Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Dec 28 2014 21:00:27

Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

By: Ina Steiner

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Some readers have been selling online long enough to remember eBay's Kevin Pursglove, the public relations spokesperson who was tasked with putting out warm-and-fuzzy stories about the marketplace and answering questions from the media about tough issues such as website outages.

Lots of PR folk have come and gone from eBay since then, including Kevin, but it's rare to hear them speak publicly about their time there after they've left the company. John Pluhowski is the exception.

Last week, he - like many Silicon Valley executives, including eBay CEO John Donahoe - took to the business-networking site LinkedIn to publish an essay.

Of his time at eBay he states, "I didn't realize at the time that I would be embarking on a career journey that would teach me more in the next five years than I had learned in the previous twenty. As I reflect back upon my years at eBay, I am truly grateful for the experience. I learned valuable lessons that have shaped me, both as a communicator and as a person. I hope these five lessons will serve as a guide to others."

The first lesson was, be the customer - "Nobody at eBay was happy to see Amazon boxes in the mail room during the holiday season," he shared.

He also talked about eBay CEO John Donahoe and how he visited other CEOs - "from mature industry leaders to young startup founders - to gain valuable insights that influenced his own strategic thinking."

About eBay's global rebranding he said, "A healthy appetite for risk is what emboldened us to take the road less traveled and announce the global re-brand of eBay without ever issuing a press release. Instead, we decided to communicate with our stakeholders via digital and social channels. We relished the fact that we could not find another great brand that had done this before."

The result, he said: "we created a virtuous cycle of engagement that topped one billion impressions, with social media engagement representing the lion's share of our success. We took a risk, and our success metrics exceeded our highest expectations. It was an awesome moment and, arguably, one of the proudest during my tenure at eBay."

John joined eBay in March 2009 and left in June of this year, 6 months after eBay let it be known that Carl Icahn had set out to breakup eBay and PayPal, which is now on track to happen in 2015.

The end of one year and beginning of another is a time of reflection. With the beginning of the New Year just days away, John has given readers some things to think about. You can read his essay on LinkedIn - what do you think?




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Sun Dec 28 21:45:31 2014

He seems blissfully unaware of the massive avalanche of NEGATIVE publicity about eBay that its own wrongfully suspended users have generated all over social media, forums, blogs, etc.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Dec 28 21:48:11 2014

5 Lessons I DIDNT Learned at eBay

1.Be the customer. At eBay we dont know WHO the customer really is. We just try to mostly please the people that either give us the most money or threaten to sue us. Due to our total lack of experience in ecommerce, mail order or retail, it shows since we obviously have no clue as to what we are doing - hey just look at our stock price!

2.Great ideas come from everyone. Unless of course you demean your seller base and claim they are just noise. Worse you lie to them time and time again and feed them BS answers all while pretending to be their partners.

3.Align your values to the company you keep. Well, we encourage theft by buyers so I guess that makes us thieves as well. Plus we use the TOS to reach into your pocket and steal from you in avery possible manner from shill bidding to VERO abuse to not showing listings 24/7, to putting ads in your listings. Sleep with the dogs, get up with fleas.

4.Take smart risks, disrupt yourself. IE do stupid things because people who have MBA's cant EVER be wrong. Do as the CEO said "leave behind a successful past" ... duh we did and look at us NOW!  

5.Learn from failure. SMART people learn not to go to the well too many times, but here at eBay we go back again and again until we make enemies out of EVERYONE. We have alot of failures - 11 system outages in 1 year and more - but if you just learn to ignore those failures - everything is A OK!

What a moron.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: Ron This user has validated their user name.

Sun Dec 28 21:49:44 2014

I just finished reading his “essay” and, honestly, although I’m sure that he’s being sincere in what he’s saying, what I read just appears to me to be a shining example of the “bubble” that eBay management was operating in.

“Be the customer” is an honorable sentiment, but the problem is the definition of exactly who the customer is.  eBay management seems to be under the impression that their customers are the buyers on eBay.  In fact, the customers are the sellers - they’re the ones paying eBay fees, not the buyers.  So, going on the site and buying something tells you nothing about the buying experience on eBay as there are a plethora of sellers.  One of the many big mistakes that has been made in recent years is the departure of the self governing mutual feedback system and the reliance on eBay control systems over the transactional process.  This is diametrically opposed to the original proposition of an honest seller/buyer relationship that eBay was founded on and relies instead on old models of thinking regarding commerce.  Mr Pluhowski would have been better off trying to sell something on eBay to get a true picture of how things were for their customers.

The idea that John Donahoe was a strategic thinker belies the fact that eBay is in the position that it now is in.  Good strategic direction comes from a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a company and what value proposition positions the company in a unique place.  Although it is important to understand the evolving environment that the company is operating in, it’s obvious that Donahoe was looking to other companies, like Amazon, for direction, rather than understanding what had made eBay successful up to the year 2008 and how to capitalize on that.

I could go on, but the rest of what he stated is clichéd drivel, based on some kind of self-delusion that eBay management did great things with the marketplace.  I’m sorry, but eBay was once spoken about with great enthusiasm and positivity, but it has now become the topic of much negativity.  It’s no wonder - eBay doesn’t have a clear idea of who their customer is, nor does it have any idea of how best to market products in a clear straightforward way to clearly defined, segmented market segments.  You don’t mix up auctions, collectibles, used items, unique items with new, Chinese made, fixed priced items, set the same rigid rules for selling any type of item,  and expect a buyer to go and sort through all of this in order to find what they want and have an enjoyable buying experience.

No, I’m sorry, but there was a serious case of “group think” going on at eBay, and unfortunately, it seems to still be an ongoing thing.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun Dec 28 23:33:25 2014

His statement.... , "I didn't realize at the time that I would be embarking on a career journey that would teach me more in the next five years than I had learned in the previous twenty...." goes a long way to explain why eBay has become the hot mess it is today.

Since the days of Meg Whitman and through John Donahoes tenure, the management ranks at eBay have been filled by people just like Mr Pursglove , that being zero relevant experience relative to the business of building a marketplace.  As a result, eBay stagnates every time they fail to bring in talent that has experience building a brand and maintaining momentum.

Instead, what eBay ends up with is a bunch of Donahoe clones who are simply not up to the task at hand.  The end result is that eBay allowed Amazon to eat their lunch by stealing away all the momentum eBay once had.

Another end result of inexperience filling the cubicles in San Jose is the prevailing tendency of these drones to make changes for the sake of making changes in an attempt to fix things that were not or are not broken. Time and again the changes eBay has rolled out definitively demonstrate the lack of experience within the management ranks.

Disruptive innovation for the sake of disrupting things is not a plan that results in anything other than a disaster.  This is proven by the mess Meg Whitman and John Donahoe combined to make out of the eBay marketplace. Before they came aboard, eBay had a golden future and seemingly could not fail yet somehow, these two CEO's managed to accomplish just that.


Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Dec 29 00:01:51 2014

While I know I'm not a genius, I am a college graduate and fairly intelligent, and I can't even follow or understand what in the world he is saying in his 'lessons' (I didn't try to read the link). I'm not sure what they lace the coffee with at ebay but it does have some very bizarre results. So he thought it was great that JD took advice from new CEO's? I'd like to know how those CEO's and their companies are doing in comparison to ebay after these visits?

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Mon Dec 29 00:11:06 2014

Another self-serving load of delusional tosh; Pluhowski must be looking for a new job, and expecting good references from Johnny Ho. But what I love most of all is all the other job seekers that crawl out of the woodwork and offer comment on such articles—the sound of all the sucking is quite nauseating …

The fact is, during Johnny Ho’s tenure, compared to Amazon’d performance, the eBay marketplace has been going steadily backwards. It simply amazes me how such PR types can be so disingenuous; or do they actually believe their own nonsensical spiel, who knows? …

Now, everyone here, you should join LinkedIn and let this “Johnny” know what you think of the job that Johnny Ho has done at eBay; there is no comment moderation on LinkedIn, you can tell this Johnny what you really think of him and eBay …

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Mon Dec 29 00:26:19 2014

His comment section is great for losing weight.

When I read it, I threw up in my mouth a little.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: ConnecticutGal This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 00:50:27 2014

What a self-absorbed, immature dolt this guy is.  Clearly pushed out of his prior position and probably being pushed out of eBay, too.  

To be proud of not issuing a press release on a strategic change in the company's direction, something that is of consequence to the business and requires an SEC filing, is tantamount to incompetence, if not fraud.

No wonder this company has gone so astray.  The CEO set this loosely-goosed policy of no consequences for abysmal failure internally.    Which encouraged even more thought processes which damaged the company.  There is a huge difference between a paternalistic company that allows staff to brainstorm but act only on sensible ideas and one that hides failure internally after acting on faulty tactics.  I ''grew up'' in a paternalistic company where we were encouraged to go out on a limb to champion a novel idea but we certainly had to support the idea with good data, market research and buy in from the executive committee internally as well as our customers.  That company became the largest in its industry due to this strategic forward thinking.  But we only took calculated risks and not risks for the sake of change or to be the first to circumvent SEC regulations by not issuing a press release about a change in strategic policy and hence the business.  

No wonder Mr. Icahn felt he could come in and make his changes.  He had a bunch of people at eBay primping every time they passed a mirror rather than acting as a cohesive, mature management team.  

I usually don't react so negatively to someone's introspection but this guy's essay was nothing but a vain, self-congratulatory note to self.  Clearly he is hoping a headhunter will put him in front of another company--soon.  

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Mon Dec 29 00:52:12 2014

M. Scott Peck's book ''The Road Less Traveled'' is not the same philosophy as John Pluhowski, John Donahoe and his cohorts where ''thinking days'' inevitably come up empty except for all the kiss, kiss sucking up comments. The Road Less Traveled is not the same as The Fast Bain Way to Make a Buck. By the way Robert Frost's poem was ''The Road Not Taken''.

Maybe Scott Peck's second book is more appropos - ''People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil  

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 02:03:08 2014

I read one paragraph of pusglove gushing about the experience he gleaned from his years at ebay and that was enough.  The same dense thinking of the rest of management there.  Not worth my time.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 02:31:55 2014

The guy is totally clueless.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 02:50:53 2014

Heh - he's still writing gushy press releases for ebay, even though he's off the payroll.  

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: Cloud This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 03:53:20 2014

Another clueless eBay executive with his head up his ass.  

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: victorypending This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 05:23:47 2014

When an Amazon parcel turns up in the office they cannot take on board what is happening. ebay staff buying from amazon now that tells you something.Reading this chap's passing letter makes my skin crawl,however if we read between the lines is he trying say  there is worse to come.  

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 07:07:01 2014

Using the words Ebay and learning in the same sentence is funny.

Like all airhead CEO's etc they only speak with a forked tongue and tell you only what YOU WANT TO HEAR.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Dec 29 07:29:59 2014

Oh goody, another LinkedIn essay written by another self-absorbed, disconnected, pat-my-own back self-entitled eBay suit.  There are lots of very important people in the world, aren't there?

I think everyone in the above posts have summed it up brilliantly, using words like delusional, clueless, self-absorbed, etc.

And as for "He also talked about eBay CEO John Donahoe and how he visited other CEOs - "from mature industry leaders to young startup founders - to gain valuable insights that influenced his own strategic thinking".......well, had John actually done this with his customer eBay might not be in the big hot mess that it is in. And the fact that he had to visit these industry "leaders" at all clearly shows that he was not ready to lead this company.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: rhawk This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 07:43:22 2014

absolute drivel.....

absolutely unintelligible, posturing,drivel.

Just more proof that these guys have no business being involved with ecommerce.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Mon Dec 29 08:17:21 2014

The first 2 paragraphs says it all about his fit with eBay.
"That’s when I got the call. A recruiter contacted me about a position at eBay: VP of corporate communications. I was beyond flattered. " That's code for "I saw AIG corkscrewing in, I floated my resume to a headhunter - and whadda ya know - I had a nibble".

Flattery will get you nowhere - and how many recruits was eBay looking at the time? The only thing I ever looked in a new job was, in no particular order: better salary, better working conditions, going to a newer technology, anywhere-but-here since I made a mistake.

Until the expose books come out in another 10-15  years or so, all us peons will get is pablum and sugar coated descriptions of corporate life.

Now if I was really cynical, I'd say he was just a liar as the rest of the bunch & made a good fit job wise.

Perminate Link for Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned   Former Head of eBay PR Shares Lessons Learned

by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 08:22:28 2014

Amazing. Like most of you, I clicked this story hoping for some dirt-dishing from the inside... some explanation of what they were thinking as to why eBay went so wrong.

What I found was an explanation indeed... What everyone else here has said about the self-absorbed and delusional thinking and pure hubris without any research or real experience.

I liked what @bitbybit said about the M. Scott Peck books, and it's true.  In the second book mentioned ("People of the Lie"), Peck defined 'evil' as a particular form of narcissism.  Just the kind exhibited by JD and his corporate clones.

bitbybit

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by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 29 09:25:18 2014

This guy must have been on a thinking day trip with JD when this was written.  

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