Mark Penn, the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, will likely never work in politics again. He's in hot water over his advice to Hillary Clinton. A series of memos obtained by The Atlantic show Penn offering Clinton unsavory advice. (For example: highlighting Barack Obama's childhood abroad as a way of suggesting he was too foreign to be president.) But the fallen flack has a promising career as consigliere to tech CEOs, based on his advice to Bill Gates: "Being human is overrated."
Penn repeated the same advice to Clinton, telling her not to worry about being perceived as "warm" or "nice." Gates's image didn't shift until he actually changed from being a hard-driving capitalist to saving the world.
We think Penn's next client should be Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Hiring the likes of Penn is perhaps the only job Facebook's new flack, the D.C.-connected but tech-clueless Elliot Schrage is qualified for — so get cracking, Elliot!) After Zuckerberg's disastrous interview with Sarah Lacy at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas this March, I was told Lacy's manner — which struck some audience members as overly familiar — was an attempt to make Zuckerberg, who's robotically stiff on stage, seem more human. In person, Zuckerberg's quite engaging; he needs stage training, not an extra dose of "humanity." Penn seems brash enough to tell him as much. Mark, meet Mark — I think you two need each other right now.