As reported in PR Week, the insurance (and shrinking) giant, AIG, has recently employed the services of one of the largest public relations agencies in the country.
According to the article, an AIG spokesperson,Peter Tulupman, responded:
“We have hired Burson-Marsteller to help us respond to the huge volume of requests for information we are receiving from customers, employees, and the media,” Tulupman said in an e-mail to PRWeek. “We have more than offset the cost by canceling advertising and sponsorships.”
I get the second part of the quote, that being in reference to the recent “scandal” that erupted a couple of weeks ago in which members on congress (small caps on purpose) responded with “outrage” that B/M had the stones to move forward with “…$440,000 on a posh California retreat for its executives, complete with spa treatments, banquets and golf outings.”
That’s sensationalistic crap. If you dig below the surface, which few outlets have done during this nation’s financial crisis, you will discover that this was not just for executives, but was a pre-planned event that the top performers earned before the crisis. For any of you who know folks or have been in sales, you know that often, companies dangle a trip to Hawaii or something of the like as an incentive for performance.
My controversial ten cents? The AIG top-performers should be left alone because they had already earned the reward. Keep top performers motivated when company morale is likely at an all-time low is more important than ever. What AIG could have done differently is gotten ahead of the story; one would think that someone in public relations would have thought to get in front of this. Maybe they did, but got quashed. Who knows. But back to my main point.
AIG announcing that they have hired Burson Marsteller to handle “huge volume of requests for information we are receiving from customers, employees, and the media” is like saying that you have hired ten rabid German Shepherds to guard a lollipop that fell on the floor. I competed against B/M for a long time, and I can tell you that their rep is for gloves-off, hand-to-hand combat for clients. There will be the inevitable information that B/M is the agency of record for Philip Morris, USA, but that is irrelevant. The point is that if you want someone to deal with the “huge volume of requests for information we are receiving from customers, employees, and the media,” hire a firm in India to answer the phones.
AIG suggesting that Burson is going to help them answer inquiries is disingenuous. Hiring B/M to help them stem the flow of both negative publicity the the outflow of capital would be a more honest answer. I wonder who is calling the communications shots within the company.
Whoever it is should be smarter.