PR Rx for Yahoo!

February 27th, 2013   •   2 comments   

American women across the country, if not the world, are wondering what Marrisa Mayer was thinking when she announced no more remote working arrangements for Yahoo! employees. As a PR veteran, I can’t help but wonder whose idea this was and what was the strategic thinking behind it? Was the board of directors privy to this policy? Was this really her idea? When did Yahoo! first think that this was a good idea? And did a PR advisor recommend or support this?

There are several issues at play here which make this PR nightmare for Yahoo! a bit more complex, but most important of which is the appearance of moving back in time as a tech company in one of the most advanced technology ages we’ve ever seen. Even more, if this strategy was designed to mask a layoff, the PR problem is even worse than we thought. Your internal message is also your external message in today’s transparent world. What you say inside your offices goes outside your offices. Couple transparency with technology and forward thinking and Yahoo!’s announcement is nonsensical.

If I were advising Yahoo!, here are the pieces of advice I would give:

  1. Divulge the real reason(s) behind this new policy.
  2. Apologize for the bad policy and bad example that this sets, not only for a progressive company, but for a woman in a CEO role.
  3. Acknowledge that being a female and mother is hard enough as it is, much less having a career. Acknowledge the fact that many women have been and are successful balancing both family and career with flexibility.
  4. Accept that remote work solutions can and do work for many companies and that the key is fostering a culture of trust by allowing your employees to do their jobs. The proof is in their performance, not their location. Find the bad seeds and get rid of them, instead of throwing out the whole batch. Good employees are productive no matter where they are.

Time matters. Yahoo!, you cannot stay quiet on this. Tell your story or the world will tell it for you.


  1. Patricia says:

    Great post Amy. Things got worse today when it was revealed she had a nursery installed next to her office. Does this add salt in the wound by saying the rich CEO is out of touch with the rest of the workers?

    The average worker does not have millions of dollars in Google money. The average worker has to hire child care help. Worry about juggling kids and work. The average worker doesn’t have all the luxuries of Marissa Mayer. And the average worker who used to value a flexible work-from-home schedule is now faced with choosing between her kids and Yahoo. My money is on the kids winning.

  2. Amy Howell says:

    No doubt Marissa Mayer is smart. Clearly she is but being smart means you have to be very careful, thoughtful and deliberate in leadership. Her high perch makes her unlike the rest of us “normal” working moms. Whatever the reasons for this “policy” (which I think is yet to be told) she comes off as out of touch, unrealistic and almost careless in here. Unfortunately we need more women in high paid, high visibility positions in the workforce. I think her nursery installation PR heaps insult on injury and further demonstrates her distance from the rest of us. That may very well have been a tactic to show her “mom” side but given the current PR crisis, it did just the opposite. Thanks for the comment Patricia and I don’t think this is over!

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