If you thought the Enron fiasco was PR hell or that Starbucks charging rescue workers at Ground Zero for coffee was a publicity disaster, spare a thought for Sir Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin, whose PR strategy, in the wake of the collapse of RBS and his monster pension, has amounted to little more than ducking below the parapet of his ivory tower and hoping that all the nasty things being said about him in the press will go away.
He has no chance of that happening since the protestors came out and stoned his Edinburgh home. His is the high watermark of PR disasters; he is soaked through with the bad press. It is lapping at his shoulders. What he needs, of course, is a decent rescue package, of the sort that the sly old PR foxes, who I wrote about in The Fame Formula, would have concocted to salve his image. With that in mind, I have five solutions for him.
- The Reggie Perrin plan: Sir Fred could leave his clothes on the beach and disappear, becoming an urban legend akin to Lord Lucan. Unlike Lord Lucan, he would be expected to come back after a reasonable amount of time has passed, and other bankers are outed, so that he can resume his career as a pantomime villain after he’s had a decent rest.
- The Michael Jackson play: Another alternative for Sir Fred is to fly out to the King of Pop’s retreat in the Middle East and get advice from Jackson’s team of image specialists on how to make a comeback with reputation renewed. If he takes this option, expect a 50 date inspirational lecture series at the O2 Arena in 2010/11 under the title ‘Financial Disasters and how to survive them’ it may even sell out if anyone can afford to go. He could make a fortune by selling merchandise – £2.50 for a single rotten tomato perhaps?
- The Leonard Cohen plan: Alternatively, Sir Fred could renounce worldly matters, cast off his possessions and become a Buddhist monk. Ridding his soul of the weight of the seven cars, numerous houses and vast quantities of money to go and wallow in the richness of the universe would certainly help shred his karmic PR debt. One word of warning; Leonard Cohen tried it and didn’t give up the money. Instead, it was stolen by his accountant. To be tried only if Sir Fred’s intention is serious.
- The Charity play: If the ascetic life doesn’t tempt him, Sir Fred could always just set up a charitable trust to dispose of a large part of his income.
- The Tootsie plan: Finally, if all else fails, Sir Fred could find his way to a Swiss clinic, transform himself into a woman and, so disguised, come back and get a job at RBS. Once there, he/she could reinvigorate the failed bank in the same manner as he did between 2001 and 2006 and then, just as he/she is about to be awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, he/she should disrobe on the steps of Buckingham Palace, wipe off the makeup and declare that Fred the Shred is BACK (keeping fingers crossed that RBS doesn’t suddenly collapse again in the meantime) and fighting for the reputation of bankers everywhere.