Last Wednesday, just one day after plans for the company to go public hit the wires, the Better.com CEO Vishal Garg shocked the world when he fired 900 employees on a Zoom call, and the apology he’s given since then has actually done little to help. In fact, it might be making the situation more harmful.
While there was little attention to the story when it was first reported, we watched how more and more publishers picked up the story as the days went by, and even highlighted in our daily newsletter this past Monday as it began to spread like wildfire. What began as a three minute Zoom call has now turned into a growing crisis for Better.com, especially the CEO and other company executives.
Here we’ll examine how this crisis has been covered by the media, the articles capturing the most public interest, and how the story continues to spread across social media channels.
Media and Public interest to articles about Better.com CEO firing employees
After the mass firings took place on Dec 1st there was hardly any media coverage of the incident, apart from one article in the Daily Beast and one in Yahoo news, both with very few engagements. This continued for a few days, staying stagnant until Dec 5th, when CNN published an article about it. The article caught on quickly, receiving 20k engagements that day and helped to drive the bulk of engagements for the entire time period.
While it may have looked like Garg was in the clear early on, it escalated into something much more problematic after news spread over the weekend.The number of articles jumped to 849 on Dec 6th resulting in over 170k engagements. CNN’s piece had 24k engagements by itself that day and it was still the biggest article on Dec 7th even though interest had slightly dipped.
By Dec 8th engagements began to drop but the narrative had also started to shift. A New York Times article about Garg apologizing for his actions was published, receiving nearly 10k engagements and is now the third biggest story overall, as shown in the chart below. The public has stayed tuned into how the story is unfolding — and it may be doing more harm than good. The New York Times’ Facebook post about the story has seen thousands of reactions. While there were over 3k angry reactions, there were also 1.4k “Hahas”, giving us some insight into how the audience perceives the apology.
It’s unclear if Garg would have apologized if the Zoom call hadn’t generated a huge amount of bad publicity, but regardless the public are far from convinced of his delayed remorse.
News about the firings spread internationally
The publisher writing about the mass firings the most is undoubtedly CNN, as their number one article has received over 51k engagements in the last few days. This is more than triple the amount of engagements of the next biggest article, coming from LADBible with 15k. CNN’s article did a lot of the heavy lifting on its own website, but it was also repurposed by local news outlets across the country like KCTV 5 and WSVN Miami.
Another CNN article that was published later in the week but has quickly gained attention is about three Better.com public relations executives who have resigned from the company since the firing. The severe public backlash from Garg’s decision has now caused more damage for the company, and so far the article has received 8.5k engagements.
Looking beyond the top tier articles, there are a few others that standout, especially because they came from international publishers. Hindi News 18 and Seehua Daily News both wrote about the scandal, together generating over 13k engagements. Of course we can’t forget to mention that CNN had a third article on the top 10 list, but this time on their Spanish language news channel. The article respectfully earned 7k engagements on its own.
How the story spread on social media channels
Media coverage of the firings initially caused the reporting to spread with lighting speed, but social media channels like YouTube and Instagram have seen hundreds of thousands of engagements to content about it, particularly once a video of the actual Zoom call was released.
Various news channels on YouTube have been reporting the story and including clips of the Zoom call where Garg is seen delivering his short speech. WION’s video with reporter Palki Sharma has received a massive 742k views. There were thousands of comments to the video as well, with a lot of people commending her for calling Garg a “bully.”
Instagram also saw its fair share of posts, mostly coming from mainstream news outlets reporting the story. BBC had the most engaged post, and instead of just discussing the Zoom call they also linked to their full story which reveals an email Garg sent to his staff last year where he calls them “a bunch of dumb dolphins.” BBC’s post has had over 166k engagements in the last three days.
The crisis with Better.com has caused several conversations to develop over the last week, especially here in the U.S. but also all over the world. Covid-19 has forced companies to adapt to new ways of working and change the way they hire and retain employees. Firing 900 employees over a Zoom call is certainly not a part of those developments, and public opinion on the matter has made that crystal clear with the reaction first to the story and then to Garg’s bungled apology.
To read more about how brands are navigating the workforce in 2021, you can read our hiring report here.