Citigroup’s Doublespeak

 Citigroups Doublespeak

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Citigroup.

Dear Reader: Can we interest you in a “repositioning action”? How about something to “further reduce expenses and improve efficiency”? These were among the phrases heralding Citigroup’s announcement late last week of a major recalibration of its businesses. More interesting than the news itself was the press release; obviously passed around for management’s input prior to release, the result was two-pages of corporate doublespeak.

The message should have been simple enough: Having lagged behind its peers in recovering from the financial crisis, Citi announced it was cutting 11,000 jobs worldwide – about 4 percent of its staff – to save as much as $1.1 billion a year in expenses. Where was that crucial number regarding layoffs in the release? Buried way down in the main body of the text; the last sentence of the third paragraph read, “These actions will result in a reduction of more than 11,000 positions.” If you blinked, or were still flummoxed by the previous paragraphs of corporatespeak, you missed it.

The first three paragraphs of the Citi release are required reading for any PR. They serve as timely reminder about what happens when a simple idea is worked over and over (and over). One can assume that every conceivable stakeholder at Citi was asked to provide business input and red pen edits. The result? A longwinded press release, easily held up to ridicule. Sometimes, it might be easier to let the PR people do the talking.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Citigroup. Orwellian business-speak is trying.

The PR Takeaway: Lead with the news. It’s a simple rule of PR that’s often overlooked.  The press release announcing the “repositioning actions” (…?) secured global media coverage with the headline “Citi Announces 11K Layoffs.” When you don’t say what you mean and try to bury the lead in doublespeak, the media will make the announcement for you – in an ugly way. Next time, encourage the boardroom to keep its red marker pens to itself and let the PR people do the the job they were hired to do.

To read the release, click here.

Will Tony Robbins’ Feet Be Held to the Fire?

firewalk 150x150 Will Tony Robbins Feet Be Held to the Fire?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Tony Robbins.

These are embarrassing times for one of America’s most loved personal development gurus. Attendees at a recent seminar hosted by the self-actualized Tony Robbins not only found themselves in the headlines but cooling their feet in ice water as well. The reason? A fire-walking episode that failed to go to plan.

Late last week, over 20 attendees at a recent Tony Robbins personal development seminar suffered burns while walking across hot coals. The famous fire walk is part of Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, aimed at helping participants understand that they can overcome personal challenges. Participants are encouraged to tackle their fears, feet first.

“I just heard these screams of agony,” one witness relayed to the media, presumably to the horror of the Robbins’ PR machine. While many left the seminar feeling elated and transformed, others weren’t so lucky and left with second-and third-degree burns, caused by coals heated up to a cozy 2,000 degrees. As for Robbins himself, he has been nowhere in the subsequent media coverage. Where is our guru, and will his feet be held to the fire?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Anthony Robbins and his handling of a personal transformation exercise that went wrong. Next time, how about more leadership from one of America’s leading gurus?

The PR Takeaway: Unleash the Power Within and say SOMETHING. Tony Robbins has been noticeably absent from media coverage concerning this mishap. His organization, Robbins Research International, issued a bland CYA statement saying, “We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel … ” Perhaps, but  wasn’t this the time for one of America’s leading advocates of personal responsibility to explain–personally–what happened? A company statement is fine, but his name, after all, is on the billboard. Might we suggest a refresher fire walk to reaffirm his commitment to personal responsibility and accountability?

Should Tony Robbins have personally addressed this PR mishap, or should he continue to lay low? Give us your PR Verdict!

Google and Larry’s Laryngitis

 Google and Larrys Laryngitis

The PR Verdict: The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Google. (Pictured: Google CEO Larry Page.)

Larry Page, Google’s CEO, regrets he is unable to lunch today. And not just today, it seems, but all the way into mid July. The reason? Larry has “lost his voice” and “can’t do any public speaking engagements for the time being,” says Google. That includes the second quarter earnings conference in three weeks’ time. His voice is gone, and it isn’t coming back anytime soon.

The announcement has spooked investors. In an industry that endlessly speculated about the on again, off again health of Steve Jobs at Apple, this sort of news gets the rumor mill activated. Google says it is business as usual and that Page is “OK”  and continuing to run the company. “He’s running all the strategy business decisions and all that,” reassures Google.

Not all investors buy it. JP Morgan described the announcement as ”odd,” and others are wondering. One told the Wall Street Journal that the decision to miss an earning call was “highly unusual.” He said, “It’s hard to imagine a CEO missing that much stuff and not having a serious problem,” echoing what could become a rumbling chorus.

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Google. Who knows what the real situation is, but this explanation doesn’t reassure the market. Already suspicion is growing that Google is being less than frank.

PR Takeaway: Don’t over-complicate. Let’s face it, losing your voice doesn’t last three weeks. If Page can’t speak at earnings in three weeks’ time, it’s not a bad idea to flag it beforehand–but why not suggest that he’s having a minor medical procedure/treatment that will put him out of action for a fixed period? Use calming words to minimize the fuss and reinforce that it’s not market moving and material. Something is up, and now Google has more explaining to do. It might have been easier to have been straightforward from the start.

Should Google have anticipated investor worries, or is this a case of the truth just not being good enough these days? Give us your PR Verdict, below.