Eric Yaverbaum: Can a New CEO Besides Elon Musk Prevent the Fall of Twitter?

If a determined CEO not beholden to Elon Musk were named, it’s still possible to turn this ship around.

Eric Yaverbaum: Can a New CEO Besides Elon Musk Prevent the Fall of Twitter?
The author of this Expert Opinion is Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications

Elon Musk’s tenure as CEO of Twitter has been anything but typical. Within months, the billionaire allowed rampant, dangerous hate speech on the platform, led multiple company stock prices to sink for the small price of an $8 blue checkmark, dismantled Twitter’s workplace culture into an employee hellscape, received lawsuit after lawsuit and reinstated previously banned extremists and other dangerous accounts.

Musk didn’t just destroy the reputation of the once proclaimed digital town square, he took some tough losses himself along the way. Tesla’s stock rapidly depleted, he lost his title as the world’s richest person and he became the first person ever to lose $200 billion dollars.

Needless to say, Musk’s reign as CEO has had a sweeping negative impact, on Twitter, its employees, advertisers, users, and on Tesla and Musk himself. And with an ever increasing decline in popularity, Musk put out a Twitter poll asking users if he should resign. About 57% of the voters supported him stepping down. In response, Musk said he would in fact resign—that is, as soon as he found a successor.

Yet, even if Musk does resign, would the next CEO be able to claw the platform out of its present cycle of crisis after crisis? The short answer: they could… but they probably won’t. Or put another way, a good CEO could turn things around for Twitter, but Musk is unlikely to pick the right person for the job.

Twitter has a short list of potential successors mentioned publicly, from tech investor Jason Calacanis to the Andreessen Horowitz general partner and former Twitter product executive Sriram Krishnan to the investor and former technology executive David Sacks. Unfortunately, the most likely contenders seem to have one critical thing in common: they’re tight with Musk, making sweeping changes and an investment in crisis preparedness unlikely. The future CEO of Twitter being in Musk’s inner circle makes it easier for Musk to maintain his influence, and it’s likely that they’d therefore take a similar approach to the business and to crisis response (i.e., act first and do nothing at all to actually fix the reputational fallout). Regardless of how friendly the successor is with Musk, Musk will still own the company and seems to want to continue to be involved. That’s going to make it hard for any CEO to make the drastic changes Twitter needs to thrive.

Already, most of the replacements for former Twitter executives who quit upon Musk taking the reins are from his inner circle, further entrenching Musk’s influence no matter who the next CEO is. Given the mark Musk has left on the operations of the platform, it isn’t looking like there will be any sort of overhaul anytime soon, resignation or not.

It’s not over until it’s over though, and if a determined CEO not beholden to Musk were named, it’s still possible to turn this ship around. No brand reputation is irreparable. Take Abercrombie and Fitch’s comeback, for example. The company was able to repair itself from a culture of body shaming and prejudice to being seen as an accessible and accepting clothing brand.

If a new CEO came in and committed to revitalizing Twitter, the first order of business would be admitting and apologizing for what went wrong.  A sincere apology and ownership of wrongdoing can go a long way to earning public forgiveness. In cases like these, it can even be an opportunity to improve and demonstrate your commitment to improving.

The next immediate step would be making the major course corrections and overhauls needed to get Twitter on the right track.

The new leader must also quickly get to work putting together crisis plans for anything and everything that could go wrong. Musk is perfect proof that, no matter who you are, no amount of money or power makes you immune to the court of public opinion. The next Twitter CEO should take crisis planning seriously, creating detailed strategies to execute if and when a crisis arises. This will be particularly critical as long as Musk, who has a habit of saying whatever he pleases, is still Twitter’s owner; Twitter will need to be made Musk-proof.

The new CEO should commit to knowing every single one of Twitter’s audiences and what they want out of the platform. Significant changes do need to be made, but still remaining authentic is crucial as well. It’s okay to innovate and take risks, but to bring Twitter into the future, it’ll be crucial not to lose what made the platform special in the first place.

There’s plenty still up in the air for Twitter, and we can’t really say for sure what the future holds. All we can do is hope that whoever comes in next leads Twitter with the care, respect and passion it deserves.

Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications, is a communications, media, and public relations expert with over 41 years in the industry. Eric is also a bestselling author who literally wrote the book on public relations — the industry-standard bestseller, PR for Dummies — as well as six other titles, including Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEOS. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

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