Is Zuckerberg’s PR Move Crafty or Just Bad Timing?
Like many of you out there, I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie coming out next Friday, The Social Network, or as my friends refer to it – "that Facebook movie." There is also another interesting movie coming out today, Waiting for Superman. Oddly enough, these two movies have something very interesting in common – Mark Zuckerberg.
Obviously, the tech and social media folks appear to be ready to fill the seats to see The Social Network and many seem to be taking great comfort in the fact that this is not going to position Zuckerberg in a good light. He clearly has not won many friends. But, Zuckerberg today announced plans on Oprah to donate $100 million to assist schools in the Newark, New Jersey school system by his new Startup: Education Foundation. It is an interesting PR move and one that many are speculating was done to detract from any negative publicity from The Social Network release today, which my colleague Rick McLaughlin commented on earlier today.
Based on a post on the DailyBeast from David Kirkpatrick, author of the The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, it appears that Zuckerberg wanted to push the announcement of the Newark donation. Given the attention the machine that is the Oprah show is giving the Waiting for Superman movie, this news was pulled in to be timed with the movie’s release and Oprah’s schedule.
Whether or not you believe the timing is orchestrated or a completely “bonehead” move as Kirkpatrick calls it, the donation is gaining a lot of attention because of the release of both movies. If The Social Network wasn’t coming out, would his charitable donation have received as much attention? If he wasn’t announcing the charitable donation, would as many reporters and bloggers be writing about The Social Network today?
No matter which way you slice it, each news item is certainly driving the other. Good or boneheaded PR move, it is definitely grabbing headlines. While the timing was likely dictated by several factors beyond the timing of The Social Network, I do think the initial project was designed to put a more human, likeable face on Zuckerberg.
From the reviews I have read about The Social Network, he needed to get out ahead of it. He is about to become a household name rather than just a tech superstar. By appearing on the Oprah show and attaching his name with the likes of Bill Gates, Zuckerberg was able to reach a wider, mainstream audience with very positive news before his reputation is questioned in front of the world. In my view, this is a crafty PR move.
What do you think?