I'm not sure if Greg Smith watches Mad Men, but there
was something about his NY Times op/ed,
"Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs" that seemed terribly familiar.
Having just rewatched Season 4 of the AMC hit in anticipation of
its new season's debut later this month, I thought one thing when I
saw the headline in yesterday's Times: tobacco.
For the uninitiated, the show's ad agency, Sterling Cooper
Draper Price, faces a devastating blow when its biggest client,
Lucky Strike, moves on to greener pastures. To stop
speculation across about the agency's immediate demise, the show's
hero, Don Draper takes out a full page ad and pens an essay
in the New York Times entitled, "Why I'm Quitting
Tobacco." Sound familiar?
In the show, the essay serves as an ad for the agency. Kind of a
sort of statement. In real life, Smith writes about the "toxic"
culture at Goldman, and how the company no longer values anything -
like serving its clients - above making money. It's fair to say
that few imagined Goldman Sachs to be a testament to altruistic
virtue, but the idea that the company exploits its clients,
referred to internally as "Muppets," for profit is quite
After four years of consistent bad press, is it possible for
Goldman to recover?
Maybe. Like its former employee, Goldman should take a page from
Don Draper. "You always said, 'If you don't like what they're
saying about you, change it,'" Don's right-hand woman, Peggy Olsen,
reminds him in the show. Thus far, Goldman has yet to level any
kind of response that will change the conversation. An
internal memo, making good use of such game-changing terms like
"disappointed," "assertions," "values," (and citing a poll by
Goldman's own employees that it serves clients well) is
not exactly going to change minds.
What Goldman needs to be daring. Many times in a crisis
situation, we urge our clients to respond quickly with a statement
and keep their heads down. The media interest will wane. This is
not one of those situations.
Why not take out its own full-page ad in the New York
Times? Surely there's a great story to tell about a Goldman
employee who has served his or her clients faithfully from the
start. Put that employee on a billboard. Goldman can't afford to
stay silent. It has to make a statement. It has to quit tobacco.
The world is ready for its pitch on why Goldman is still a great
company. We'll pour a scotch and get ready. That's, after all, what
Don would do.
Anne Baker is an Account Executive at Solomon McCown. For more
on crisis communications, follow @crisisbostonpr