Friday, August 21, 2009

Can the CEO Take a Controverisal Public Position?

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has stirred up a stink, once again.

This time, he wrote an op-ed piece, published in The Wall Street Journal with the headline, "The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare." The company and Mackey have come under fire from some of its customers, who are sometimes described as liberal Democrats and who are now calling for a boycott, while criticizing the company and its founder on blogs and other on-line sites.

In 2007 he was caught using another name while criticizing competitors on-line.

Compare his op-ed piece to the General Manager of a Louisville, KY NBC affiliate TV station that took part in a public demonstration sponsored by the local Republican party against Obamacare. There were viewers and bloggers complaining they could no longer trust his news department to fairly cover that issue, now that they know the boss feels so strongly about one side of that issue.

A little history will help put this issue in perspective. From the very beginning of this country, publishers of newspapers and pamphleteers (today's bloggers and on-line writers) started their publishing ventures because they wanted a political voice in their community, region or colony. Those early publications were blatant supporters of one side of an issue over all other sides. Someone with an opposing point of view would start their own paper or distribute their on pamphlets.

Nothing has changed, much, except how fast a point-of-view can be posted and how far it can travel. If anything has changed, at all, its how readers, viewers and listeners don't care or don't pay attention, nor seek out a balanced point of view on important issues.

Do you think a CEO or business owner should speak out on controversial issues, even if it means he/she will driver customers or clients away? Is your response different for a publicly traded company as opposed to a privately owned business?

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