Nov 10, 2022 - Economy

Twitter ditches communications

U.S. readership of Twitter-related news articles
Data: Memo; Note: Readership data analysis is from a representative sample of 83 news organizations; Chart: Madison Dong/Axios Visuals

Twitter's new CEO Elon Musk doesn't value communications, and it shows.

Why it matters: Communication teams are the protectors of brand reputation, strategic partners in executing business strategy and the command center for corporate culture. Twitter is now vulnerable in all three of these key areas.

State of play: Since taking over, Musk has upended corporate culture, jeopardized brand reputation (and his own, by tweeting misinformation, an image of a Nazi soldier and lewd jokes) and hurt business prospects as advertisers flee.

  • Late Wednesday night, Musk emailed Twitter employees for the first time and announced a full return to office. He also eliminated previously established monthly mental health days.

Driving the news: Sources tell Axios that Musk has axed all but one member of the Twitter communications team and plans to deprioritize the communications function as he's done at Tesla and SpaceX.

Zoom in: Tesla famously shuttered its comms operation in 2020. Since then, the auto company has been bogged down by lawsuits and regulatory challenges, shares have dropped and Musk's return-to-work rollout was botched.

  • "Ignoring the press, and thus the public and customers, which is basically what is happening without a PR department, is only adding to something that most Tesla owners would probably agree was already one of Tesla’s biggest weaknesses: communication," writes Electrek editor-in-chief Fred Lambert.

What they're saying: This strategy is even more disastrous at a company like Twitter, says Sean Garrett — who was Twitter's first communications hire back in 2009, and now serves as the founder of Mixing Board.

  • “Twitter is in the communications business, and the DNA of Twitter is open, transparent dialogue," he told Axios. "Even in the early days, there was no way to possibly run Twitter with less than five people in comms, and I can’t imagine how they would manage today's current landscape without significant support."
  • Until a few days ago, the Twitter comms department was a proactive, global team embedded in product, trust and safety and public policy.

Zoom out: Without a robust comms shop crafting a clear message, confusion is spreading among all stakeholders.

  • Employees are in the dark, advertisers are uneasy and pulling out by the day, and users are perplexed by the subscription model, platform guidelines and safety measures.
  • "Twitter talked for years about losing public trust. No team worked harder to earn public trust by living and breathing Twitter’s values of transparency, integrity and authenticity," wrote ex-employee Lauren Myers-Cavanagh.

💭Our thought bubble: The current business and communication strategy is at the whim of Musk, and it's likely to cause more uncertainty and whiplash.

  • As one source put it, Musk's Twitter is like the corporate version of Trump's White House — every day there's a new shock. However, unlike the Trump presidency, Twitter users and advertisers can easily walk away.

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