New Demands on Tech Execs Facing Public Scrutiny

April 23, 2018
Updated 2mo ago

Concerns over privacy, workplace culture, and social responsibility have required the chiefs of Silicon Valley's biggest firms to defend themselves in unfamiliar forums, said Ben LaBolt, a partner at Bully Pulpit, an image consulting firm.

As tech companies face greater public scrutiny, and Congress considers regulation, LaBolt said executives must show they're sympathetic as well as diligent.

"A lot of it is as much style as it is substance," said LaBolt, a former campaign press secretary for President Obama. " It's showing respect for the members of Congress, talking to the broader public, not just the people in the room."

LaBolt said Monday in an interview with Cheddar that the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before Congress earlier this month was an example of the new requirements for Silicon Valley executives. Public hearings can test an executive's judgment in different ways than he or she is used to.

"I think starting with 'I'm sorry' is always a good place to start, but it's usually not enough," said LaBolt. "People need to see accountability."

He cited the case of Uber's former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, who was forced out after reports of combative behavior and a toxic work environment. Uber is a Bully Pulpit client, and since Dara Khosrowshahi took over the company, LaBolt said he has heard more from his client about efforts to change company's culture than he has negative stories about Uber being a difficult place to work.

For the full interview, click here.