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Tough Calls - AT&T and the Hard Lessons Learned from the Telecom Wars Hardcover – 1 Nov 2004


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About the Author

Martin worked at AT&T for more than 30 years, retiring in 2003 as Executive Vice President of Public Relations and Chairman of the AT&T Foundation.

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Mike Armstrong boarded an AT&T corporate jet for the first time on Sunday, October 19, 1997. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 17 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Close to Worthless 30 Dec 2005
By Alberto Dominguez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The back cover says that this book is "an up-front seat for the roller coaster ride" and a "look at how a great company tumbled" that will give us a "tour of AT&T's wild ride" and "chart the dissolution of an American icon." Not one of those comments is even remotely warranted.

I was expecting to find interesting insider discussions of important questions like:
* Did AT&T make any mistakes during the "trivestiture" in January 1996 (akin to giving away the wireless licenses to the RBOCs in the 1984 breakup)? Martin doesn't say, beyond talking about the PR fallout of the layoffs, which right off the bat were themselves only a side issue of the broader business strategy.
* Was pursuing cable the right strategy for Armstrong to implement? Probably, but Martin doesn't weigh in on this.
* Did AT&T overpay for MediaOne? Of course, but again Martin is silent.
* Did AT&T further compound its cable problem by putting poor executives (first Hindery and then Somers) in charge of broadband? Not a peep.
* How should AT&T have handled the $2 billion @Home acquisition? Silence.
* Were all these problems unavoidable due to AT&T's pre-1996 succession planning problems? The only aspect of this question that Martin bothers to discuss is the PR fiasco surrounding Walter's departure. As if that were the most important aspect. He strikes me as having an exaggerated sense of his importance to the organization.

AT&T was a corporate icon for 130 years and had 4 million stockholders. Surely there were "hard lessons learned" as the subtitle claims, lessons that are valuable in the broader context of the modern corporation. However, from reading this book you would get the impression that AT&T's only mistakes were in communications. Martin gives us an incredibly myopic view of just the PR efforts related to AT&T's various missteps. Outside the PR business, who cares? Nobody! This could (indeed should) have been the business book with the broadest appeal in a decade. Instead we got a book that only PR people could stomach. It was so monumentally boring it literally put me to sleep. I bought this book to read about AT&T; if I cared about Martin's actions I would have bought his biography instead.

Despite naming the first chapter "Don't dance to the music of your own buzz" it seems that Martin has done exactly that. His book is the ultimate example of form over substance, confusing the important business questions facing AT&T with the buzz surrounding him and the communication of the answers to those questions. Whether the answers were the right ones or not, Martin is unwilling (or unable) to say. If this book is an example of the caliber of executive thinking at the level of Executive Vice President at AT&T no wonder the company sank so far so fast.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Tedious, at Best 6 Feb 2006
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Dick Martin had an excellent position inside AT&T with which to report on the "perfect storm" of technological change, intensifying competition, and government intervention (both by Congress and the courts). At the same time, the industry was melting away with the advent of cellular, its biggest competitor (MCI WorldCom) felt free to slash prices because it was making up its financial results as it went along (forcing AT&T to lose about $5 billion in revenues/year), and AT&T was seeming going in circles - diversifying (eg. into cable) - then returning to its roots, promoting new outside leadership (eg. Walters, from a printing firm) - then firing, opposing Baby Bell entry into its long-distance - then supporting (with conditions), etc.

Unfortunately, Martin does not provide a structured summary of these events - instead he remains mired in the details of P.R. actions and responses associated with them - a topic of little interest or importance.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great insights on AT&T and the practice of PR 9 Nov 2004
By Scribe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Dick Martin pulls no punches in his review of AT&T and the PR efforts he led while head of the company's communications team. His insights come from his PR leadership during some of AT&T's most tumultuous times. The inner thinkings of CEOs, CFOs and more are on display as the company tackles increasing challenges in the marketplace. Martin appears most insightful when he shines the spotlight equally bright on the company's PR efforts he led -- what went right, what could have gone better, and what went wrong. A good read for those interested in corporate leadership and the communications that often accompany it.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Honest Words about Ma Bell's Makeover 9 Nov 2004
By James T. Mahoney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have known Dick Martin for many years, but personally and not professionally. The topic of this book was of immediate interest for two reasons: I know many persons in the telecom industry who no longer have jobs; and I know many persons whose retirement funds and savings have been hurt as a result of their declining telecom shares.

I found this book to be honest, insightful, and of tremendous value to any organization seeking to accept to the whitewater environment of our society today. Dick minced no words about failures, erroneous judgment calls, or the strengths and weaknesses of the various leaders. He also gave perspective that filled in the blanks of the public perception of AT&T's moves and developments over the years. He connected the dots brilliantly to show the powerful impact that the criminal behavior of WorldCom had on AT&T. Due to WorldCom's crimes (publicly acknowledged) AT&T was forced to make decisions believing that the numbers reported by WorldCom were accurate when they were, in fact, fabrications. How sad for everyone.

The style is sparking and clear, which is not surprising since it is written by Dick. Read this book if you are interested in what has happened to the telecom industry or how to have your organization avoid some of the pitfalls that waylaid many of the dreams of AT&T. It is so refreshing to read a "no spin" book where honesty is transparent to all on every page.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The inside story from a true insider 20 Nov 2004
By S. Jederlinic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Tough Calls: AT&T and the Hard Lessons Learned from the Telecom Wars" is a no-holds-barred look behind the scenes at AT&T's executive offices as the company weathered the turbulent telecom marketplace over the last 20+ years. Martin's compelling writing covers the rise and fall of the company's top executives; the discussions and events that shaped the company's strategy; the things that worked and those that failed miserably. With remarkable candor, Martin assesses the company's strengths and, all too often, weaknesses, and applies that candor to his own performance as head of AT&T Public Relations. It's must reading for current and would-be PR practitioners, but also for anyone who wants a peak beneath the kimono of an American corporate icon.
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