The underlying message for Goldman and others…

Commodore Vanderbilt
William "Commodore" Vanderbilt, earliest practitioner of "Public Be Damned" approach to corporate PR

The underlying message of the Goldman Sachs imbroglio remains the same as the underlying message about all the reputation management foul-ups that have taken place over the past decade, most conspicuously in the financial services sector.

These companies have made conscious decisions over the past decade to deliberately avoid building reputations with the journalists who cover them. Whether through arrogance, egotism, or simply not caring about the public perception of their activities (Commodore Vanderbilt’s famous, “The public? The public be damned!” quote comes to mind), these companies have failed to enlist public support that could have been a bank of goodwill when critics attacked them.

These firms systematically liquidated highly skilled and seasoned communications professionals who they believed cost them too much and replaced them with interns and junior people content to get a fancy title on a business card in return for merely reading scripts back to reporters, blocking access to executives, and even just not returning journalist phone calls, ever.

Goldman has always been one of the chief offenders in this vein. For decades they never talked to the press at all. You cannot operate in a vacuum like that any more.

Companies continue to think they can control what is said about them by not speaking to the media. This is a vain, egotistical, false, and ultimately unsuccessful approach to public relations. You cannot expect to extract money from the public and have so much disdain for them that you do not engage in an ongoing relationship with the media who are your best hope for explaining your actions to that public.

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