PR Parables: The CMO filed nails while PR burned!

Major excitement was in the air when the communications team of this multinational company was informed that the global marketing head was coming to India for their annual review. 

This was a rare occurrence and it made them feel valued and important. But this feeling of euphoria was paired with a sense of panic too. 

The panic had little to do with the review and more because of the reviewer. The global marketing head had built quite a reputation and her claim to fame was well known, she was known to shred mankind into bits with her caustic comments and her cold tone.  

Fully aware of the importance of the review, all preparations started. The team led by the in- house corporate communications head, commenced their work on the review presentation. 

After weeks of work, the presentation narrative was looking quite strong, the presenters started to work on their scripts, scripting this presentation was important because the entire team had heard of the verbal miseries inflicted by the Global CMO whenever presenters hummed or hawed between presentations. Getting the flow and the facts on the tip of your fingers was a must do.  

To ensure that nothing goes amiss and the review session runs flawless, the team did several rounds of rehearsals of the entire presentation. The presenters had to be extremely fluent and articulate with their campaigns and tried to leave no room for any vagueness. The client and the agency team were determined to deliver a great review without any glitches. 

And then the review day. The global CMO’s prime agenda for this visit was to review the performance of PR and other marketing functions.  On this morning, PR and comms review was third in line. 

A full house comms team was all ready and every team member was prepared, confident and eager to get their few minutes of fame when presenting to the chief. The agency side was well represented by their CEO and the full servicing team. 

In trooped the team. All of them greeted the Global CMO, however she didn't respond. The team was so pre-occupied and tense that they all just ignored the silence and went about putting up their slides on to the projector.

That this silence was to be followed up by something even more disdainful is why this incident makes it to the PR parables. 

The review presentation started, the presenters sat in the order of their presentations and the in- house communications lead commenced the session with her introductory summary. And in all this while the global CMO was peering into her laptop, she was probably answering some emails . 

And then in the middle of the presentation, much to the horror of all present in the room, the global CMO pushed her chair a bit back, got her legs up on the chair bent down to rummage through her big black bag, and then sat up holding a nail filer in her hand. 

By now all her attention was on her nails, she started filing her nails while the team continued to go through their presentations. 

This is what the team was going through at their annual PR and communications review with the Global Chief Marketing Officer. 

The filing of nails was well timed, it finished exactly or almost around the same time when the last slide went up.  

The CMO filed and failed. 

She failed in the eyes of a team who were much younger to her from all aspects.  Without making any caustic comments or vocally humiliating the team, this non- verbal action of the global CMO caused great damage to the morale of the full team.

Moushumi Dutt is a senior corporate communications professional. PR Parables is her monthly column for PRmoment India on learnings from her PR life.

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