Tag Archive: Texas Instruments


Believe it or not chief executive officers are human, even CEOs that have attained rock-star status.

From Lee Iacocca of Chrysler, Jack Welch of GE and Steve Jobs of Apple, these names became dangerously synonymous with their company brands. Investors, media, analysts, customers, suppliers, partners and employees couldn’t get enough of them.

But what happens when these rock stars demonstrate their inevitable mortality? What happens when nature runs its course and the meeting with the grim reaper gets closer-and-closer…or actually occurs?

Is it proper to plan for the CEOs demise when she or he is successfully running the ship? It would be foolish not to.

Consider the Stuttgart, Germany sales call made by Texas Instruments chief executive officer Jerry R. Junkins on the morning of May 29, 1996. Junkins suffered a major heart attack and immediately died. There were no prior indications of heart issues with Junkins…and 58 is way too young to pass away.

junkins

The sudden passing of Junkins – maybe not a rock star, but certainly beloved by all who knew him at Texas Instruments – required a middle-of-the-night, all-hands-on-deck fire drill. The TI Board of Directors held an immediate conference call, designated Vice Chairman William “Pat” Weber as the interim CEO and started the process of searching for a new chief executive. The Investor Relations Department contacted the NYSE and asked for trading on the company stock (NYSE:TXN) to be halted until the Street had proper time to digest the news. They also made the necessary 8K filings (material event) with the SEC. And of course, the PR Department prepared the necessary news release and conducted media briefings announcing to the world Junkins’ passing, the selection of Pat Weber as the interim CEO and the upcoming search process.

Eventually Texas Instruments started trading again. Weber and the TI team picked up as best as it could for Junkins. And the board eventually selected a permanent CEO Tom Engibous. The key was that TI had a deep bench and a plan for succession…and that plan has been a classic example of successful crisis communications.

Many have wondered if the same would apply to Apple with its rock star CEO Steve Jobs when as the Economist headline stated, “The minister of magic steps down?” The answer so far is favorable to Apple…at least judging by the performance of the company stock (NASDAQ: AAPL)

The stock closed last Wednesday at $376.18 just before the company announced at the close of market that Jobs was going to permanently step down because of health concerns. AAPL opened at $365.08 on Thursday and closed at $373.72. The equity finished the week at $383.58 or $355.6 billion in market cap, actually higher than before the announcement of Jobs’ stepping down as CEO. Why was that?

One reason may be attributed to the fact that Jobs’ health concerns are not new to the Street and his eventual demise may have already been baked into the stock. He has taken medical leave three times, once for pancreatic cancer surgery and another time for a liver transplant. In his stead, Apple’s chief operating officer Tim Cook has assumed the leadership role three times and the Apple board is impressed as The Economist describes with his “remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.” Jobs remains as chairman.

jobskeynote

So obviously Texas Instruments performed well in a fire-drill, aided by advance planning. Likewise, Apple (so far) has not been negatively impacted by the still-shocking-news that Jobs has relinquished the day-to-day responsibilities of running Apple.

Taking these two examples of well-executed CEO succession and others that come immediately to mind, what are some public relations/branding strategies to plan for an effective transition, thus preserving the company reputation and continuing to enhance brand equity?

Repeatedly Contemplate Succession. Even though “succession” is a very touchy subject in most companies, particularly for long-time CEOs nearing retirement and who detest the R-word, you still need to think about this inevitable day. The board of directors will make the call, but you need to cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of all of the company’s executives. There is a good chance that one of these will serve as the chief executive at least in an interim capacity.

Put Your Bench Players Into The Game. Think of your CEO as the team head coach and the key executives as the assistant coaches. CEO time is valuable. Does the CEO have to be made available for every media interview or every financial conference? It makes perfect sense to show off your upcoming Wunderkindern. This technique also gives you an opportunity to assess who are your best performers before media, analysts, employees etc. in telling the company story. There may also be cases in which the CEO is not available or the EVP or VP may have deeper insights into a particular facet of the company’s business.

Have Your Facts Straight in Advance. Always have a complete bio and background materials at your ready disposal just in case the CEO suddenly passes away or steps down. Maintain a similar repository of information about the other key executives, particularly if one of them is selected as the interim chief executive. Be familiar with the workings of your board of directors and HR Department and understand how they make decisions.  Be ready to learn as much as possible as fast as possible, if the Board of Directors goes outside the family to select a new chief executive.

Never Say Never.  At LSI Logic, we maintained a policy of never engaging in a public discussion of the internal working of the company’s Board of Directors. We made one exception. When it came time in 2005 for Chairman/CEO Wilf Corrigan to step down at 67, we wanted everyone to know that he had been working with the board on his succession for two years. Our strategy was to head off at the pass, any speculation that his retirement as CEO was anything but an orderly process involving both Wilf and the board.

Second-Person Plural, Not First-Person Singular. The best chief executives never use the first-person singular in their internal or external communications (Me, Myself, I). Instead, they employ the second-person-singular (We, Us, Our) to emphasize the team that makes the company’s success possible. The same applies to company chief lieutenants as well. If there is more of a team culture, rather than a cult of personality, it makes it just that much easier to eventually continue business as usual when the time comes for a CEO to move on or the Grim Reaper comes-a-calling.

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=AAPL

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/30/us/jerry-r-junkins-58-dies-headed-texas-instruments.html

http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/company/history/timeline/key/1990/docs/1996junkinsdies.htm

http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/company/history/junkins.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Iacocca

http://www.businessweek.com/1998/23/b3581001.htm

Spain is the champion of the world when it comes to football, futbol, fussball, soccer or whatever you want to call it.

Are communications pros, particularly those working in the high-tech space, the champions of the world when it comes to redundancy?

And does this insistency on replicating in the opening paragraph what is already readily available in (usually too long) boilerplates telegraph to the world an inferiority complex?

And do the architects of these monuments to marketing and branding overkill even for a nanosecond consider the plight of information-overloaded readers of these news releases: business reporters, trade editors, market analysts, investors etc?

In an effort to not pick on any company in particular, Almost DailyBrett surfed PR Newswire today (www.prnewswire.com) and reviewed the tech news releases in a search for redundancy. It did not take long for this beast to raise its ugly head.

“rVue Holdings, Inc.’s (OTC Bulletin Board: RVUE) subsidiary rVue, Inc., the leading demand side platform (DSP) for the Digital Out of Home (DOOH) industry with over one hundred eighty thousand digital screens across the country operated by over fifty network owners, announced today that…”

Let’s see that is 31 words with two or DOOH acronyms (ignoring the AP style of using numerals above the number nine) before the company even attempts to announce today’s news.

And after several paragraphs, we are treated to the company’s boilerplate:

“About rVue Holdings, Inc.

rVue Holdings, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary rVue, Inc., is an advertising technology company which provides the only demand-side platform for planning, buying and managing Digital Out-of-Home and Place-Based Media in its suite of technology. The Company’s vision and expertise in building rVue provides unrivalled capability for delivering the right advertising message to the right audience with pinpoint accuracy and creates substantial opportunities for the Digital Out-of-Home and advertising industries. rVue’s demand-side platform takes a unique approach to addressable advertising delivery, measurement and an extensive portfolio of intellectual property supports reporting. The Company’s innovations in content delivery solutions and intellectual property development in targeted demographic media is the foundation for a wide array of advanced advertising capabilities.  Digital technology has revolutionized media and rVue is making targeted addressable advertising, more efficient, more effective and more available than ever. Visit www.rVue.com for more details.” 

(Do you really think that we want more details?) 

For those of you scoring at home that is 148 words of mind-numbing type that includes everything and the kitchen sink in one boilerplate. So let’s see the company spent 31 words in the opening paragraph telling the poor reader essentially the same thing that it outlined in 148 words in the boilerplate…before the company even mentioned what is the real “news.” 

This practice can even border on the absurd. Consider the following release also posted today on PR Newswire: 

“Robert Corace, formerly Managing Director at Symphony Services, has joined Objectiva Software Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of software development outsourcing services with engineering based in the U.S. and China, as President…” 

First Objectiva told the planet where Robert Corace used the work and what was his title (six words), that he joined Objectiva, and then another 16 words repeating the company boilerplate, before announcing that he was going to be . . .  the PRESIDENT of the company. 

Did they actually pay someone to write this? How about just telling the world that Objectiva selected Robert Corace as its new president before going into his background and the company’s reason for being? 

To prove that we are not picking on rVue Holdings, Inc, Objectiva Software or the many other similar offenders, let’s take a look at how Texas Instruments handled its news release issued on the same day over the same medium, PR Newswire. 

“Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NYSE: TXN) today introduced the 12-bit ADS7924 successive approximation (SAR) analog-to-digital converter (ADC)…” 

Somebody in Dallas obviously understands the inverted pyramid approach to putting the news up front, not a lengthy and redundant diatribe. 

And at the end of the release, TI posted the following boilerplate: 

“About Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) helps customers solve problems and develop new electronics that make the world smarter, healthier, safer, greener and more fun. A global semiconductor company, TI innovates through manufacturing, design and sales operations in more than 30 countries.  For more information, go to www.ti.com” 

Let’s see, TI began the release with 18 words of real news and followed it up with a confident 49-word boilerplate that provided just the facts, mam. 

The final score is 179 words in the opening graph and boilerplate for rVue and 67 words for Texas Instruments. So is rVue the winner or the loser in the eyes of editors, reporters, analysts and investors? 

Far too often we have seen smaller companies, particularly start-ups, that feel absolutely compelled to tell their story, and then tell it again and again, projecting insecurity instead of confidence. 

rVue Holdings, Inc is not Texas Instruments, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t use the same level of confidence to project itself to be larger than its actual size. 

In defense of PR pros, particularly those in complex tech, financial services and bio-tech segments, there is a tremendous amount of internal pressure being exerted to tell everything about a company’s story and then repeat the process over and over again. It is easier said than done to put the brakes on these well-intentioned, but misguided efforts. 

That’s why we need to be evangelists in preaching that in most cases, “Less is more.” 

PS: PR Newswire, Business Wire and other news release distribution services absolutely adore lengthy boilerplates and safe-harbor statements.

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