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The crying CEO

Hi everyone,


Hope you had a fantastic weekend.

As you may or may not be aware – I am a big fan and user of LinkedIn.

(Add me here, if you haven’t already, I share lots of interesting bits and pieces on there!)

Did you see the post from the “crying CEO” last week?

It seems that at one point it was the talk of the entire internet.

It was a bit “controversial” but there are a few things to be said for what happened.

Let me explain.



What happened


Braden Wallake is the CEO of HyperSocial, a B2B marketing firm.

In his post, he shared an image of himself crying and an explanation.

“This will be the most vulnerable thing I'll ever share,” HyperSocial CEO Braden Wallake wrote on LinkedIn Tuesday. “Days like today, I wish I was a business owner that was only money driven and didn't care about who he hurt along the way. But I'm not. So, I just want people to see, [sic] that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn't care when he/she have to lay people off. I'm sure there are hundreds and thousands of others like me”

In essence, he had to let 3 employees go, as the company had released a new product targeting higher net worth companies – and it hadn’t generated the revenue he’d expected.

Ultimately, he wanted to show his network that CEOs could be vulnerable too – essentially seeking to counter the stereotype that business owners are uncaring and only worried about their slice of the pie.

As of today (Monday, nearly a week after it was posted) the post received close to 50,000 reactions, 9440 comments and 952 reshares (each with their own amount of the same) as well as cross-network virality and coverage in the news.

There was also a bit of a backlash…



The backlash


Ok, so let’s start with the backlash to this post.

A lot of people saw it as the CEO “making it about themselves”.

Specifically, it was seen that they centred themselves in a post about their employees being let go.

As a CEO they, of course, have lost less in the equation and it is their ex-employees who you would think should have been the focus of the post.

Valid points on the surface of it, and on LinkedIn it is not lacking attention-seeking CEOs looking to hack their engagement with “didn’t happen” stories.

But there was something about this one that set it apart from the rest…



The real life of a CEO


As “cringe” as many detractors found the post, a lot of others, business leaders such as me, recognised and empathised with Braden.

Most business leaders do not fit the stereotype and each entrepreneur would prefer that their business never sees setbacks which require having to let people go.

Whilst, of course, it was understandable that many people felt that not enough attention was put on the ex-employees whose careers were impacted (more on that in a second)…

It can be lonely at the top and it is no surprise that on a business network that leaders use to connect with each other that there was plenty of sympathetic people on there.

Again, it is the business leader’s responsibility to shoulder the burden and of course with that comes its own rewards – but it was refreshing to see a business leader share a very human moment.



It (actually) helped the ex-employees


Whilst it wasn’t an explicit aim of the post, a knock-on effect was that Braden’s network (and exposure to a much larger network as a result of the virality of the post) meant that all of the ex-employees were quickly snapped up and found themselves in new positions.

What’s more, many of them had lots of kind things to say about HyperSocial and Braden as a business leader too, which helped confirm that the story was not a cynical attempt at gaming the algorithm, or indeed a self-serving ego boost.


It (probably helped the business)


Braden had stated that his business had sought to launch a new product and that this was a more involved product that specifically was at a higher price point and aimed toward a higher-end client.

This hadn’t taken off as he hoped it would which led to the layoffs.

Yet you must think that after this marmite viral hit that his LinkedIn inbox and the phone will be ringing off the hook!

  • People now know who he is
  • People now know who HyperSocial are
  • People are now aware of what the company do
  • They’re also aware of the product which hadn’t gained traction
  • He will now be on the radar of lots of like-minded CEOs

Bear in mind that we’re talking millions of impressions here, a bucketload of articles on some of the most well-known websites in the world (with plenty of backlinks).

Not to mention this newsletter!

Love it or hate it this will very likely have a significant impact on their business moving forward.



Authenticity cuts through the noise (people buy from real people)


Most importantly the adage remains true, people buy from people.

Moreso than that, they buy from real people that they have a connection with.

Vulnerability means putting yourself out there in a way where people can hurt you, but it also means cutting through the noise and making a real connection with people.

It isn’t something you can really engineer – in fact, a hint of ulterior motive probably scuppers the whole thing.

I imagine that HyperSocial and Braden will soon be in the position where they could rehire their employees should they not already have found new positions.

And there is something to be said about that.


The takeaway


What did you make of it?

For me it is another example of making sure that you don’t take everything at face value.

There is a lot of cynicism these days, whichever side you are on when it comes to a marmite moment like this.

But with an open mind and the ability to ask yourself the right kinds of questions, there is a lot that can be learned.

If you want to chat about anything business related or protecting your big ideas, do get in touch the usual way.

Hope that you have a great week.



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