TikTok CEO coached by ex-Obama and Disney advisers, went viral in Congress, gained 16,000% new followers

TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, hired former advisers to Barack Obama and Disney to coach their CEO, Shou Zi Chew, for over a month before his Congress hearing. Zenia Mucha, the former head of Disney’s communications, and David Plouffe, who worked on Obama’s presidential campaigns, were hired as consultants to help TikTok through its legal fights against the Biden administration’s attempts to outlaw the app due to national security concerns.

According to Reuters, Chew, who was relatively unknown before the hearing, had fewer than 19,000 followers on TikTok. However, his viral performance during the hearing, which was widely shared on social media, helped him gain a massive following in just eight days. Chew has around 3 million followers on the app – a staggering increase of nearly 16,000%.

The coaching from the former Obama and Disney advisers reportedly played a crucial role in Chew’s successful performance. They helped him prepare for the hearing by providing insights on effective communication, media management, and political strategy. Their coaching and Chew’s abilities proved to be a winning combination that helped TikTok gain more supporters and strengthen its position in its ongoing legal battle.

Shou Zi Chew posted an informal introduction on TikTok

Although some analysts were critical of Shou Zi Chew’s testimony during the congressional hearing, with one describing it as a “disaster moment” for TikTok, many app users seemed to support him as he gained millions of new followers. Several commenters lauded his response to Rep. Richard Hudson, who asked a question that seemed to betray a lack of understanding about technology: “does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi network?” Chew’s response drew mockery from the app’s users for its apparent ignorance, and many saw it as evidence of the need for greater technological literacy among lawmakers.

TikTok CEO coached by ex-Obama and Disney advisers, went viral in Congress, gained 16,000% new followers
Credits: Business Insider India

A spokesperson for TikTok told insider, “It seems clear that much of America did not experience the hearing the same way many political insiders and reporters did. Shou came prepared to answer questions about national security, data privacy, and the safety of teens who use our service, but instead was met with interruptions and yes/no questions as he tried to set the record straight.”

Just two days before the congressional hearing, Shou Zi Chew posted an informal introduction on TikTok, where he appeared in a hoodie and jeans. This post has gained 4.7 million likes, which some experts say was a clever PR strategy.

The app has been banned in many countries

Crystal Abidin, a professor of internet studies at Curtin University, believes that TikTok’s decision to bring on board veteran strategists may have played a role in this tactic. The aim was to present Chew as a relatable and approachable figure, helping to build trust among users and lawmakers alike.

Given that TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, concerns have been raised around the world about the potential for user data to be accessed by China’s government or intelligence services. The appointment of these veteran strategists was likely part of TikTok’s broader efforts to address these concerns and improve its image among regulators and users.

TikTok has launched “Project Texas” in the US and “Project Clover” in Europe to convince politicians that user data is safe. The company has reportedly spent billions of dollars on new data centres to ensure that user data is not subject to Chinese laws.

A spokesperson for TikTok has previously expressed the belief that the bans on the app in some countries “have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics.” However, TikTok’s decision to launch these projects and invest in new data centres suggests that the company is addressing these concerns and building trust among regulators and users alike.