised their new leader, however. And that's what would really have been appropriate in this situation. And who knows, maybe it was Pfizer's PR department which pointed this out to the WSJ. We will never know.
Ms. Katen has far more operational experience than her new boss, and directors briefly considered naming her president under Mr. Kindler, the informed person says. Other board members favored giving Mr. Shedlarz the presidency. The Pfizer board chose not to name either immediately because they want a hands-on CEO, according to people familiar with the situation. Directors also felt that Mr. Kindler should have free rein "to put together a very strong management team," another knowledgeable individual reports.
Again an "informed person." I guess, based on these comments, the directors felt that they wouldn't stand in Mr. Kindler's way if he completely reshuffled the deck . . . and Mr. Kindler probably wanted the world to know about that as well.
There is lots of interesting stuff to read, just remember, whatever we read, has been authorized by someone.
To be continued.