(Always, of course.) But ESPECIALLY when all the world is watching.
Recent example: AIG. Amid $700 billion bailout packages already unpopular, you ask for $85 million of taxpayer money. When you blow through that in a few weeks, you ask for another $38 billion. Meanwhile, you compound the PR predicament by exposing yourself to accusations of thumbing your nose at the rest of us while lavishly entertaining producers and partners—not once, but twice, and then even thrice.
Now, I understand that some of these meetings were preplanned far in advance, and many are vital to the way AIG conducts business, generates sales and creates value for shareholders. And, as my client put so well yesterday, that the insurance arm is separate from AIG’s financial arm, and that it would be far worse for the company to cancel these events.
But my background is in public relations. And experience has shown me that appearances are sometimes more impactful than reality. The mere appearance of impropriety is plenty to anger those of us distanced enough from the inner workings of a finanial giant but close enough to the real effects of a crashing stock market.
In short: You better get out in front of that story, and quick.
American International Group said yesterday that it has replaced its chief financial officer, will cancel 160 conferences and events, and will seek to recover more than $40 million in payments to two former executives.
One company, point-on examples of public relations in practice—one good, following many bad.