A strange thing happens when you call the number for the Humane Society of the United States: Instead of being connected with an operator, you get to hear an automated message from its president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle. Is this good marketing, or just plain weird? Here’s the message:
We called the top 10 charities in the US and none of them has a personalized message from its CEO. But what makes Pacelle’s message less than innocuous requires some context regarding his other actions. It just always seems to be about him, in short.
For starters, HSUS sent Pacelle—or Pacelle sent himself, really—on a 100-city, 18-month book tour in 2011 and 2012. As far as we can see, his book did all right the first two weeks of its release, making a bestseller list. But by the end of his tour, his Amazon sales rank was #140,418. Now, it’s plummeted even further, to #383,297. Originally, the tour was just a handful of cities, and that would seem reasonable. But expanding it to 100 cities, including a trip to India, seems a bit much. And then there’s the fact that Pacelle has appeared Sally Struthers-style in HSUS TV ads.
Moreover, this year, HSUS is hosting galas in three cities to, in part, celebrate Pacelle’s 10-year stint as CEO. In other words, it’s donor money throwing a party for him.
Heck, Pacelle’s blog for HSUS claims that “Few are in a position to speak for the animals like Wayne Pacelle.” Yet Pacelle is not a veterinarian or animal science expert. In fact, he’s made downright anti-animal statements. Pacelle has written, “I don’t love animals or think they are cute.” And when asked by an interviewer if he would “envision a future with no pets,” Pacelle replied, “If I had my personal view perhaps that might take hold. In fact, I don’t want to see another cat or dog born.”
Well, he’s certainly had a nice makeover—and access to millions of donor dollars hasn’t hurt.
Americans generally have reacted negatively to corporate CEOs who get “golden parachutes” or what appears to be excessive pay. And similarly, we wouldn’t expect people to appreciate narcissism from the executive of a charity. At what point does it stop becoming about helping animals, and start becoming about helping Wayne Pacelle’s personal brand?
For the HSUS employees who read this blog (and there are many, judging from our analytics), here’s a quick quiz you can take from CNN.com. It’s called “Is Your Boss a Psychopath?” and the first question hits the mark.