WTF have I done?
It’s a statement likely crossing the minds of many in positions of power within the Market Basket board of directors and shareholders over the last few weeks as their institution has ground to a halt.
It’s crossed my mind as well. Daily.
I’m the regretful soul that thought it would be funny to start up a parody Market Basket Twitter account at 4:30 pm on July 29th. @MarketBasketBOD, designed to satirically represent the company’s board of directors, was born by a Vermonter that can’t even shop at Market Basket.
I figured, foolishly, that this would be a short-term thing. I’d have fun for a few days, at which point the shelves would be restocked and we could all move on with our lives.
Within half an hour of launching my little project, I had 6 tweets published and had already amassed hundreds of followers. A guy offered to make me logos. Everyone interested in the story, from members of the media to customers, was lapping up the tweets as fast as I could come up with them.
They liked it. They really liked it.
In some ways, I’ve spent an entire career preparing for this role. Only I never knew it. I’ve been chief spokesperson for large controversial corporations, managing their reputations as they take unpopular steps and do unwise things. I’ve lived and breathed PR and change management since college.
And here was Market Basket, a company whose customers were so devoted they were refusing to set foot in the stores until their beloved CEO (deity?) was reinstated. They were botching the obvious, day after day. Everything about the debacle I was witnessing called out to me to offer more than quips.
As a PR professional, I was dumbfounded. Did the board of directors and current management have terrible counsel? Were they ignoring sound advice? Were they being held against their will in some financial trap?
Blaming Artie T didn't work. PR team suggests blaming staff and public, again. Statement forthcoming. #MarketBasket— Market Basket 4U (@MarketBasket4U) July 29, 2014
Those first few days were easy. Endless content, raving fans, and a constant stream of encouragement.
But the fun wouldn’t last. It couldn’t. Clearly, any day, the board would fire their lame duck CEOs and calm the uprising. Fresh produce and deli meats would return, and I would have one less branded Twitter account to worry about (down from six to five).
The outcome seemed clear.
But that’s not what happened. Days passed, then weeks. The comedy act became tiresome. Bored with my schtick, I threatened to switch sides and defend the indefensible. After a few hours mocking both sides and a surge in new followers, I chickened out and returned to “hammering’’ the BOD.
More time passed.
I needed to keep this going, but how?
I could use my power for good. I could broker a peace.
Joking was fun and all, but too much was at stake to not at least try and cook up a solution.
I tweeted a few ideas and prepared statement examples.
Since the CEOs were no longer viable, they could be used as a bargaining chip by either side. The workers could demand them gone for a desired interim CEO that was not ATD, or the BOD could have canned them and offer the exact same thing. A lot of people got behind the idea, but as we’ve seen, this train is a crazy train to all-or-nothing town.
Turns out, brokering a peace doesn’t generate as many retweets as making fun of incompetence nor is either side willing/able to adjust their dug in positions.
And now here we are. I’m tired of this. We’re all tired of this.
Almost a month has passed, and my passion has faded. Now I’m like the rest of us, just waiting for a shoe to drop, and hoping it’s the shoe that makes this whole thing meaningful. I’d like nothing more than to be fired from my unpaid job.
DOES THIS MEAN I'M FIRED? GOD I HOPE SO.— Market Basket 4U (@MarketBasket4U) August 22, 2014