First, the New York Times published an article exposing a brutal workplace culture at Amazon. Then, Amazon’s Senior Vice President Jay Carney pushed back with a blog post on Medium.com, accusing the Times of sloppy journalism. Another round ensued. Times’ Editor-in-chief Dean Baquet defended the reporting in a lengthy blog post, also on Medium.com, and Carney responded again.
I’m not a fan of Amazon’s response for a number of reasons – primarily, that Carney renewed interest in an article published more than two months ago. Carney also revealed what most companies would consider private personnel information about former employees quoted in the article. For example, he argued that a primary source in the story is not credible because “an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately.”
When something goes wrong – especially if the media exposes an employee or former employee’s misconduct – organizations may be tempted to reveal damaging information about that individual. Transparency is usually a good policy, but once that bridge is crossed with the media, an organization can never again insist that type of information is protected. In fact, in Amazon’s case, some have suggested Carney and company released this information to intimidate other employees – which, of course, reinforces the original narrative of a bullying culture depicted by the Times.
In spite of concerns about what Carney wrote, it’s a smart strategy to counter the Times on a public forum. We always advise clients to find ways to “go around the media” in a crisis and speak directly to critical stakeholders whether through emails and letters or social media platforms, including blog posts. It’s a good way to protect your reputation and effectively tell your organization’s side of the story without the media filter.