What a week it has been in the corporate PR world. Nat Rothschild has gone, Starbucks are firefighting over their UK tax payments (or lack of them), Citigroup’s results were more confusing than a Gordon Brown budget and Paul Tucker has gone into profile overdrive.
Let’s start by taking a look at the Paul Tucker situation. Currently holding the title of Bank of England Deputy Governor and widely expected to replace Merv as Lead Governor in charge of UK Purse Strings, a quick consult of our Tucker-PR-Profile-O-Meter reveals that he and his PRs have had a busy week.
At the time of writing he is warning them nasty bankers that the worst is yet to come to them and earlier in the week he was proposing that banker bonuses be paid in “debt linked to financial performance”. The debt idea is something that my City friends say has gone down like a turd in a swimming pool (one of the runny ones too).
A bit of Googling and some creative accounting of my very own, shows that Mr Tucker has had over 100 press mentions this week alone, with some serious love from the Telegraph, Financial Times and Evening Standard. This tells me that he has some big-time PR weight behind him, possibly even at Government level, who are briefing on his behalf.
Talking about serious PR weight, it looks like Starbucks is going to need to turn to the other type of barista (the suey suey kind) to try and deal with the PR headache of their tax bill.
Not only are the usual lefties pouncing on them for, entirely legal, tax avoidance, but I can also see a number of my own PR sector colleagues starting to build up a head of (frothy milky?) steam about the fact that the coffee giant is not paying enough tax.
Twitter, as is so often the case nowadays, seems to have been the starting point for a new cheeky campaign, whereby consumers are encouraged to combine Starbucks' infuriating habit of asking the customer what their name is so it can be written on their cup, along with a bit of mischief.
Customers are being encouraged to tell baristas that their name is “Pay More Tax”. No edict has come from high as to how to handle this and I am sure a simple “f*ck off” from the member of staff is not part of the Starbucks caring-sharing way. It will be an interesting one to watch, as Starbucks' PR team is slicker than Don’s hair in Mad Men, so when they come out firing, the collective media better get ready.
I fear Starbucks tried to get this story to go away by offering up another sacrificial lamb story, PR 101. Starbucks announced a new staff policy that would get people's attention: telling staff that they would no longer be paying them for their lunch hour. Maybe it was a “good day to bury bad news” moment, but either way, there are now two negative stories floating around about the previously untouchable Queen of Coffee.
Sadly, this week the City says a fond, but surely temporary, farewell to Nat Rothschild.
His attempts to get a mining company floated on the FTSE via an already FTSE listed company (I am lost too) has gone belly up, with style.
Nat paved the way with some senior level media briefings before going public and a series of obviously pre-packaged stories graced the papers, putting in the boot to Indonesia’s top socialite family, The Bakrie’s.
Bakrie’s wealth brings them serious lobbying and PR clout, and the ensuing bun fight is going to be good to watch, especially as both parties are bandying around dangerous phrases such as “financial irregularities”.
Finally, as every City PR will testify, nothing scares you more, apart from a meeting with an actuary, than preparing for a set of financial results to be released.
Spare a thought then for Citigroup’s comms pros who had to decipher their financial teams work to try and understand if the year had been good or bad.
The PR team probably knew it was not a brilliant year when the CEO resigned the day before the results came out. It was then revealed that the company had been forced to write down a $2.9bn loss for a joint venture with Morgan Stanley. Ouch.
Onwards and upwards people, onwards and upwards.
Andy Barr worked for financial institutions including AXA and Chelsea Building Society, and in a number of senior PR roles for the likes of FirstGroup, before co-founding 10 Yetis.
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