I don’t know Bank of America spokesman Jerry Dubrowski, I don’t have any position (long or short) in BofA stock (NYSE:BAC), and I certainly don’t expect BofA to retain my services re: public relations advice. So, I’ll offer it pro bono, even if Uncle Sam has plowed plenty of taxpayer money (mine included) into this company. The 2-rule advice is pretty simple:
1. PR people should take their Asperger meds before responding to the media.
2. If your PR person has not been tested/diagnosed with Asperger’s, the rule of thumb would be to test them for this syndrome before giving them the keys to the “publish” button.
In today’s NYT article profiling investment advisory Tangent Capital Partners’ focus on small banks and eschewing the behemoth banks such as BofA, Times reporter Bill Alden quoted BofA spokesman Dubrowski with the following statement: [the bank is] “a stronger company today than it was during the height of the financial crisis..”
Aside from the fact the phraseology used by Dubrowski is as ubiquitous as the phrase “toilet paper,” it is the exact same, questionably-credible statement Dubrowski has used on prior occasions (most recently August 2011). Not coincidentally, but sort of funny anyway, these are the exact same words uttered last year by Angelo Mozilo when referencing BofA. For those not aware, Mr. Mozilo is the former Chairman of Countrywide Financial, the mortgage issuer acquired by BofA “during the height of the financial crisis.”
While this blogger (who happens to include the financial services space within my firm’s practice area) doesn’t take exception to spokespeople sticking to certain types of corporate statements, one could argue that financial service companies in particular need to be topical and circumspect, and should certainly update their auto-reply messages to media.
Rule 1. Avoid the “duh!” factor. One would like to
think hope that a company such as BofA would necessarily be a stronger company within no more than 3+ years after receiving $45 BILLION in government (taxpayer) bailout funds, especially after using much of that money to acquire, among others, one of the industry’s biggest and profitable investment banks (i.e. Merrill Lynch). Further, one would think hope that the $4bil +/- BofA employees received as compensation courtesy of the bailout would have been a big incentive for those employees to help make BofA a better business.
Rule 2. Get the Facts Straight–Unless You’re a Presidential Candidate.Alas, per the image below, BofA’s stock price doesn’t exactly support the contention that BofA is any stronger now than it was at the height of the crisis. If judging from the chart, it would appear this company is noticeably less strong than it was during the height of the financial market’s fiasco. (Note: the handicap of acquiring Countrywide has undoubtedly hampered BofA’s balance sheet, and, as Warren Buffet has proven more than twice, stock prices don’t always reflect the internal strength or the potential break-up value of a company.)
For PR professionals catering to the financial services space, or any other PR professionals, two additional lessons to be learned are self-evident:
1. BEFORE PROVIDING THE MEDIA WITH A STATEMENT OF ANY KIND: Make it a practice of revisiting prior statements made and the context in which they were made.
2. Unless your slogan or tag line is truly “multi-tasking” (i.e. can be seamlessly incorporated into a PR statement to the media), keep your corporate comments to the media on point, in context, and appropriately topical.
To Jerry D at BofA–I necessarily apologize for spotlighting you in particular, and I am thankful that I don’t have a mortgage, a line of credit or credit card issued by BofA-if I did, I’m sure it would be yanked as a result of this posting, leaving me in a lurch!