Consequences follow, any time you are "the "first . . . "
Often, when a person is a first, they become symbolic.
This means they now represent a milestone some aspire to, or one others fear or revile.
In the case of Apple CEO Tim Cook, four years ago, he became the first CEO of a major company to come out as gay.
That placed a target on his back, while laying expectations on his shoulders.
Speaking to CNN, Cook said he welcomes that distinction and the expectations that go with it. "I'm very proud of it . . . Being gay is God's greatest gift to me."
Knowing that comment would surely ruffle some feathers, Cook pressed on, explaining the impact he felt his coming out had on kids who were encouraged by his stance.
Cook talked about his time before coming out, reading stories about kids who said they had been "ostracized, bullied, and abused," who struggled and were hurting. When he came out, Cook says he started receiving e-mails from some of these youh. Now, the top executive at one of the largest companies in the world he had the chance to make a personal difference in the lives of individual children. He told CNN, "I needed to do something for them . . . to demonstrate that you can be gay and still go on and do some big jobs in life . . . "
When he made the decision to come out, though, Cook was unaware of the deeper consequences, unaware that he would be breaking new ground as the first gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Since then, others have followed his lead. However, Cook has said that wasn’t his goal.
"I learned what it was like to be a minority . . . The feeling of being in a minority gives you a level of empathy for other people who are not in the majority." Cook added, and a pretty thick skin.
In the end, for Tim Cook, his personal revelation to the world had tremendous positive consequences for those he inspired. It didn’t hurt his company.
When taking a wider view though, there’s a lesson here serving as an eexcellent reminder.
When you step out and say or do something, especially something personal, but you do it representing your company, there can be – and often are – unintended consequences.
There are issues. You may not be able not able to factor into what may happen in the aftermath. In Tim Cook’s case, it turned out to be a bigger deal than he expected, so he and Apple, from a public relations perspective, will always be connected with his personal revelation.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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