International business can get very political, and successful executives understand how to leverage PR panache in a way that effectively communicates their message while creating buy-in, or at least a better bargaining position. However, buy-in is just one aspect of the challenge facing the new Facebook head of global affairs and communications, Nick Clegg.
Clegg is coming on board Facebook even as the premier social media company in the world is dealing with multiple scandals, while also trying to break into new international markets. Some are saying Clegg’s government experience—he was a top British liberal politician for many years—will help him negotiate what is still a very hot minefield for the company, both at home and abroad.
Facebook is still trying to solidify its footing after being called to task for concerns over how user data was being marketing, as well as alleged hostile action by foreign powers using Facebook to “influence” elections.
Now, some very prominent and powerful people and groups are beginning to call for even more consequences for Facebook, including representatives from New York City Pension Funds, which would like to see Mark Zuckerberg ousted as chairman. While that’s unlikely to happen, at least any time soon, there’s no doubt Clegg has his work cut out for him.
With a major U.S. election coming, the news about social media “meddling” is hot again, and some are saying it’s still happening. Others are more concerned that Facebook hasn’t seemed to do much about the conditions that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
So, Clegg is dealing with a lot of suspicions, bad feeling, distrust, and allegations, even as he is trying to put a new face on the social media giant. People are still using Facebook, but user complaints are growing along with engagement, with many users are unhappy with a lot of recent changes in addition to the anger at the invasion of privacy.
Facebook has expressed strong confidence in Clegg’s ability to negotiate these challenges, with COO Sheryl Sandberg saying, “The challenges we face are serious and clear and now more than ever, we need new perspectives to help us through this time of change…”
Defining exactly what “this time” and “change” mean to Facebook’s massive user base will be one of Clegg’s key responsibilities. His initial comments did convey he understands what Sandberg meant by “challenges,” though. Clegg promised to “tackle the issues of individual privacy, free speech, and democratic process…” in order to “ensure that technology is a force for good.
That’s a clear message and it’s one that many tens of millions of Facebook users really want to believe.