BoomTown's Favorite Leaked Yahoo Internal Memo Ever: New PR Head Eric Brown Says Hello (and More)!
BoomTown has had some good leaked internal memos from Yahoo, but I have never enjoyed one quite as much as this one from newly installed Yahoo PR head Eric Brown, who started today.
While it is clear that Yahoo (YHOO) has had its troubles in understanding and offering social-networking products to its users, Brown certainly knows how to share.
Yahoo could use some of that DNA!
New Yahoo CMO Elisa Steele named Brown, a colleague from her former job at NetApp (NTAP), as SVP of global communications at the Internet giant in June.
He was the VP of corporate relations at the data storage company, on whose board Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz has also served. Before that, he was at Adaptec (ADPT).
Brown is filling a slot left when former Yahoo PR head Jill Nash left Yahoo in February. She was briefly replaced by her deputy, Brad Williams, who was laid off from Yahoo in a recent round of cuts.
Like Steele, he is yet another executive from the business software arena to be hired under Bartz, who also comes from that background. Bartz also hired Jeff Russakow from Symantec (SYMC), which makes antivirus software and other security, for the post of Customer Advocacy SVP.
Yahoo’s whole marketing organization is undergoing a rejiggering under Steele, including a major brand overhaul. Along with Brown, she also recently hired Penny Baldwin as SVP of global integrated marketing and brand management.
Brown will be taking on Yahoo’s image-making, a task that has been a challenge over the last two years as the Silicon Valley icon has been buffeted by a series of external and internal challenges.
But Bartz has publicly talked about the need to now focus attention on Yahoo’s many assets and strengths.
In fact, in an onstage interview with me at the seventh D: All Things Digital conference in late May, Bartz said: “The best way to change the perception is to do a good job and then talk about it.”
From this memo, Brown seems like he knows how to do that.
And since he likes writers Kate Chopin and David Sedaris at the same time, it is obvious that Brown and I are on the path to become besties.
(Potential deal-breaker: I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.)
Here’s the memo–based on a form that sources tell me all Yahoo PR folks fill out in a getting-to-know-you questionnaire, but don’t make public–in which Brown says hello to his new team:
From: Eric Brown (SVP Global Communications)
Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 6:00 PM
Subject: It’s great to be here!
Global comms team,
Thank you so much for the wonderful intro materials you gave me. I’m going to spend quite a bit of time on the org charts, budgets, plans, and results package you compiled for me. But I’ve been especially thrilled with the personal profiles you sent my way. I’ve seen other people whose phobias are the same as mine: spiders and heights; enjoyed how many of you put Paris as your favorite place on Earth; and am impressed with how many amazing books this group has collectively read.
I must also admit to being slightly intimidated by all of you who put “bad grammar” as a pet peeve and will triple check this email to avoid any grammar infractions…
I know I have a Thursday group meeting with you, but thought the least I could do on day one is return the favor and complete my own handbook profile. So here goes…
Date I joined Yahoo!: today (6 July 2009), though I did spend two days at the senior leaders meeting in mid-June and thank all of you who were there for the warm welcome in Half Moon Bay.
What I do here: lead a team of amazing, intelligent, motivated people who put Yahoo! in the best light possible and tell our story in compelling ways that make users and advertisers around the world want to embrace Yahoo! heartily.
Where I grew up: Warsaw, Virginia–a tiny town about 90 minutes from Richmond, Virginia and 150 minutes from Washington, D.C. For those of you who are American history buffs, Warsaw is about 10 minutes from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and 15 minutes from the birthplace of George Washington.
Where I live now: Sunnyvale, California. Can’t beat the commute.
College: William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. BA in English. Loved lit crit. Senior honors thesis was on post-WWII masculinity in American society as represented by the works of Norman Mailer.
My first job: an internship for the U.S. Navy (my parents’ employer—they were civilians) analyzing different process flow diagram software packages for a team creating warship defense systems. For the rest of high school and college, I had LOTS more fun as a waiter at dive restaurant called The Stagecoach. The food was ghastly; the people were amazing.
What I did before Yahoo!: I ran comms (PR, social media, internal comms, and exec comms) for NetApp, managing a global team of about 60+ people doing amazing enterprise and B2B work in 30+ companies worldwide. I’m very excited to learn “consumer” from all of you–and equally excited to share experiences from my almost 20 years in the business in return.
What I do when I’m not here: I love travel (had a super 3 days in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney two weekends ago), cooking (yes, seriously—cooking is very therapeutic and relaxing for me), and reading (though I haven’t picked up a Norman Mailer since my undergrad days).
If the Internet didn’t exist, what I’d be doing right now: teaching literature to high school students. I believe that at some point in my life, I have to return to society what it has given me. And I’d be a better teacher than firefighter or doctor!
Favorite place on Earth: Paris. I try to go there 3 or 4 times a year and have a couple of very close friends who are kind enough to let me crash with them. Second favorite is Hong Kong.
Proudest accomplishment: professionally–being part of the “inner counsel circle” for NetApp execs on a variety of comms and marketing issues (which I hope to be here at Yahoo! as well); personally–being a good friend, partner, and family member.
Favorite Yahoo! moment: there have only been 3 days of them so far—and all have been great. I felt very honored and lucky to be part of the Half Moon Bay leadership summit–and meeting people from all over Yahoo! there was inspiring.
Favorite book: someone who majored in literature can’t just name one, so I’ll split them into categories…Favorite works of literature: The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Favorite work that kindled my imagination: The Hobbit by Tolkien. Favorite works that make me laugh: anything by David Sedaris (the man is wicked funny).
Favorite movie: two–Moulin Rouge and Orlando–both visually stunning.
My first car: a Buick Skyhawk in a horrible shade of brown–the thing was so ratty that I had to add oil to it every other day so it wouldn’t break down–it made its last hurrah on a cross-country trip from Virginia to California and made it over the Rocky Mountains without any issues but then was quite unhappy crossing the Sierra Nevada range.
My next vacation destination: somehow I think I’m going to be very busy for the next few months so I’m not planning any big trips, though I have told a friend I’ll attend his 50th birthday party in Munich and from there I’ll try to drive to Vienna for a few days.
My hidden talent: navigating subway systems when everyone else insists on taking a taxi (the exception: Tokyo–because it is just too darned crowded).
My favorite online video: I like online videos to catch up on things that MTV no longer carries–like videos from Gus Gus (though I only see one of their videos on Yahoo! Music…)
My guiltiest pleasure: ice cream in bed with the Kindle (yes, just as Elisa put in her email)–the ice cream HAS to be Ben & Jerry’s (LOVE being on this floor with the conference room names!) and my favorite is Peach Cobbler.
I have an intense fear of: spiders and heights–I even had a spider vacuum for a while so I didn’t have to come near ‘em or smash ‘em–but then I was scared they’d survive the suction and electric shock and crawl back somewhere–so now they’re routinely smashed.
My biggest pet peeve: beating around the bush–tell me what you want me to know because I’m not telepathic and say it without a lot of metaphor or subtlety–if you really want me to know something, please make it crystal clear.
My best celebrity encounter: dinner with friends in the outdoor section of the Restaurant du Palais Royal in Paris on a gorgeous May evening–next to us was Tom Ford (at the height of his Gucci power)–I have never wanted to NOT eat so much in my life.
Something few people know about me: I abhor cava (sorry to those of you in Spain)–champagne is my favorite drink on Earth, prosecco will do in a pinch, and New World sparklings are hit and miss–but I universally detest cava.
Best for advice for working with me (yes, a little changed from what you all submitted): honesty really IS the best policy–unless I’m having a bad hair day in which case please just don’t say anything about that at all.
Thanks again for having me here–and we’ll speak more on Thursday.