It was a Goldman Sachs Bar-b-Que today on Capitol Hill as the first of many Goldman Sachs grillings took place in the Senate subcommittee responsible for investigating the company's role in the 07-08 Wall Street meltdown.
Goldman has a long road ahead. With a looming SEC lawsuit, a bonus scandal that outraged the country just a few months ago, now is NOT the time to start lying. Goldman wasted no time in hiring a high-powered flack Mark Fabiani, and his partner Chris Lehane, who were known as the "Masters of Disaster" in the Bill Clinton campaign years. Chris Lehane stayed on for years in the White House and then I ran into him on the Gore campaign, where he was staffing Hillary Clinton.
But hiring Democratic campaign experts is exactly the wrong tactic. You see, starting a PR offensive when you are already under the microscope has the opposite affect in most situations. When companies start contradicting previous statements and denying emails that say, "That was a shitty deal" aren't bad for consumers, then it's hard to defend. It falls on deaf years. People sense that something dirty has gone down. This is known in the business as "spin." It's dangerous and disingenuous to try to defend such plain words in an email, with the company's CEO chiming in. Under oath today, he may well have perjured himself.
Good public relations practice starts with building up a store of goodwill for your company or organization. It's not a sexy job, but one that takes years of due diligence, putting your best foot forward, and doing the right thing when no one was looking. Clearly, Goldman Sachs did not make the grade.
Here's my free PR advice to Goldman Sachs. Tell the truth. Apologize. Pay your fines. Clean out your management team. Reform your firm's practices. Get rid of the insane bonus structure that fuels your drunken greed. Give a year's worth of profits to charity.
You're welcome, Goldman Sachs. Now get outta my face.