When Elon Musk announced last month that he had hired Linda Yaccarino as CEO of Twitter, saying he was “excited” to bring in someone who could “focus primarily on business operations.”
But just over three weeks into her new job, Ms. Yaccarino, a former publicity director for NBCUniversal, was prevented from working on a key component of what she was hired to do: driving publicity for Twitter.
Ms Yaccarino, 60, has spoken to some of Twitter’s advertisers about objectionable content on the site, four people with knowledge of the conversations said. But she hasn’t engaged in public coding or hands-on negotiation with advertisers to boost Twitter’s revenue.
That’s because a contractual agreement with NBCUniversal prevented Yaccarino, at least initially, from working on advertising deals that would conflict with his former employer’s interests, three people familiar with the deal said.
It’s all part of an adjustment as Ms. Yaccarino adjusts to her new role and reports to a new boss. After working for decades for traditional media organizations in New York, she now helps run a San Francisco-based social media company that has seen rapid change under Musk, who bought Twitter last year.
Restricted from negotiating advertising deals, Ms. Yaccarino has mended at least one relationship, between Twitter and Google; she talked to regulators; and focused on employee morale. She has held happy hours and tried to bring workers together with mission statements and more internal communication.
“Twitter is on a mission to become the world’s most accurate source of real-time information and a global public square for communication,” he wrote this month in his first company-wide email, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We are on the precipice of making history.”
Twitter did not make Ms. Yaccarino, a longtime Madison Avenue powerhouse player, available for an interview. One person close to her said the non-compete clause was extended only for her first few weeks on Twitter, while another said it was difficult for NBCUniversal to enforce. The expiration date of the clause was not clear.
Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Yaccarino began as CEO of Twitter on June 5. Two days earlier, she the Long Island native and longtime New Yorker tweeted a photo of the Manhattan skyline with the caption: “Bay Area views coming soon!” It took at least one NBCUniversal colleague to Twitter.
Musk had not made a company-wide announcement about hiring Yaccarino on Twitter, three employees said. Instead, in an email to the company’s sales team before Ms. Yaccarino started, her appointment was the second bullet point below an update on a new feature for advertisers.
Ms Yaccarino quickly struck an upbeat note on Twitter.
In an internal ad sales meeting on June 12, he addressed the state of Twitter advertising. Mr. Musk had removed the railings on the site, allowing misinformation and toxic content to flourish and discouraging brands from advertising. The company’s US advertising revenue has fallen nearly 60 percent, and Musk has said he expects revenue this year to be around $3 billion, down from $5.1 billion. million in 2021.
Ms Yaccarino acknowledged that some “big brands” had stayed away from the platform, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Times, and said she and other sales employees would have to engage in “hand-to-hand combat.” to persuade them to return. She did not mention her inability at the time to discuss advertising deals with clients.
Ms Yaccarino also said she would take a different position on Musk’s difficult relationship with the media. His strategy, she said, is “to have very good relationships with them so that they become our advocates or spokespersons to amplify our strategies.”
But Ms. Yaccarino also made it clear that she knew who was in charge. She referred to Mr. Musk, who was not present, as “the boss.”
Two days later, Yaccarino met with Twitter’s investors and lenders in San Francisco along with Musk, a person familiar with the meeting said. Together, they laid out their plans for the company to focus more on video, work with influencers and news publishers, and integrate payment capabilities. Reuters previously reported on the presentation.
While Ms. Yaccarino’s non-compete clause with NBC kept her out of major advertising discussions, she kept busy.
David Cohen, chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group, said he had emailed Yaccarino and that she had been on “sort of a fact-finding tour.” She is tapping into her relationships in the ad industry to discern where Twitter stands on issues like how to keep ads away from objectionable content, she said, adding: “It’s definitely listening.”
Yet when Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest ad agencies, held a conference in Paris on June 16, its president interviewed Musk without Yaccarino, who was in San Francisco. During the trip, Mr. Musk also lunch with Bernard Arnaultthe founder of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury company and a major advertiser.
Ms Yaccarino also failed to appear last week at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, a glittering networking event on the French Riviera that is often considered the pinnacle of the advertising industry’s calendar. Twitter significantly reduced its spending and presence there compared to previous years.
Still, Ms. Yaccarino tweeted who was soliciting feedback from Cannes attendees. “I am here for EVERYTHING!” she wrote.
He had stayed in San Francisco at the Twitter headquarters, where he received a delegation from the European Union led by Commissioner Thierry Breton. The group was testing whether Twitter’s content moderation systems would comply with a new European law, the Digital Services Law, which makes social platforms responsible for policing illegal content and misinformation. It goes into effect in August.
Ms Yaccarino has made progress in a few areas, including helping to repair Twitter’s relationship with Google. That relationship fell apart under Musk when Twitter partially stopped paying Google for cloud computing services. Twitter owed Google more than $42 million in unpaid bills and was trying to stop using Google products by the end of June, according to an internal memo obtained by The Times.
Ms Yaccarino spoke with Thomas Kurian, the head of Google Cloud, this month to resolve the issue and ordered the bill to be paid, a person familiar with the conversation said. She also persuaded Musk to go along with the new developments, the person said.
Google declined to comment. Bloomberg News reported before Twitter had paid Google again.
Ms. Yaccarino has also tried to reach out more to Twitter’s workforce, which has shrunk by more than 75 percent due to layoffs and other departures since Mr. Musk bought the company. Twitter framed a copy of one of his motivational tweets about “wearing 4-inch heels” while working as an executive and posted it in a communal dining room in the San Francisco office. He has also held happy hours there and in New York, four current and former employees said.
And he has been relentlessly optimistic in his conversations, two of those people said. In her meeting with the sales team this month, Ms Yaccarino said Twitter had an “opportunity that comes from being challenged in recent months.”
“It points me in the right directions,” he said. “I know what it’s going to take.”