Wall Street and Main Street may not realize it, but this has been a very difficult week at Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC). The company's reputation among partners -- the people who drive Symantec's revenue -- has taken a hit because of statements attributed to Symantec COO Enrique Salem.
The more Symantec says about the situation, the more Salem's own words are being used against him by ChannelWeb, the media site that broke the story. Basically, ChannelWeb's coverage shows Salem emphasizing direct sales efforts to Wall Street analysts. Read between the lines, and some folks may believe that Salem is de-emphasizing partner-related sales. But in another set of statements, Salem assures partners that Symantec's partner program remains intact.
Why should investors care? In the technology market, you can't hype your direct sales force and your partner network because they often compete and/or conflict with one another. If you wind up alienating partners, they are less inclined to push your products and services.Each time Salem opens his mouth — or types an email — to do some damage control, his words are now being used against him by ChannelWeb.
It's like quicksand: The more you move, the faster you sink. So stop moving those fingers on the keyboard, Salem, and don't push "send" to anyone.
Instead, set up a hotline to answer partner inquiries. And set up a Symantec advisory council — made up of partners — who can raise any concerns directly to Symantec. Even if such a council already exists, hype the council right now. And assure partners that they have a direct line to Symantec.
Hold Web conferences with concerned partners. Invite ChannelWeb (heck, perhaps even me) to listen in. (Assuming partners are willing to have media on the line.)
Basically, open your doors to the media during a painful time — so that skeptics see you have completely open communications and you've got one set of messages for both Wall Street and technology partners.
In the meantime, the more Symantec says about the situation the more ChannelWeb reacts with coverage of the controversy, which means it's time for a new PR strategy.