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TIM issues lame ‘clarifications’ of Sunday Telegraph story

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Italian telco TIM is clearly unhappy with an interview done by its boss Amos Genish and has had a pretty feeble go at damage limitation.

The offending piece was published in the UK’s Sunday Telegraph, entitled Telecom Italia chief ready to quit if activist Elliott wins power struggle. It was based around an interview with Genish and quoted him as saying “If the Vivendi slate does not get the majority of votes, because this is clearly the only slate to support our long-term industrial plan, I firmly believe my position as CEO would be untenable.”

TIM followed up with a press release entitled ‘Clarifications regarding the Sunday Telegraph article’. “TIM would like to clarify that the headline is misleading and does not reflect the exchange between Amos Genish and the paper,” it opened, before pointing out Genish is not technically CEO at the moment.

Now, unless TIM is saying the Telegraph fabricated the above quote, the headline of the story would appear to be a laudably accurate condensation of what was said. Surely, if Genish considered his position to be untenable, he would indeed quit. Multiple online dictionaries define untenable as a position that’s indefensible; how could he do anything other than quit when in such a position?

The correction of his current job title seems an especially feeble attempt at misdirection. Genish was appointed as CEO last year and has remained in that position since. The recent spat between Vivendi and Elliot, on which the Telegraph story was about and in which Genish clearly favours Vivendi, has necessitated a re-election of the TIM board and thus the CEO position, so TIM tweaked Genish’s job title four days ago. Maybe TIM’s trying to make the technical point that he may not even be re-elected by a hostile board, but that still seems a trivial technicality. If Genish isn’t CEO then who is?

“The issues set out by Amos Genish in today’s article regarding the future make-up of the board and the need for the new board to express its position regarding the Business Plan had, in fact, already been dealt with and explained in another recent interview of Amos Genish published in Il Sole 24 Ore on 19 April,” concludes the TIM announcement. So what? That doesn’t make the article any less accurate.

It’s not uncommon for PRs to attempt this kind of damage limitation. When an exec says something regrettable in a media interview there are a range of techniques in the PR playbook including: the comments were off the record; they’ve been taken out of context; the quote is incomplete; and that’s not what they meant to say. But even that weak selection doesn’t seem to have been applicable in this case, so TIM’s flacks would’ve been better advised to suffer in silence.

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