When I wrote about the need for transparency in my last blog post – I couldn’t have imagined that it would become so increasingly important so fast. Goldman Sachs has just become the latest “victim” of the peril of thinking that you are above any reproach in the digital era (Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs). Shortly, within hours, Goldman official response was to call Greg Smith a disgruntled employee and minimize any weight to his article by reminding the public that the role of vice president in Goldman Sachs is “a relatively junior position held by thousands of Goldman employees around the world.” Seriously??? At a time when people are blaming Wall Street for the economic meltdown, and from a company that was recently fined over half a billion dollars by the SEC for not having their clients interest at hand, is that the best they can do?
As marketers, communicators, brand builders, or more importantly, as humans, what should we learn from this event?:
Listen – First and foremost they should have known it would happen. “Social Media” conversations are not something that “happen to other people” they are happening to me and you both internally and externally.
Be Prepared- Hopefully you are already taking actions to remedy what potential threat there is, but just in case the solution has not been reached when “it hits the fan” ‘fess up and honestly state what you are doing to remedy it. I am sure Mr. Smith’s sentiment is not news to Goldman and they should have been better prepared to respond with a more honest statement rather than go on the defensive.
Be Fast: Dismissing your customer as “muppets” or pawns in a “profit seeking scheme” is probably one of the worst allegations a service organization could face. Any customer detrimental rumor, be it fact or fiction, should be handled immediately with reassuring facts on what differentiating benefits/value add you bring to them. The longer you take to reaffirm your customer commitment, the more severe the damage to your business.
Be Transparent- In the old world truth and ethics may have been dependent on what could be found out. In the new world, everything becomes public knowledge, so truth and ethics need to be demonstrated in real time. Under the current environment, a defensive posture will only increase public outcry. Here are just a few examples of current discussions (all having been shared 100’s of time- isn’t that social media share counter a great little widget)?
WSJ: Goldman Rejects Claims Made by Outgoing Executive
Chicago Tribune: Workplace experts weigh in on commentary by departing Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith
Forbes: The Real Problem at Goldman Sachs? You, The Muppet Client
Washington Post: Goldman Sachs loses market value after searing Greg Smith essay
I personally saw all these via my Facebook feed, amongst many others (and mind you, Facebook is my friends only network not my business information network – I use Twitter and Linked In for that). Imagine how many are there via Tweets, Linked In updates, emails etc. I bet the Kermit picture in this post will end up in Pinterest (wishful thinking).
What’s your take? As always, I would love to hear your opinion on how should Goldman Sachs have handled, or is handling the crisis. Moving forward, to differentiate my post, I will continue to focus my editorial on how the new era affect our business from an end user perspective (be it customer or consumer). I promise I will not waste 1´s and 0’s in hyping Pinterest, Google + or the latest fad – Remember , it is only relevant if it serves your objectives and strategies.
Please share your thoughts below; I appreciate each and every one of your insightful comments, and I promise to pay extra attention to any opposing point of view. Feel free to reach me if you would like to review my thoughts in a more quantitative and practical manner. You can contact me via email: email@example.com, Twitter: @zeusofmarketing and Facebook: Zeus of Marketing. You can also find additional contact information via LinkedIn:http://www.linkedin.com/in/jrgrana.
P.S.: BTW, If two instances a trend makes, I also came across this blog on Why I Left Google While not published in the New York Times, it is still significant to understand that there’s no immunity in our connected world.
March 15th, 2012