Last Monday, AIG got its fourth helping of government-sponsored aid. However, it was a story that broke the next day that appeared to cause a bigger wave of public outrage: “AIG's dizzying PR binge,” blared a headline from BreakingViews.com, which appeared on CNNMoney.com. Using words like “spinmeisters,” the article surmised that: “Private jets, golf days, and lobbying are out for recipients of rescue funds. Some taxpayers and their representatives in Congress could see PR in the same category.”
Recipients of public money – yes, TARP funds – should hire a communications firm, much as they should hire lawyers, bankruptcy experts, and accountants. Everyone is looking for answers to what's going on in the marketplace, so financial services companies need to be over-communicating. A PR firm that can help a company do so in a coordinated fashion is well worth it.
Moreover, marketing is a key business function that will help beleaguered organizations improve their bottom line. That, in turn, helps their investors, employees, and so forth. The White House has a vested interest in getting the public – and Wall Street – to believe in the net benefit of TARP, that it isn't just pouring money into dying entities. This is a story the government needs help in telling, and it's the marcomms industry's job to help it do so.
Where are the thought leaders to make the industry's case? They should take a cue from the corporate travel industry, which has rapidly mobilized, calling on associations and company executives with a vested interest, such as airplane manufacturers, to explain its importance to the public and the Hill. It has the tools and skills to save itself from castaway status on par with lobbyists, yet industry leadership remains largely silent on the issue, as the misinformed public rails against it and elected officials exploit the big bad PR industry.