In public relations, it’s not always about what is being said, but about what is being said. Yep. Catch that if you can.
When the news broke online about Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion in stocks, shares and cash (up from the $10 billion offered by Google), I along with many others in the business community found the news exciting. No. We are not receiving any of those funds, but it’s always exciting to see someone’s idea succeed. Add to it the rags to riches or should I say food stamps to billions story shared on Jan Koum and my excitement over the deal grew.
Certainly the release of the struggles of the WhatsApp team was well played by the communications team for Facebook. So I rushed to the various news sites to see what was released publicly about the deal and how the fans of both companies felt about it.
Negative sentiment had already settled in by the time I began my search. Although the messages by Zuckerberg and Koum were both written with the typical crisis communications points being met separately, together they did not help to communicate the purchase would benefit users, nor help current WhatsApp users feel safe with their data. In other words, with all of this money being exchanged, I was really surprised to not read congruent and more telling statements from both of them.
Now I do not expect them to reveal the true plans of WhatsApp to the public, but what was said made me ask two questions:
- Who is in denial?
- Why wasn’t one congruent message distributed by both leaders?
Perhaps the first question is too harsh. It’s not really denial, but who is really in the belief nothing will change for WhatsApp? Koum or the users? Even if perhaps things will not change, the messaging when compared side-by-side does not seem to reflect two organizations now on one page as to the future of WhatsApp. The communicator in me is probably just splitting hairs on the words selected by both. However, here are three areas where I believe the messaging could have used some fine tuning.
1. “we’ve agreed to acquire”, by Zuckerberg. Typically it is “reached an agreement to acquire” or something along the lines of not sounding as though their arms were twisted to spend more than most would expect on an app which was outpacing Facebook in a couple of areas. Was WhatsApp suffering and Facebook needed to save them?
2. Koum stated, “WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently.” While Zuckerberg stated, “Jan has agreed to join the Facebook board and partner with me to shape Facebook’s future as well as WhatsApp’s.” Sounds a bit conflicting. It’s common sense to expect Zuckerberg to have a say in WhatsApp, but this statement although ideally meaning the same, allows the readers too much room to wonder what will really happen over the next several months and years.
3. There is nothing to speak to the privacy concerns most Anti-Facebook people really care about. No message to reaffirm the users data will not be used for advertising even though WhatsApp currently does not force ads on users.
The news still seems exciting to the entrepreneur in me. This acquisition gives those building new things to solve problems hope in their efforts. However, the words when compared side-by-side appear to communicate this change have definitely dampened my excitement of the deal.
Take a look at the messages from both billionaires shown below.
What are your thoughts? Do these statements match? Were they well crafted? Needed clarity? Or did each do what there were intending to do?
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Ebony T. Grimsley is the Creative Director and Owner of Above Promotions Company. She is also the author of “Because You’re Small: Effective Marketing Strategies for Immediate Implementation” which is sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other stores and a contributor to various media outlets.