Last time, on ‘Doing God’s Work’. A global investment bank – let’s call them Goldman Sachs – breaks the silence of decades and has some of their senior executives interviewed, for a feature piece, by a medium with global reach – let’s call it The Sunday Times (of London). In the course of the interview, we discover that one of the senior executives likes big boats, that all their employees are being paid obscene amounts of money (nothing wrong with that, mind) and that the ultimate boss – let’s call him Lloyd Blankfein – believes he’s ‘doing God’s work’.
The whole thing raised few issues for me. On the one hand, I was impressed that their Corporate Communications head – let’s call him Lucas van Praag – had managed to get the notoriously secretive bank to ‘go public’ (if you like). I think I understood what they were up to – the threat of governments poking their legislative noses into the affairs of the world’s money-machines needed (needs?) to be averted, so what better than to open yourself to the media and demonstrate that, behind the hype and the rumour, you’re simply a business, under the same pressures as other businesses, trying to turn an honest dollar.
On the other hand, I think they (the Corporate Communications advisors) dropped a clanger. Unfortunately – so I thought – this big financial institution didn’t come off terribly well. The big boss wasn’t terribly likeable (and who cares what he’s really like – if he’s going to do media, he needs to pretend that he’s, at the least, human), quotations from employees simply reinforced the preconceptions and, frankly, no-one needs to know that they like big boats. I think we probably assumed that, anyway.
And then the ‘doing God’s work’ quotation. Well, I assumed (and when we assume, we make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’) (now I feel ill) that this was a joke that fell flat. A throwaway comment, made by a man with not too many social skills. However, this piece, from London’s Evening Standard, tells me otherwise. (Here’s another article, again from the Standard, which showed how they tried to spin it. Oooops.)
And so to today’s lesson, dear blog snorkellers. If you are a corporate communicator, and you are parading your top bods in front of the media, make sure that they are a) trained b) on-message and c) understand that this is not the time for off-the-cuffs. If you cannot tick the boxes against these three points, then do not proceed.
As Goldman Sachs has proved – a bad result is worse than no result at all, and, in their case, may have the opposite effect to the one they were (probably) looking for. Their performance has simply given the world’s media an interest in, and an excuse for, forensically examining everything they do. And guess what? There’s lots to write about.