Wednesday, March 21

Selling Change: Roehm & Womack

Emotional Intelligence enthusiasts might see a "change agent" as the perfect person to help a struggling company or industry out of a rut, but CEOs need to be careful with them because change agents can put big holes in the wall as easily as they can pound nails in the right spot.

In other words, a change agent might fearlessly introduce new ideas to enhance a company. Or, a change agent might might become addicted to seeing themselves influence the world around them. In a marriage, one might respark the existing relationship while the other will have an affair.

Juile Roehm and Sean Womack seem to be the latter. Unable to secure a dream offer after the Wal-Mart scandal, they are back in action, pitching a concept that "change for the sake of change" really works, because, well, everything is changing so everyone must change all the time. They call it "marketing 2.x" because they say people are more receptive to "upgrades" than "changes."

There is an irony here because the real drawing power of the dangerous duo seems to have little to do with anything new. Roehm has made sure of that. Back in December, she said "I have enjoyed my time at Wal-Mart and I wish my many friends and colleagues much future success." Of course, that was before she filed the wrongful termination suit, which seemed to beg that Wal-Mart release all its evidence of the illicit affair and other ethical breaches that broke company policy (to say nothing of the vows they once had with other people). As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

As a self-proclaimed marketing expert, she should know that when you wrap up a brand too tightly to a single negative event, eventually the incident will become the brand. It is the very reason that not all publicity is good publicity. Sure, you might capture headlines, but with what consequences? Did Firestone benefit from denying the need for a recall? Did Stoern succeed in establishing scientific credibility? Does anyone really want to hear Barba sing?

Embrace the wrong message and sooner or later everything published about you on the Internet will stick, proving that what is published on the Web can impact your personal brand and future employment. This is the very reason Roehm was ill-advised to file a wrongful termination suit, further damaging her already questionable credibility as a public figure.

In Wal-Mart's countersuit, there are even claims that the pair "misused the agency review process and engaged in travel paid for by Wal-Mart and for the ostensible purpose of furthering Wal-Mart's business interest, but for the actual purpose of spending personal time with Womack." As reported by BRANDWEEK, the court papers reveal Womack was very candid in his e-mail during the review process: "Speaking of equity ... we're both interested in having a stake in our next gig ... More importantly to you, in the two of us you have a team that can help lead your organization in a powerful way. But the opportunity will need to be broad enough."

In another signed "Sean & Julie," the message was: "P.S. These Gmail accounts are WM [Wal-Mart] safe. So, we can have candid conversations."

What lessons can be re-learned from all of this? Several. Not all publicity is good publicity. Never attach yourself too tightly to one bad incident. Protect your personal brand by being ethical, if nothing else. While adaptability is an asset, don't let anyone fool you into believing that change for the sake of change is a good idea. And, as I have said before, e-mail is NEVER private.

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2 comments:

Rich on 3/21/07, 1:41 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"'It will look sensational, but it's irrefutable evidence that we're really good friends ... he's like a brother to me." Today, the Times excerpts some of that irrefutable evidence: 'I hate not being able to call you or write you,'Ms. Roehm wrote early last fall, according to an e-mail message Mr. Womack's wife provided to Wal-Mart. 'I think about us together all the time. Little moments like watching your face when you kiss me.' Like a brother? Like an Angelina Jolie brother maybe!" — from Gawker blog.

Rich on 3/23/07, 11:13 AM said...

A Few More Last Words:

Here are a few as close-as-it-gets to career killing articles about Ms. Roehm:
ABC News and Chicago Sun-Times

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