#TBT: Write the CEO an Email, Get a Lawyer Letter

Happy #TBT. To celebrate, we’re sharing an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: Write the CEO an Email, Get a Lawyer Letter.

Wow. Here’s a tidbit from an incredible story:

“ … Giorgio Galante found out today [that] sending AT&T’s CEO two emails in two weeks results in a phone call from AT&T’s Executive Response Team and a warning that further emails will result in a cease and desist letter.”

Now, to be fair, we don’t know what was in Galante’s emails. They could have been abusive; they could have been threatening; but barring that, this story is a great example of a company getting completely twisted around the axle when it comes to interacting with people.

Sure, the CEO of AT&T has to guard his time, and I’m certain the PR team was slightly embarrassed that the big boss was dealing with stuff he wasn’t supposed to in his actual inbox, but come on, people. It’s just an email. It’s not as though Galante was expecting to actually hear back from him. If, unlike Steve Jobs, to whom Galante apparently also wrote, you don’t want to deal with inbound stuff like this, just delete it or filter the guy’s email address.

What does threatening a ‘cease and desist’ say? At least three things I can think of:

1. In our hearts, we don’t want to be bothered by actual customers. There’s a time and place for interacting with the icky marketplace, and we’ll tell you where and when that is.

2. We’re kinda techno-incompetent, which is unfortunate for a technology company. I mean, really, how much harder is it to deal with this situation the way they have than the way a person who could use in-box filters would?

3. We might be afraid of our boss. I can’t actually see the CEO of AT&T making the decision to do this; much more likely, it’s some underling trying to use napalm to get rid of a mouse. Sometimes the PR/Comm team’s mission goes from trying to help the boss communicate to merely protecting him from actually having to communicate. If that’s the culture, then failing to protect him makes you look bad. Well, at this point, they all look bad.

By the way, I’m by no means suggesting that the CEO of AT&T throw himself open to interruption by everyone in the world with an opinion on his company. That would be difficult to manage. But I’m strongly suggesting that if it happens to happen, just go with it. You’ll survive contact with a paying customer.

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