Some advice for Goldman Sachs, Department of Public Relations


In April 2010, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone writer, referred to the investment bank, G—— S— as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

A full two years prior, the investment bank G—— S—, launched a five-year $100 million campaign to educate and support women who run small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging economies by providing them with management and business training.

Who is this mystery investment bank? Give up?

Tell me something: why weren’t Goldman Sachs spin-men calling up, stalking, harassing, tweet-bombing, kidnapping and just short of water boarding every financial journalist within reach to promote THIS STORY?

Public relations is a funny thing. P.R. professionals might deny or out-spin what I’m about to say about this, and I will readily admit that as someone who came to the P.R. field a bit “later” in life (because I’ve always been an old soul, really), I don’t have the timeless wisdom that comes with several years of scar-collecting on the same battlefield; but I do have the benefit of bringing fresh eyes to the practice, undistorted by the hand-me-down maxims that permeate any profession.

I remember when Goldman first announced that they were starting this 10,000 women program and I remember thinking to myself at the time that it was a very smart idea. For those who carry through life constantly skeptical, I share that sentiment, but from a strictly public relations standpoint, the program, at least as I perceived it at the outset, sounded brilliant.

And it should go with out saying that perception beats truth, 10 times out of 10.

During the years since, as the economy unraveled and Goldman maneuvered itself to survival, I always wondered what ever happened to that 10,000 women story. Now, it could be that there were stories out about it and it never crossed my radar again until now, but I like to think I’m a pretty plugged in and aware type of guy. And I haven’t heard a peep about it until yesterday.

I can only imagine that Goldman’s PR people have been up to their ears in damage control 24/7/365, and perhaps, if I’m a Goldman PR spinner intent on being straightforward about things, maybe I wasn’t going to push that story until there was an actual bona fide “story” to push. But if I’m a Goldman PR spinner intent on being straightforward about things, then Lord knows the boundaries of my forthrightness have already been transgressed many times over. So why not try to shift gears and show off a bit of corporate social responsibility?

The bottom line is that at some point, someone should have taken this philanthropy thing and flogged it like it was their dying breath. There are people of course who would never have bought it no matter what the context, no matter who the messenger, no matter what the message, but as Abe Lincoln famously said, you can’t fool all the people all of the time.

Instead, Goldman’s PR folks have tried to argue with facts, or about facts, or in reference to facts. And now, for better or for worse, Goldman remains the poster child for everything that is still wrong with the global financial system. And while an update of what’s happening with these 10,000 women in their fourth year of the five year program is certainly welcome, it’s kind of too-little-too-late. I read this article and all I wanted to know was, given what a success it seems to have been, how much extra money Goldman was planning on allocating for the next five years.

And this leads me to my final piece of advice…any entertainment journalist worth his or her salt will tell you that when interviewing a movie star, musician, artist or anyone creative, always ALWAYS make sure to ask:

What’s next?

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