Top of the Month: Uber's new CEO takes control of the steering wheel

Uber's new chief executive this month skilfully distanced himself from his predecessor and the brand's past modus operandi; a smart move for a company looking to convert innovation and huge popularity into a viable business.

The news that the ride-hailing app had 57 million users' data hacked last year, but never admitted it publicly, was not great on the face of it. For many people the breach, and to a greater extent the apparent cover-up, will have reinforced the views of Uber's detractors.

And yet CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took up his role in the summer, steered the story astutely.

A near 500-word blog post from the boss began by saying that Uber must be "honest and transparent as we work to repair our past mistakes", and highlighted that he had only "recently" learned of the late-2016 breach.

It then listed several actions, including seeking the advice of a security expert, that Khosrowshahi had taken in response to the news. He concluded: "None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it. While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes. We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers."

Predecessor 'thrown under the bus'

Adam Leigh, strategy director at W Communications, told PRWeek that Khosrowshahi's apology and action plan "deftly draws a line under the incident – while squarely throwing his predecessor [Travis Kalanick] under the limo".

"'This may have happened under the other guy,' he's saying, 'but not me'," Leigh added.

Kalanick, the founder of Uber, resigned in June following shareholder pressure over a variety of controversies including sexual harassment, and a video of an animated row with an Uber driver.

CCgroup head of enterprise tech Will Gardiner also praised Khosrowshahi, saying his "transparency and conciliatory tone have turned the inherently negative news cycle into an opportunity to reinforce the message of how Uber intends to do business in the future".

The CEO was also praised by PR pros in September for his handling of the situation after Transport for London decided not to renew Uber's private hire licence to operate in the capital.

The company's awareness of its need to improve its practices and perception was also demonstrated this month by comments from its chief brand officer and the unveiling of a new set of corporate values.

PRWeek revealed this week that Uber hired a public affairs and CSR practitioner earlier this month to revamp its relations with its drivers.

Its adversary in London, the black cabs body the LTDA, was PRWeek's Top of the Month for September.

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