Sometimes, public companies have to deal with PR issues that could not have been prevented. Other times, they have to deal with issues of their own creation, which is especially challenging for communicators. Today is one of those days for Compuware, which has hired Kwame Kilpatrick as an account executive.
The questions have been posed all day – why would they hire Detroit’s former Mayor, convicted of lying under oath and jailed after admitting to multiple legal and ethical breeches, for an apparently high-paying job with a company division that deals with IT security? Especially because he’s the reported target of a Federal corruption investigation. To make matters worse for the company, this news leaked while local and national news outlets reported 250 layoffs at the company.
The job will be in Dallas, where the disgraced former politician won’t be anonymous. Kwame Kilpatrick has become a household name and a media spectacle after landing in town in a private jet and moving into a $3000 per month rental home in a swank neighborhood.
Tomorrow morning, Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos plans to take to the radio to explain this hire. He’ll probably talk about how the former Mayor will, somehow, will do some sort of good for Compuware’s business. But, it will be impossible for him to do more good than harm. Before he even spends a day on the job, Kilpatrick has already cost his new employer in negative press and, as Don mentions below, negative employee morale.
This hire also calls into question the relationship between Karmanos and Kilpatrick, which has a history of city contracts and campaign contributions. After recent national and local scandals involving businesspeople and politics, the public is more skeptical than ever about both CEOs and elected officials.
Never mind a company “shooting itself in the foot.” This is a company breaking its own legs.