When “No Comment” Says Too Much

 When No Comment Says Too Much

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Ina Drew and her PR.

What happens to your PR profile when you are held publicly responsible for a headline trading loss of over $6 billion? That must have been the question Ina Drew asked herself as she read her cover story profile in this weekend’s edition of The New York Times Magazine. The former Chief Investment Officer of JP Morgan Chase, who lost the eye-popping number on a sour trade called the “London Whale,” was amusingly headlined “Swallowed by the London Whale.”

The lengthy profile was what one might have expected. The first half was dedicated to tracing Ina’s stellar rise: She was tough, driven, analytical, and well-versed not only in the markets but also internal politics and turf warfare. The second half of the story details how it all unraveled as the losses mounted.

While Drew didn’t comment, plenty of others did. Those more closely connected to the disastrous trade stayed in the background, identifying themselves only as “sources close to the bank.” But Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, went public after the dust started to settle, acknowledging Drew’s “incredible contributions “ to the firm. At this point, couldn’t Drew have said a word or two?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Ina Drew and her PR strategy. Just one on-the-record quote might have changed the article’s tone.

The PR Takeaway: Silence is not always golden. This profile has it all: money, success, and a colossal fall from grace by the tough trader who, moments prior to resigning, was walking the halls of JP Morgan, pale, gaunt, and with smudged mascara. Despite ongoing and innumerable legal complications, Ina Drew might have served her own PR well by reiterating that while regulators continue to review the matter, she is prohibited from commenting and that she resigned because it was the appropriate thing to do. If  your CEO is publicly positive about your contribution, far better to put yourself in the driver’s seat and acknowledge that you are assisting with inquires and exited with grace, rather than give the impression you have slunk off into the sunset with your tail between your legs.

Was Ina Drew’s silence golden or damning? Give us your PR Verdict!

To read the article click here.


Barclays CEO Admits He Was Dazzled by Diamond

 Barclays CEO Admits He Was Dazzled by Diamond

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Martin Taylor, former CEO of Barclays.

What to make of the recent mea culpa from Martin Taylor, the former CEO of Barclays? The Financial Times published his opinion piece, provocatively entitled  “I Too Fell for the Diamond Myth,” in which he describes his time as CEO of Barclays during the late 1990s.  Back then, Bob Diamond was running Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm, and reported to Taylor. Judging from the article, we can safely assume they don’t exchange holiday cards.

Taylor gives an insider’s view of boardroom dysfunction and a deliberate effort by traders within Barclays Capital to work around trading limits. The traders exposed the firm to massive risks by window dressing and reclassifying bets to get them past agreed internal controls. This was the late ’90s, after all.

Russia subsequently defaulted, and the markets went into freefall. Describing Barclays’ experience as “worse than most,” Taylor says the “failure to respect the internal control system” precipitated the fire sale of key assets. Traders were dismissed, and Diamond maintained that he had known nothing. Diamond offered to resign, but Taylor, concluding that the business was still in its infancy, said his direct report should stay. Taylor concludes by saying, “I deserve blame for being among the first to succumb to the myth of Diamond’s indispensability.” Ouch!

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Martin Taylor. After more than a decade, he has come clean with some insight. Trouble is, we’re still missing some basic information.

The PR Takeaway: Personal reflection wins people over, but ignoring key questions undoes the gain. If Bob Diamond wasn’t asked to leave, was he at least given a zero bonus for the year? Was anything else done to send home the message that the CEO running the business had bottom line responsibility? Without a full explanation, it’s hard to get past the sneaking suspicion that Taylor’s mea culpa might have been more of an effort to rewrite history than a more profound and insightful contribution.

Is Taylor’s article an explanation, or an excuse? Give us your PR Verdict!

Is It Tough For You To Get By On $350K Per Year?

andrewschiff Is It Tough For You To Get By On $350K Per Year?

The PR Verdict: “D” for the PR who slipped up.

Pity poor Andrew Schiff who is Communications and Marketing director at Wall Street brokerage firm, Euro Pacific Capital. He recently leapt to unwanted fame following a Bloomberg article about how smaller bonuses are leaving Wall Street workers strapped for cash. The article has made him the new poster boy for Wall Street being out of touch.

The article disclosed Schiff’s salary of $350K and a bonus over $50K. This doesn’t put him anywhere near the top league of Wall Street heavy hitters but it does place him in the top 1% of earners. Living in 1200 square feet in a rented apartment in Brooklyn, with two children at pricey private schools, he observed there isn’t a lot of spare change left in the Schiff household at month’s end. Schiff’s point was his lifestyle is at variance with the routine description of Wall Street excess.

The PR Verdict: “D” for the PR who slipped up.  Ouch! Unfortunate to have made this gaffe, given Schiff’s job as PR and Marketing head.  Next time, before any interview, formal or informal, agree the ground rules.

No doubt Andrew Schiff was pleased to help out a journalist at Bloomberg. Why not? But next time, before answering, make sure the ground rules of the interview are pre-agreed.  In this case the interview should have been ‘on background’,  i.e. the journalist can use the quotes but not attribute them to Schiff directly. Far better for Schiff’s comments to have been attributed to “a Marketing Director at a Wall Street firm”.  Though cumbersome and bureaucratic to agree Ground Rules before every interview, it inevitably saves later heartache.  Sometimes it really is worth going back to first principles.

To read the original article click here. For the fall out click here.

How would you grade Schiff’s comments and his subsequent interviews to follow up media. Go ahead and grade him:

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