Prince Causes King-Sized PR Problem

 Prince Causes King Sized PR Problem

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Prince Alwaleed.

What does Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal have in common with Paris Hilton, a Kardashian, or an insecure teenage girl? While the 58-year-old male may not need to be constantly reassured about being loved or looking pretty, he does want the world to acknowledge that he really, really is the richest of them all.

The amusing spat between Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Forbes Magazine about his rank as 26th on their World’s Billionaires list has been a source of Schadenfreude for those who didn’t make the ranks. One day before the publication, the office of Prince Alwaleed issued a petulant statement saying he would “sever ties” with the Forbes billionaires list for a series of allegations made by the magazine. Forbes responded with a story describing in detail the process of estimating the Prince’s wealth and the efforts undertaken by himself and his entourage to influence the ranking – including the revelation that the Prince sits on a throne when travelling in his private jet.

The Prince’s efforts to secure his position in the list included making pleading calls with the editor and even offering access to his private banker in Switzerland, all to no avail. Instead, the Prince has inadvertently encouraged increased scrutiny over bigger issues, including the integrity of the Saudi financial center and allegations of stock price manipulation in the Kingdom.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Prince Alwaleed. How do you fix a PR problem you started yourself?

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep business impersonal. Being the PR for Prince Alwaleed presumably involves learning to count to ten while the man on the throne shoots at the press. The terse statement concerning Forbes has ignited a series of unforeseen consequences, including press scrutiny into the transparency of his listed vehicle, Kingdom Holding, and regulation of the Saudi stock market. Rather than firing off angry press statements in response to a magazine’s fact-checking questions, stay quiet, elusive, and…well, royal. Silence is golden – even if it is on a throne in a private jet.

To read the Forbes story click here:

 

Why He Left Goldman Sachs, and Why They’re Not Worried

 Why He Left Goldman Sachs, and Why Theyre Not Worried

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) to Goldman Sachs.

Breakups are never easy, and today sees the publication of a very long breakup letter. Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story is a memoir written by former Goldman employee Greg Smith. It follows up on Smith’s poison pen editorial of the same name, published in The New York Times in early March 2012. The consensus? Goldman Sachs’ board members can sleep easy.

Greg Smith used to be in equity derivatives sales. In upper management, he earned a more than respectable living of around $500k. Disillusioned by the alleged cynicism and hypocrisy of a culture that did not put clients first (supposedly referring to them as “Muppets”), Smith became more and more disenchanted, so goes his narrative, until one day the moral bankruptcy of the firm caused him to quit.

With Smith receiving a reported $1.5 million book advance for a memoir about his time at the firm, Goldman Sachs was presumably worried. But his former employer is now indicating that Smith’s memoirs are not as damaging as originally expected. Some of his reminiscences may not be pretty, but there’s nothing illegal or that surprising about them. As for Smith’s credibility, it seems GS has had its own well-executed PR plan to raise a cloud over their ex-employee’s widely reported griping.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Goldman Sachs’s softly-softly response in advance of publication.

The PR Takeaway:  Say what you need to say once, and then let others do the talking. In advance of Smith’s book launch, Goldman Sachs made available its 18-page internal report on Smith’s allegations to newswire Bloomberg.  The report reveals that prior to resigning, Smith allegedly wanted a 100 percent pay raise, was denied a promotion, and may not have been long for the firm. The report’s contents were widely repeated – not by GS, but by the media. The nagging doubt is now that Smith may have just been a disgruntled employee. No on the record comment from Goldman Sachs, but a volte face from the very media that covered the story in the first place. Now that’s effective PR.

To read more click here.

What’s your opinion of Greg Smith’s book, and Goldman Sachs’s response? Give us your PR Verdict!

Dept. of Financial Services to Standard Chartered: “J’accuse!”

 Dept. of Financial Services to Standard Chartered: Jaccuse!

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for New York’s Dept. of Financial Services. Great splash, but now what?

What’s the fastest way to generate a headline and claim your PR moment in the sun? How about a surprise PR missile in the middle of a sleepy summer? Announce to the media that colossal wrongdoing has been uncovered, and presto; you now have more publicity than TomKat’s divorce.

Top marks, then, to New York State’s Department of Financial Services (DFS), who late on Monday stunned the markets with an accusation that venerable British bank Standard Chartered was hiding some $250 billion worth of transactions with the Iranian government. Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the DFS, gave the media a summer gift by calling Standard Chartered a “rogue institution.” He said the firm “carefully planned its deception” of US authorities using “fraudulent” procedures and “forging business records” to stage a “staggering cover-up.” Markets were stunned. Shares in Standard Chartered fell more than 16 percent, and the bank’s executives – as well as other bigwig US regulators, were caught unaware by the revelations.

Eight long hours after the headlines had been screaming of criminal activity, Standard Chartered limped out with a statement. The firm rejected the accusations and said “well over 99.9 per cent” of Iranian transactions complied with US regulations. The sums of money were nothing like $250 billion, more like  $14 million, said one source, a result of  “small clerical errors,” nothing more.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for New York’s DFS. Great splash, but now what? Where is the chorus of other regulators outraged at this alleged wrongdoing?

The PR Takeaway: Be careful what you wish for. Great job in getting the headlines, but now comes the tough part! Despite the nicely packaged and damning sound bites, it could be lonely out there for NY’s accuser as UK politicians begin to comment that this issue seems more about undermining foreign banking firms than substantive wrongdoing. This story may no longer turn on straightforward “did they or didn’t they” facts, and instead become a wider issue regarding PR grandstanding and regulatory overreach. If that’s the case, the splashy headlines might have been better delayed until all the other regulators were in the pool.

UPDATE: OUCH! Since publication, Standard Chartered have now agreed to a puzzling $340 million penalty. Rather embarrassing for the bank that was so outraged over being publicly shamed for what it said was only $14 million dollars of faulty transactions.  Now the firm has agreed to pay $340 million in penalties… hmm… does this math add up?

Should the DFS have waited until they had backup, or were they right to go ahead and shout “J’accuse!”? Give us your PR Verdict!