Barclays enlists Portland to help with crisis response

Portland is playing a key role in Barclays' efforts to handle the fallout from last week's explosive interest rate-rigging scandal, PRWeek has learned.

Pressure: Barclays CEO Bob Diamond resigned on 3 July
Pressure: Barclays CEO Bob Diamond resigned on 3 July

Both Barclays and Portland remained tight-lipped on the agency’s work, but it is thought the Omnicom-owned consultancy has taken a leading role formulating the bank’s comms response to the affair.

It is understood Portland has been recently taken on by Barclays for an undefined corporate reputation brief, which morphed to include crisis comms work as the Libor trading affair unfolded.

A Portland spokesman refused to confirm the agency’s role, saying: ‘We don’t comment on client relationships.’ Barclays also declined to comment.

Brunswick is Barclays’ retained City agency and is also believed to be heavily involved in financial and stakeholder comms around the issue.

However, one industry source suggested Barclays was mindful of the wider social, political and corporate fallout from BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, in which Brunswick was actively engaged. The source said the bank wanted an agency to lead a crisis response that had a ‘man on the street perspective’.

Barclays held a pitch for its UK public affairs account in January, handing the brief to Cicero. Portland unsuccessfully pitched for this account, but it is thought its engagement is likely to have stemmed from this.

Barclays’ in-house media operation is being overseen by former Brunswick director Giles Croot, although new Barclays corporate comms chief Stephen Doherty is understood to have started his role early to work on the response.

The fallout from Barclays’ FSA fine for the manipulation of Libor rates has claimed the heads of Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, COO Jerry del Missier and, temporarily, chairman Marcus Agius.

Portland, established by former Tony Blair adviser Tim Allan, recently hired Blair’s former communications director Alastair Campbell. It also employs former Sun political editor George Pascoe-Watson. It is not known which Portland staffers are working with Barclays.

For more on the Barclays fallout read: Barclays crisis 'as bad as it gets'

And: Editor-in-chief’s opinion on the Barclays scandal

Barclays time line

3 July CEO Bob Diamond and COO Jerry del Missier resign and Marcus Agius says he will continue as chairman until a new CEO is appointed.

2 July Agius resigns, citing ‘devastating blow’ to bank’s reputation.

29 June PM urges regulators to use ‘all the powers at their disposal’ to pursue Barclays.

27 June Barclays admits to misconduct over Libor.

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