Monday, April 19, 2010

PR News Blog: Oh My! Goldman Sachs Uses ‘Public Relations Officers’ to Help Manage the Crisis

Public Relations has come a long way, but once again it’s been shorted by those who don’t understand the value of this discipline. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read or hear about a situation (global or local) that is just a “PR ploy” or “PR maneuver.” It’s as if “public relations” is a naughty 2-word phrase that hides the ugly truth about something.

The recent news about the SEC charges of fraud against Goldman Sachs has led to some public posturing from the investment firm and accusations from analysts and commentators that the company is rolling out a PR strategy to defend against the charges. Don’t you shudder at the thought of a company in crisis using PR tactics? How crazy is that? Of course, it’s referred to in a negative light – as if PR is the tactic deployed from the playbook of lies and deceit. I am not going to comment on the unfolding Goldman Sachs investigation, but it is interesting to watch it unfold in the media.

On CNBC’s Street Signs show on Sunday, a principal at R&R Consulting – Sylvain Raynes – accused host Jim Cramer of only having “public relations officers for Goldman” on his show. Insinuating that Cramer and others on the show were associated with Goldman Sachs and therefore biased in favor of the firm, host Erin Burnett warned Raynes to stop insulting the hosts, took a commercial break and told the viewing audience (assured them?) that Raynes would not be back after the break. The episode is a case study in poor hosting and the dearth of media training by spokespeople and purported experts.

Raynes, a mathemetician who holds a PhD in aeronautical engineering, could use a few pointers on how to get his message across without insulting the messengers. And host Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer, by taking his barbs personally, set back the notion that the media is objective and open to all lines of thought.

But back to the criticism that Goldman is fielding its “public relations officers” during this latest crisis. What they’re doing is not a bad thing. It’s Crisis Management 101. Regardless of how the investigation pans out, the role of the Public Relations Officer doesn’t change – to manage the organization’s reputation and communicate the right messages at the right time.

Diane Schwartz
PR News Blog

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