FT's Lucy Kellaway responds to Hewlett Packard Enterprise's PR's implied 'advertising threat'

Financial Times journalist Lucy Kellaway has publically denounced Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HEP) head of marketing and communications, Henry Gomez, over a reference to the paper's relationships with advertisers following her column criticising the company’s chief executive.

Lucy Kellaway

Kellaway received an email from Gomez objecting to an article she had written the previous week which criticised Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s chief executive, Meg Whitman. In the article Kellaway repeated the advice Whitman gave to an audience at Davos — “You can always go faster than you think you can” — and made light of the assertion by saying that “sometimes, when you go faster you fall flat on your face.”

Gomez told Kellaway that he was “disappointed” by what she written, and assured her that she had mischaracterised” the remarks of his boss, who was the “leader of one of the world’s largest IT companies".

His email ended with a warning that the “FT management should consider the impact of unacceptable biases on its relationships with advertisers.”

Kellaway responded to the threat in her latest column titled “An old-school reply to an advertiser’s retro threat”. In the article the FT management columnist voiced her dismay with the “outlawing of overt conflict at work and the replacing of it with silence and passive aggression.”

“You say the FT management should think about “unacceptable biases” and its relationship with its advertisers. My piece was not biased and I fear you misunderstand our business model. It is my editors’ steadfast refusal to consider the impact of stories on advertisers that makes us the decent newspaper we are. It is why I want to go on working here. It is why the FT goes on paying me.”

Kellaway also called into question Gomez’s role as head of communications, reminding him that his role “means you have to help your company look good in the eyes of the media and the world,” and pointing out that “your email fails to do that".

“As head of marketing, you are likely to have an interest in ensuring that the company’s advertising message reaches the right audience. Assuming the decision to advertise in the FT was right in the first place, it would seem crazy — and not in shareholders’ best interests — to change course based on pique.”

Kellaway’s response concludes with the possibility that Gomez may not be to blame for the threats, and asks him to clarify whether they came from Whitman herself.

HEP strongly disputed Lucy’s claims that Gomez wrote a “threatening” and “aggressive” letter and released the full email to PR Week. A spokesperson for HEP defended the email in a statement which said: "No reporter or news media outlet should be above hearing honest feedback from readers or advertisers."

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