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Posts Tagged ‘liars’

Goldman Sachs Will Address The Court of Public Opinion Now

Today marks a Very Serious Literary Event: the release of Wall Street turncoat/general sad sack Greg Smith’s highly anticipated non-fiction debut, Why I Left Goldman Sachs.

Smith’s book expands upon an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times back in March in which he decried his former employer’s once-noble culture as “toxic and destructive” while claiming to be shocked at “how callously people talk about ripping their clients off”. The article’s best-known revelation was the fact that managers referred to their clients as “muppets”—and not in an endearing Fozzie Bear kind of way.

First the obvious: Most Americans don’t think too highly of Goldman Sachs right now, no matter what Mr. Smith says. When Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone referred to the company as a “great vampire squid”, he wasn’t just engaging in colorful hyperbole: According to the widely cited YouGov Brand Index, GS remains engaged in a bad-PR battle with JPMorgan Chase to determine which financial organization Americans hate most.

Politicians may have plenty of love for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, but the average “man on the street” feels differently. So how will the biggest name in investment banking deal with its most visible enemy? Until now, the organization has largely ignored Mr. Smith, but a curious internal memo reveals that this is no longer the case.

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PR Fail: Pennsylvania Paper Hypes Fake Voter ID Claim

One of the oldest tried-and-true tactics used by political PR groups involves pitching “branded” or “paid” pieces to the editors of local papers and trying to get them printed as standard news content. The approach often worked in the past because editors were so desperate for material to fill their pages that they either overlooked the fact that they were passing op-eds off as news or they just didn’t care.

In another case of “some things never change”, we witnessed a particularly blatant example of that strategy in action today.

Lay your political affiliations aside for a moment and consider the facts of this case:

  • Over the summer, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law requiring legal, registered voters to present photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
  • In October, after conflicting rulings in lower courts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court postponed consideration of the law until after November’s elections, allowing poll workers to ask voters for ID but forbidding them from requiring it.

Confused yet?

You’re not alone. The Supreme Court decision hasn’t stopped the ID rule’s backers from advertising it as if it were the law of the land. Voting rights advocates believe that the purpose of running outdated, inaccurate ads is to sow confusion among the electorate and discourage those who don’t have IDs from voting in November.

We can’t say for certain that this is the case; many organizations may have simply failed to update their information on the law. But last week, a very obvious attempt to confuse the issue appeared in the Mount Pleasant Journal paper under the headline “Photo ID Required for November Election”:

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Are PR Reps All Liars?

“To lie about an issue is to be a politician. To lie about a corporation is to be a public relation[s] executive.”

That’s the money quote from Reuters journalist Jack Shafer’s piece “Why We Vote for Liars”—and it’s been making its way around the worlds of PR and journalism this week. A little incendiary, no?

Our first instinct is to defend the PR business against Shafer’s generalizations, though his quote does play back into one of this week’s most contentious questions: Whether the growth of the PR biz—and the corresponding decline of objective journalism—truly “threatens democracy”. If everyone who speaks to the public is a publicist or a politician, then who will check their facts and call them out on their lies? The mere promise of honesty is not very reassuring.

Shafer points to the growing importance of fact-checkers in a polarized political media landscape, writing that “If either presidential candidate met you, he’d tell you a lie within 15 seconds of shaking your hand, and if he knew he were going to meet your mother, he’d invent a special set of lies for her.”

Why do they lie? Because the political market places very little value on honesty, no matter how much we citizens express our desire for a more noble brand of politics. This is nothing new.

And, of course, we deal with many degrees of untruth in politics, from the tiny insignificant lie to the blatant misrepresentation to the bizarre and unnecessary fib told to create a false sense of camaraderie. There are even lies about lies—Al Gore, for example, never actually claimed to have “invented the Internet”, but everyone’s familiar with the anecdote anyway.

OK, point taken about politics, Mr. Shafer. But why does that sentence treat the general dishonesty of PR execs as a given?

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