In the wake of the attacks on Sir Fred Goodwin’s Edinburgh home, apparently by a group calling themselves Bank Bosses Are Criminals, it’s clear that the attacks on Fred the Shred are a necessary distraction for the Government, who are looking for ways to recoup their status in the wake of the banking disaster and are gladly hiding behind his him and letting him take the blame.
But the biggest PR concern in the affair is the amount of money Goodwin is spending on the two slick and expensive PR people who are keeping his head below the parapet. They might not be able to prevent the angry brigade from throwing stones at one of his many houses, but they are still sucking up a hefty percentage of the money Goodwin has taken from the taxpayer in an attempt at keeping his name out of the press as much as possible.
It seems as if Goodwin is not prepared to take the knocks when things get rough, despite having been extremely keen to take all the pleasant handouts, all the fruits of good publicity, that came his way before the financial world came to a shuddering halt. He’s got a knighthood (for services to banking), a pension to die for and a list of awards – including Forbes’ Businessman of the Year and European Banker of the Year – to his name and yet he seems determined to hide and rest on these laurels.
If Goodwin is determined to keep the £700,000 a year pension he’s taken from the now part-nationalised RBS, he should carefully consider the amount he is spending on his PR budget. Despite their best efforts, his PR people cannot actually keep him out of the press. Two high-powered publicists command an annual fee that could keep a small charity ticking over nicely for a year. It would surely be better PR for him to drop his failing suppress agents than to continue paying them. Given the current state of affairs, he is powerless to stay out of the press, however much he pays his publicists.
And let’s not forget that Fred the Shred is merely the tip of the iceberg. If he, as the most obvious villain of the day, can have one of his homes attacked by Bank Bosses Are Criminals, then there are plenty of others who will suffer the same if nothing is done to create a PR strategy that actually addresses the grievances of the British public.
The lesser-known bankers – and the Government – are not Hollywood movie stars from the 1930s – all their dirty secrets are out and in the public eye. They do not need suppress agents to keep grim reality at bay; it’s far too late for that. What they need is a strong, constructive PR strategy that squarely addresses the grievances people are directing at them.
There needs to be a PR turnaround, from venture capitalists, from Sir Fred, from the Government too. No one can afford to replicate Goodwin’s strategy of hiding and hoping that the fuss will die down. If they don’t – and they keep throwing money at protecting themselves – the small acts of grievance such as the stoning of Goodwin’s Edinburgh home by Bank Bosses Are Criminals could turn, before too long, into full-scale ire and serious social unrest.