Parting gestures from Google and Goldman Sachs employees

One article is an op ed in the New York Times. The other is a personal blog post. One writer is a banker, one is a software developer. One worked at Goldman Sachs, the other at Google. But both seem to share the same motivation to explain to the world how the changing ethics and growing materialism of the very different companies in which they worked have driven them to leave.

They also share the fact that I was made aware of them virally, by friends who know my interest in this sort of thing.

Do read both posts – they are worth it.

What should companies do when they get this kind of media attention from an ethically-minded whistle-blowing employee? Is there a PR solution to this?

My answer is: yes, if your PR team influences company decision-making and policy by helping the business to understand how the values and ethics of the world around them will determine perceptions around corporate behaviour.

But if your definition of PR is just communications there isn’t much to be done. Many will take solace in the fact that these pieces will be seen by some for a while but will not make the top headlines on the news. So what?

But anyone who sees such articulate, detailed and well-balanced articles, conveying strong feeling with quiet reason, will stop reading with a different view of those businesses.

Everyone is talking about the need for business to change its obsession with making money and financials to a more long term valuation of what business to deliver to employees, customers, society at large.

These two examples show that all this talk is still making very little impact in the management and operations of some of the world’s largest and best known organisations.

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  1. Tariq Khwaja

    Deborah, an interesting piece.

    You ask whether there is ‘a PR solution’ for the companies concerned. I’d argue the real issue surrounds the more fundamental solution – which wouldn’t be a quick fix but would need to tackle organisational culture. I’d say PR still does also have an important role to play: the companies could handle the short term fall-out well or badly, depending on how they communicate and respond. And if they are putting longer term solutions in place, they’d need to communicate effectively about that and convince a sceptical world.

    Clearly it would have been better for all concerned not to have got into this position in the first place, as much damage – as you indicate – is already done.


  2. Deborah

    Tariq thank you for the comment – and I completely agree with you. Correcting this is about culture and values, not spin. I noticed this was on the front page of the Evening Standard yesterday and today they are saying that the NY Times article has received 3m hits – and the Goldman Sachs share price has taken a bit of a hit too. I wondered if there was a back story to Greg Smith – something beyond pure mindedness – that had prompted him to write this note but an inside source in London tells me apparently not. He’s potentially sacrificed a future in banking for the sake of speaking out about something he feels very strongly about.

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