Ambush at Davos


Something ugly happened at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that flew largely under the radar. If you missed it, I have the video. But if you are a PR pro or a CEO, I’m not responsible for the nightmares it may provoke.

I’m talking about the moment (actually, the three full minutes) when Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was mercilessly accosted by a pair of trolls with stick mics.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s activists who pose as journalists (including those with jobs at Fox and CNN). They don’t play by the rules. Their function is theatre as opposed to inquiry. And they give legit reporters a black eye.

The best way to react to these street performance artists is to do exactly what Bourla did. Treat them as you would a drunken panhandler; sidestep, ignore, keep walking. Whether the activists’ claims were valid or bogus, granting a spontaneous interview would have been disastrous for Bourla (even more so than the image of a CEO awkwardly dodging questions as he walks down the street, which could make Dolly Parton look guilty).

A colleague who sent me this clip wondered where Bourla’s comms team was. Good question. On the other hand, a PR pro’s instincts could easily have led to a confrontation which would only make the viral video more visual and dramatic.

I have a question of my own: Why didn’t he just drive?

Mark Bernheimer

Mark Bernheimer is a former CNN correspondent and the founder of MediaWorks Resource Group, an internationally renowned media training and consulting firm.