LEADER: Time for all banks to think crisis PR

So, beleaguered French bank Societe Generale has given FD a 'crisis management' brief. But before one starts making jibes about bolting horses and stable doors slamming shut, it should be pointed out that - until now, at least - Soc Gen has handled the news of its £3.7bn losses rather well.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

Compared with our own Northern Rock crisis, albeit different in nature, it felt as if the bank and the French authorities were generally in control of the shocking news. They had apparently known of the 'fraud' three days before it hit the headlines and the 'culprit' was quickly isolated.

As time goes on, the more damaging stuff starts to come out, which is presumably why FD is bolstering the bank's crisis resource. On Wednesday, it was reported that the rogue trader blamed for the losses, Jerome Kerviel, had told investigators his superiors were aware he was making huge unauthorised bets.

If this were the case, public trust in the whole management team would crumble. A cavalier attitude will be seen as endemic within the bank. Critical then, that Soc Gen uses the classic crisis management tactic of isolating, then dealing with, the problem with force.

There is also the danger that this crisis in trust could spread further. To UK banks. Already the Financial Services Authority (whose own reputation was tarnished by its toothlessness with Northern Rock's cavalier ex-managers) is warning that similar rogue trading may be happening within the City of London.

Should similar stories emerge over the coming months, consumers will lose further confidence in the system.

This is the last thing already cash-strapped banks need. If they are to avoid a downward spiral in trust and performance, it would be wise to follow Soc Gen's example and ramp up their crisis comms functions.

The very first thing they should do is let objective PR firms take a cold, hard look at their internal practices.

danny.rogers@haymarket.com

 

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