Earlier this week, Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain sent out this series of tweets:
These tweets prompted a number of different reactions.
I'm not the first person to write about this -- and I likely won't be the last -- but I wanted to share a few thoughts on why I think it was perfectly fine for Michael McCain to do what he did, even using the Maple Leaf Foods Twitter account.
First, it's painfully clear these tweets weren't part of a publicity stunt, and they weren't from a man seeking attention. This is clearly personal for McCain; in his very first tweet, he clearly mentions one of his colleagues lost his wife and 11-year-old son when the plane went down over Iran. To slightly paraphrase a line from Network, "he's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore."
Second, while it may not be an excuse that McCain's personal Twitter account is private with only 262 followers (versus the almost 6,500 people following the Maple Leaf Foods corporate account) and that he clearly wanted his view on this particular matter to be widely seen, it is a reasonable explanation for why he chose to use the account he did. And although not using the corporate account to share personal views is usually PR 101, Michael McCain is inextricably linked with Maple Leaf Foods, and it's ridiculous to suggest that any backlash he may have received for his tweets wouldn't reflect on the company he leads regardless of what Twitter account he used. When Howard Schultz says something, people who disagree call for boycotts against Starbucks. It's no different here.
Third, it's possible -- even probable -- that some supporters of President Trump's actions will choose to boycott Maple Leaf Foods as a result of McCain's stance, it's equally likely that those who agree with him will double-down on their support of the company. When Nike released their incredible -- and incredibly controversial -- "Dream Crazy" ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, there were people filming videos of themselves burning their Nike gear in protest. But just as many people went out and bought new Nike shoes as a show of support. You can't ever please everybody, and it's more than okay not to try.
And finally, while CEOs need to maintain a certain composure and decorum to ensure they maintain the confidence of their stakeholders, we have to remember that they're human too. Perhaps my friend Ron Tite said it best when asked for his thoughts: “We can’t ask business leaders to have a soul and then complain when they expose it.”