There was no basket of muffins, let alone an apple waiting on the desk for the newly appointed head of PR at Goldman Sachs, Jake Siewert on his first day yesterday. Instead he was greeted with a big fat op-ed in the New York Times, written by resigning employee, Greg Smith, provocatively called Why I Am leaving Goldman Sachs.
The article was remarkable for its candor. Citing an ongoing malaise and dysfunction within the firm, Smith described Goldman as “toxic” with a cultural bias that has Goldman routinely prioritising profits over clients. The article has created a huge amount of noise in both mainstream and social media.
Goldman’s defence was simple; without putting clients first, the business would not exist. Rather than take him on publicly, an internal staff memo was issued and leaked to the media. The memo referred to the latest statistics on Goldman employee satisfaction and concluded that it was aware that it didn’t get everything always right. In so doing, it took some of the force out of Smith’s more generalised complaints.
The PR Verdict: “B” for Goldman for a sensible reply designed to defuse the situation on day one. But what might be the best PR answer to counter Smith and show employees and clients that he got it wrong over the next week or so?
If the heat continues and internally there is a perception that the firm has not taken a tough enough stand, how about asking the NYTimes for a right of reply? Submit an op-ed by a client or employee called Why I have STAYED with Goldman Sachs answering directly some of the issues raised by Smith. Even better, make it from someone connected to Smith’s ex-business, equity derivatives. The power of the cuttings archive is undisputed and without a response, Smith’s op-ed will have the last say. Goldman’s might want to call on friends for an alternative view.
What’s your verdict on how Goldman have handled this issue: