'How is it that Australia could see she wasn’t crisis ready, but the board missed it?’: PR crisis experts weigh in on Bayer Rosmarin’s Optus exit

This article was originally published in Mumbrella.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin followed inexcusable inaction with a defensive Senate appearance, then a swift resignation on Monday.

It’s been quite a month for Optus – less than a fortnight after the country was left reeling from the largest infrastructure failure in our country’s history (aside from Olympic Park station) the telco now finds itself in reparation mode, chief-less and with its next-most public leader currently fighting to clear her name of corruption charges.

As we do when a massive Australian company (at least on the surface of things) stutters and splutters, we ask the PR crisis experts for their reactions. Was Bayer Rosmarin’s resignation the correct move? Who should Optus put in the top spot next? Does it even matter who they choose? Let’s find out, shall we?

Benjamin Haslem, Director of Media and Public Affairs, Icon Reputation

Bayer Rosmarin’s resignation provides Optus with an opportunity for a reset and attempt to regain consumer trust.

Stopping the bleeding from a major crisis often requires someone to take the fall – the more senior and the quicker the better. The cumulative effect of last September’s cyber breach, this total outage of the system, and the CEO’s ham-fisted media responses to both, made her position untenable.

Given the complete organisational failure of Optus during the recent outage, parent company Singtel should look for a replacement from outside the company – QANTAS was criticised recently for replacing its CEO Alan Joyce with its CFO, Vanessa Hudson.

Optus needs a highly credentialed telco executive to fill the role. It will be tempting to bring in someone from overseas, who can be positioned as bringing fresh ideas and a new set of eyes. However, the Australian telecommunications market is unusual, with a relatively small customer base and unique challenges posed by a widely dispersed population.

Optus executive and former NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has been cited as a replacement for Bayer Rosmarin but a finding of corruption by the ICAC (she is appealing the decision) and a lack of telco and corporate management experience should rule her out.

Whoever gets the gig will need to move fast. Optus customers can easily switch telephone and internet providers, so the new CEO needs to convince them to stay.

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