If any publicity is good publicity, then take a look at Bain Capital, the investment firm, founded by presidential Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The firm is front and center in a TV ad, issued by the Obama campaign, undermining Romney’s record on jobs. The ad’s main focus is Bain’s 1993 investment in a Kansas steel company, GST Steel.
The advertisement cuts between interviews with former GST workers and clips of Romney on the campaign trial, saying he knows what “makes jobs come and go.” One ageing worker says of Bain, “It’s like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us,” while another says that Bain’s impact was “like watching an old friend bleed to death”. Ironically, the ad echoes a strategy used by Newt Gingrich during Republican primaries, which characterised Romney’s firm as “rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company.” Ouch!
A statement has been issued by Bain to clarify certain facts but it has gained almost no traction in the wider media. One thing Bain can be sure of? Whatever it says will be drowned out, from now until November. How then to protect a brand?
The PR Verdict: “C” for Bain Capital. So far the statement issued to the media is adequate but won’t suffice. Editorial coverage wont give the clarifying bang needed.
The PR Takeaway: Bain Capital is caught in the in the wrong place at the wrong time. In its statement the firm reaffirmed that it takes no public position on any candidate, that Mitt Romney retired from Bain Capital over 13 years ago and that it has grown revenues in over 80 percent of its companies. Fair enough! The bad news is that this will not get any serious airtime. Competing priorities are sexier. Bain now needs strategically placed, low key advertising to convey its points without being edited. Privately, why not start preparing for a partial rebrand, sometime after November?
What’s your PR Verdict?