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The Art of Public Relations

Remember when I talked about how a nerd hero was able to manage his response to a humiliating article so well that he got hundreds of offers for dates?

Today we're going to look at an ineffective response to bad PR and how we could improve things.Let's look at another bad response and how we could make things better.

Last week an executive director for Goldman Sachs wrote a public resignation letter in the New York Times describing how the company only cares about taking money from clients. Needless to say this was some bad news for a investment-services firm like Goldman. The company lost $2.2 BILLION in market value because of this letter.

Goldman's response was weak:
While I expect you find the words you read today foreign from your own day-to-day experiences, we wanted to remind you what we, as a firm – individually and collectively – think about Goldman Sachs and our client-driven culture.
First, 85 per cent of the firm responded to our recent People Survey, which provides the most detailed and comprehensive review to determine how our people feel about Goldman Sachs and the work they do.
And, what do our people think about how we interact with our clients? Across the firm at all levels, 89 per cent of you said that that the firm provides exceptional service to them. For the group of nearly 12,000 vice presidents, of which the author of today’s commentary was, that number was similarly high. 
Anyone who feels otherwise has available to him or her a mechanism for anonymously expressing their concerns. We are not aware that the writer of the opinion piece expressed misgivings through this avenue, however, if an individual expresses issues, we examine them carefully and we will be doing so in this case.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective would you rate this communcation?

Notice that this People Survey only asks employees about how client-centered they are. Do you think current employees would have any incentive to bad talk their current employer? How persuasive is this message considering its source?

Let's pretend we're the chefs at Goldman Sachs and we want to make a tastier PR sandwich.
For bread, we ask 1,000 of our clients to answer a survey about how satisfied they are with their advisor, not the company. People respond much more positively about individuals than faceless organizations, so this will nudge us towards a more favorable response. This bread gives us a good foundation of data that we'll lay the more important ingredients upon.

I'm feeling like black forest ham, so add some of that to our sandwich. Get a few op-ed pieces written by individual clients telling a heart-felt story about how Goldman Sachs has helped put their kids through college, saved them from financial ruin, saved a basket of cute kittens from a tree etc.

Add some caramelized red onions and lettuce for crunch. Take some of the better stories from clients and record them in a short video explaining how Goldman has helped them through life.
Add some avocados. No metaphor for this one, avocados are just delicious.
What should we use for secret sauce?

Back in 2011, Fox News was accused of hacking into people's phones so they could get news before anyone else. Shady indeed, but their effective use of the principles of Tai Chi softened the PR blowback.

Tai Chi's philosophy (the self-defense kind, not the retirement home kind)  "emphasizes yielding and "sticking" to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force". The concepts of "Fox" and 'Hacking" are tied together in the public's mind. This is the force of a punch. Instead of trying to resist the connection and get hit, Fox merely adjusted the direction of this punch by rebranding the "Fox-Hacking" connection that people already had made. Whenever Fox mentioned the event, they described how "hacking happens to everyone" from Citi to the Pentagon instead of emphasizing that Fox was the hacker, not the victim. Politicans have been using pivots like these since time began, pay attention to the next debate you watch for some good ones. (Note: I'm not condoning the phone hacking. I'm just talking about public relations techniques.)

For Goldman's secret sauce, we would ensure that every communication talks about the company's client-focus and any program/policies they do to make sure they have happy clients. Something along the lines of "I'm glad this brings to light the important issue of all the work we regularly do for our clients. Sometimes we get so immersed in the details that we don't fully communicate the value we create. Let's talk about how we've served our clients in the past...Follow that up with a blend of additional client stories and data about the money you've made for your client. Mix thoroughly and apply liberally over sandwich. Slice sandwich diagonally and serve.

Now wasn't that much tastier than the bland response we initially recieved?

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