Tips from experts for Zuckerberg’s testimony
As Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before Congress over Facebook’s privacy fiasco, public-relations experts who have prepped CEOs before have plenty of advice on handling the hot seat.
Among them: Appear sympathetic and be ready for a beating. Take responsibility. Don’t feign ignorance. And keep in mind that this is more political theater than public policy. The stakes are high: CEOs testifying in Washington have lost jobs, faced perjury investigations and otherwise endured public humiliation. It’s not comfortable for anyone in a position of power to essentially kowtow to Congress in a televised setting.
Zuckerberg should spend days, if not weeks, familiarizing himself with the layout of the hearing room and with specific members of Congress, including the toughest questions they are likely to ask. The Facebook CEO has to appear willing to answer questions.
When then-BP chief Tony Hayward testified before Congress about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, he denied involvement or knowledge of the problem in many cases. That’s a classic response designed to avoid legal trouble, but it didn’t make him sympathetic to viewers. One of the most infamous missteps happened before the CEOs even got in the door. In 2008, CEOs of the three big automakers flew private jets to Washington to ask Congress for federal bailout money. A public relations fiasco ensued.
When the executives went back to Capitol Hill two weeks later for a second round of hearings, they traveled by car.