Monday, April 11, 2005

Losing the PR War 

I will deliver no opinions on the case of Maurice Greenberg, former CEO of AIG, except to say he is losing a PR war with Eliot Spitzer, attorney general of New York. Stories like this and this have convicted Greenberg even before he takes the Fifth Amendment. It hurts even more that Warren Buffett is testifying without apparent difficulty.

I want to scream, "Where is the PR counselor?" The answer is there doesn't appear to be one involved here. The confrontation is attorney-driven, so Greenberg is ducking behind his lawyer. He doesn't seem to understand he is against a canny PR practitioner in the person of Spitzer who knows how to manipulate media better than a professional publicist.

I wish in cases like this that CEOs would be smart enough to get PR advice before they put themselves in a bullseye, but it hasn't happened here -- or least, it appears that way. If there is a counselor, that person must be in the deep background. Meanwhile, Spitzer has Greenberg twisting in a noose before the public.

Spitzer can go for a settlement now. He'll get a big one to make all this go away. That is the way he usually works. He doesn't go to court when he can avoid it. He uses the power of the media and destruction of reputation to get what he wants.

It may not be fair, but it sure is effective.


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