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PR Fail: AOL CEO Channels His Inner Trump
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Meet Tim Armstrong, AOL Grand Poobah, Chief Bottle Washer and CEO. 

While I can't confirm of this picture is a realistic image or photoshopped, I can confirm this dude has serious PR issues. As we all know, PR is all about image control and reputation management. What do I mean? In short, you can't act like a douche without smelling like vinegar. Considering Armstrong's latest actions, there is a sour scent at AOL central. Let me explain: 

Thanks to the great Romensko
, we have a tale of a high-falutin' CEO who apparently idolizes Donald Trump because he fired Abel Lenz, his creative director for Patch (AOL's hyperlocal, user-generated media site, much like Examiner.com), during a national conference call. For what, you ask? The shameful act of...taking a picture of the CEO so he could post it to the Patch news website. [Cue suspense music.] Here is part of the transcript:

There’s a couple of things I want you guys to realize and really think about and sink in, and if it doesn’t sink in and you don’t believe what I’m about to say, I’m going to ask you to leave Patch. And I don’t mean that in a harsh way; I mean that in the way of we have to get Patch into a place where it’s going to be successful and it’s going to be successful for a long time. There’s a whole bunch of towns that are going to be successful but we need the whole enterprise to be successful...

...Third thing is if you don’t use Patch as a product and you’re not invested in Patch, you owe it to everybody else at Patch to leave. If you think what’s going on right now is a joke, and you want to joke around about it, you should pick your stuff up and leave Patch today, and the reason is, and I’m going to be very specific about this, is Patch from an experience — Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out! [Momentary pause.] If you guys think that AOL has not been committed to Patch, and won’t stay committed to Patch, you’re wrong. The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the board of directors is committed, I’m committed...

Well, you get the picture. If you would like to hear Abel's demise personally, click here for the gone-viral recording

To Abel's huge credit, he hasn't gone all scorched earth and made fun of Armstrong's mother. No, he's been classy about it, giving "no comment" and rally cries for his former company "Go Patch" via Twitter. Unlike his former employer, who has absolutely no regard for others, his faithful employees, taking in an entire situation, or having a soul. Sure, Donald Trump probably tweeted Armstrong something like, "Yes, I would have done that too. PR is overrated anyway. #ScrewTheFlacks." Then again, I could be wrong. 

The one thing I do know is this is a PR bath for Armstrong. The news is everywhere and none of it is in his favor. The guy is on edge. Patch is dwindling in popularity and effectiveness to the tune of 400 sites are being eliminated. Certainly, we can understand a little attitude from the corner office, but this?! And coming from a guy who (in the same conference call) says that he doesn't care about leaks at all, but take a twitpic of dude on his bad side and out you go! The guy doesn't care about image or reputation — it's power to him and that's sad. Sure, Armstrong may have been considering firing him anyway. When you have that kind of loss, someone has to take the fall, right? However, to do it in that kind of public manner with that disdain for cooth and decorum?

Don't feel bad for Abel. Evidently, the guy is already being recruited. Ironically, he will have Armstrong to thank for that new gig. MEMO to employees at Patch and AOL: It seems the only mail you've got will be a pink slip or a flaming bag of dog poop, whichever Captain Classy decides to send first. #PatchStrong

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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