GOP: OK With Sequester, or Not?

 GOP: OK With Sequester, or Not?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging.

What, no triumphant headlines or gloating from the GOP? Has it suddenly discovered a new level of modesty? Days after the sequester debate has reached the end of its life cycle, the GOP and Republican politicians seem remarkably low key about their latest political triumph. Puzzling, to say the least.

From the get go, President Obama has been clear: He hated the sequester. A bad and clumsy mechanism to reduce spending that would only hurt middle and low-income earners. Bad for the economy, bad for the recovery. In PR terms, his case was an easy read.

Republicans, on the other hand, made it clear that spending needed to be reined in. This showdown was going to highlight their resolve to cut spending and bring the deficit back in line. But since then, the triumphant tone in Republican communication has been increasingly limp and muddled. House Speaker John Boehner said, “I didn’t like it anymore than anybody else liked it,” while other Congressional peers including Jim Jordan said: “The sequester should happen… That is good.” Sen. Lindsey Graham told the media, “The cumulative effect of sequestration is bad for defense.” So, is the GOP  happy with the cuts or not? What is the official party line – or is there one?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging. Confusing at best.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t air your doubt in public. Just weeks ago, GOP messaging was clear: Government spending was out of hand, and the American electorate had handed them a mandate to rein it in. Now that the cuts are in place, the PR messaging is confused and contradictory, playing straight into concerns that the cuts are iron-fisted and potentially damaging to the fragile recovery. What changed in the space of a couple of weeks? Now is the time for the GOP  to revisit and unify its messaging. Public displays of ambivalence in moments like this rarely offers any protection against public reactions of hostility. Without a change, the GOP and Republican Congress is unintentionally poised to take the blame for a later slow-down. Of course, if that was their intention, well, mission accomplished.


How Sorry Are You, Barclays?

 How Sorry Are You, Barclays?

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Barclays. (Pictured: Barclays CEO Bob Diamond)

Isn’t it nice to know that Barclays PLC and its subsidiaries have agreed to pay more than $450 million to settle charges that it attempted to manipulate key global interest rates? The announcement of the largest-ever fine was accompanied by much huffing and puffing about market integrity. Everyone agrees; terrible business. Why, even Bob Diamond, Barclays CEO, and his three chief lieutenants waived their bonuses in recognition of the seriousness of the issue.

Barclays said all the right things on the day. It humbly acknowledged the actions “fell well short of the standards to which Barclays aspires.” This was a mea culpa, albeit somewhat measured, given that the Department of Justice is continuing with its criminal probe. This could get uglier, no doubt.

But was that it? Was there a lost paragraph to the announcement? Yes, investigations are continuing, yes other firms are involved, and yes, Barclays has been assisting every regulator it possibly can. Fair enough, but the key question remained unanswered in Barclays’ formal statement. Has ANYONE lost their job or been suspended? Has there been a clearing of the decks?

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Barclays for avoiding disclosure of the most important piece of news: Is anyone’s head going to roll?

PR Takeaway: One way to draw a line over bad behavior is to draw a line over bad employees. If the bank is committed to turning a new page in ethics, why not update stakeholders about who was, or will be, fired? Even if previously disclosed, say it again. Waiving a bonus counts for something, but making it clear to inside and outside stakeholders that certain behaviors will not be tolerated goes further. This was an odd omission in a statement that went to lengths to make it clear that these issues won’t happen again.

Did Barclays go far enough by apologising and waiving bonuses, or should heads have rolled? Give us your PR Verdict, below.