Editorial: Big bank makes a big PR mistake

What with the juxtaposition of Barclays’ new advertising campaign - extolling the virtue of its size - and John Varley’s unwillingness to explain the relationship between the closures of regional branches and the ’generous’ bonuses being handed out by the bank, the ’big bank for the big world’ appears to have its reputation management controls set on self-destruct.

What with the juxtaposition of Barclays’ new advertising campaign -

extolling the virtue of its size - and John Varley’s unwillingness to

explain the relationship between the closures of regional branches and

the ’generous’ bonuses being handed out by the bank, the ’big bank for

the big world’ appears to have its reputation management controls set on

self-destruct.



It is hard to imagine a more potent combination of ingredients. The

emphasis on size and wealth, combined with what amounts to a blow to the

’little man’ was an absolute gift to newspaper cartoonists. In fact in

the timing of the recent announcements Barclays seems to have been

curiously impervious to the current climate of opinion - the increasing

pressure on commercial organisations to be accountable to the

communities they operate in; and this Government’s own plans to create

more resources for local communities.



But while Barclays appears to have been deaf to the protests of its more

remote regional customers and the media were not. In fact the pictures

painted of pensioners trekking for miles across Welsh valleys to the

nearest cash point made for compelling copy.



The question asked here, however, is not whether or not the branches

should have been closed, but whether the management of Barclays ever

took into account the PR implications of their various announcements. It

is certainly surprising that the advertising and PR strategies could

have seemingly been so out of kilter.



If, as the Management Consultants Association claims, 21st century

citizens vote with their feet Barclays may feel the effects of this

particularly insensitive bit of reputation management for some time to

come.



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