Kel Kelly

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Whether it's topical news, internet happenings, social media, public relations, marketing, start-ups, mobile shiz or whatever, I promise to wade through the bullshit and give you my unbuffered perspective.

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Crisis PR Advice For Bailed-Out Boneheads

February 10, 2009 12:20 PM

As a PR professional, it absolutely blows my mind every time a bailed-out bank steps in another pile of shit. Last night I turned on NBC Nightly News to see yet another story of a bailed-out bank spending money on an event in Vegas. Doh! Have they not seen that movie before?! The ending sucks and everyone looks like a bunch of self-centered, greedy fools.

I offer the following low to no cost, Web 2.0-based crisis PR advice to these deaf, dumb and blind bankers:

  1. Assess: The first step in any crisis PR situation is to assess the issue and identify whether you are in fact responsible. That should take a freakin’ nanosecond. Spending taxpayer money on Vegas boondoggles is a big, fat, hairy no-no. And I’m sure nobody was goaled with driving their bank into the ground and pushing the world economy to the brink of a depression. So if those were not the targeted goals in your bonus plan, then why are you nutbags being paid bonuses?
  2. Take Responsibility: Now that we have established that you bailed-out banks are at fault, the next thing you should do is take responsibility. I’m all about leveraging Web 2.0 and its low to no cost opportunities, so here’s what I suggest. Go buy a Flip for $100 bucks and pay for it out of your own pocket. Have your CEO record a raw, unscripted apology to the American people. Vote script writing off the island and just open up and genuinely fall on your sword. Use a vernacular that all blue collared Americans would use. Say that you effed up. Say it was one of the dumbest things you have done in your life and you are embarrassed to look at yourself in the mirror. Say that you can’t sleep at night in knowing you let your employees spend hard-working Americans’ money on slot machines. Say that you now regret tipping a stripper $100 when you know that a single working mother facing bankruptcy could have used it towards the cost of a loan modification. Say whatever you have to say to raise the American people’s eyebrows so they say, “Holy shit! I can’t believe he just said that!” Anything short of that will be viewed as lip service.
  3. Identify Changes & Open Channels of Communication: The next step is to identify a list of things you will do to ensure it never happens again. Start with making a list of all the marketing events you canceled and the savings associated with those cancellations.Go a million steps further and tell Americans you plan to push for a bill that would make misusing taxpayers’ bail-out money a felony. Put all this info on a Web 2.0-driven platform that will allow the American people to post comments. You owe them this because you really blew it. Encourage Americans’ feedback through this user-generated platform. Let the American peeps have their voices heard. Listen like you have never listened before. Respond to comments. I also suggest you set up a Twitter account called “Bailed-Out Boneheads” and tweet about each despicable thing you hear an employee has done and include their name and termination date. For shizz dudes. This is the type of thing you need to do if you ever want to restore faith to the American people and bring integrity back to your bank.
  4. Tell Top-Talent To Screw: Seriously…when I hear bankers say they need to pay millions in compensation to retain top talent I can’t help but laugh. Where is this so-called top-talent going to go? There isn’t a healthy bank on the planet these days so relocation is not an option. And oh by the way, what makes them “top talent?” They were the ones with their hands on the wheel when their Titanic-like bank hit an iceberg and began to sink pulling down an entire country of passengers down with it. When you tell this self-anointed top-talent moron to screw, record the communication on a Flip. Post the video on your Web 2.0 platform and let all Americans enjoy the encounter.
  5. Pray: I’m agnostic. I respect all religions, so I don’t care who you pray to, but I suggest you get down on your dirty little hands and knees and pray like you have never prayed before.What should you pray for? I suggest forgiveness and a miracle. You need the former and the American people need the latter.

Do you have any crisis PR advice for these bailed-out boneheads?

Disclaimer: There were/are a lot of innocent, well intentioned employees at these bailed-out banks, many of whom have suffered immensely. They are not the target of this post.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 30 Comments »

30 Comments on “Crisis PR Advice For Bailed-Out Boneheads”

  1. Meagan Says:

    This is one of my favorite blog posts ever. Imagine if they took this advice? I would imagine a large number of us would consider trusting a bank again, and switch our business over.

  2. Tara Says:

    This is the wake up call they need Kel! I think financial executives should be volunteering and picking up calls into NACA from families at risk of losing thier homes. It’s time for accountability. They are so padded from the reality of their actions.

  3. Kel Says:

    meagan, thanks for the props. dare to dream…

  4. Kel Says:

    amen sista’ tara! it will be a long, hard fall from the pillar these peeps put themselves on. i firmly believe no deed goes unnoticed, no debt goes unpaid.

  5. julie Says:

    what happened with the congress bill that executives using bail-out money can not make more than the president? $400k and no bonuses!…

  6. Kel Says:

    julie, i believe you are referencing the proposal by senator claire mccaskill and senator bernard sanders. the two have proposed that no employee of an institution that receives money under the $700 billion federal bailout can receive more than $400,000 in total compensation until it pays the money back. the cap is the same compensation the prez of the us receives. last i heard that was still being proposed, but nothing has been passed.

  7. Karen Says:

    So I guess what happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas anymore….

    True this is another ridiculous example of the elite and out of touch. I think we have a problem with our culture in this country–there is a persisting sense of entitlement that will take generations to wash away. We need a culture shift, in my opinion. Hopefully it will become unfashionable to be so wasteful, especially with other people’s money….in this case–ours.

  8. Kel Says:

    karen, your vegas comment is hysterical! and true. i do believe this economic mess will act as a catalyst for a culture shift. the good news is many, many people will learn humility for the first time in their lives.

  9. Shane Says:

    Talk is cheap. These clowns deserve a little street justice. Still cant believe someone hasnt popped Bernie Madoff in the schnoz yet. Public shunning is in order, whether it’s in Palm Beach or Nantucket, these evil people should be made aware in no uncertain terms of the absolute horror show they’ve perpetrated on mr and mrs main st. america. Im not advocating physical violence mind you, just some little humiliation: at the Y, the mall, soccer & little league games, restaurants.. anywhere these pariahs go, indignity and disdain shall follow. Public flogging? Hmmm…that’s a good idea. Then again, you did a pretty good job here Kel! Keep it up.

  10. Kel Says:

    shane, you never let me down! are you related to nancy grace? haha!

  11. Deb Says:

    Well said. I too agree this may be one of your best yet !!

  12. Kel Says:

    thanks deb! wondering what makes you and others think this is “one of my best.” let me know, so i can integrate in whatever magic appeared in this post.

  13. Laura A Says:

    Responsibility, change and open communication? From bankers? That would be interesting to see. :)

  14. Kel Says:

    laura, yes it would be! i think this is the year of “hope.” maybe it will happen…and maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass…

  15. Andy Says:

    Kel- A great post. I work at one of those banks you just hammered. I’d love to see the guy who drove my bank into the ground actually apologize to the millions he screwed— customers, employees, and shareholders. Part of every employee retirement was in the worthless stock. No punishment too good for him.
    But why stop with bank execs? With all the bullshit going on in DC, why not expect the same from our elected officials? There’s not enough bandwidth available for all the mea culpas we could expect from those assholes!
    Happy Presidents Day indeed.

  16. Kel Says:

    andy, i’m really sorry to hear you work at one of those banks. i know there are tens of thousands of innocent employees who have been screwed over by a short list of greedy boneheads. and i agree with you — i think this advice should be leveraged by many sectors and government is a great example. i know it sounds extreme, but i was serious with my recommendations. people will always rise from the ashes when they take responsibility. i think their ascent would be faster if they bring their mea culpa to a place where no one has ever taken it before. sending good vibes to you and your fellow employees….

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  18. Christopher Says:

    I came to PR with a background in finance and economics. In college, I became a theoretical math nerd and learned to tolerate what I call “financial pornography.”

    Considering the state of the economy, I think one of the most interesting points in my academic career was during a class called “Fixed Income Analysis,” where we discussed and dissected the “latest and greatest in financial derivatives.” I’ll never forget one session where we discussed the repackaging of mortgages into individual securities. Back in the early part of the decade, this was hailed as financial genius. Today, it’s the source of the financial crisis. For me, it was something I never really understood, and I think most of the banks that dealt with these instruments did not either.

    I’ve worked in both financial media relations and IR, and what I’ve learned is that if you can’t explain your dealings in plain English to your stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders, media, the gov’t), as you ultimately will have to do, then the business venture is not worth getting into.

    The sum of all this is: PR is not just a communications “vehicle” but also a measurement tool on the worth of business practices in general.

  19. Kel Says:

    christopher, thanks for the comment. i gotta tell you…i have met a thousand pr people…however, i have never met anyone who came to pr via the finance and economics route! moreover, i would bet my company that there is not another pr pro on the planet who has ever been a “theoretical math nerd.” lol! thanks for sharing your perspective. your background brings a unique dimension to the discussion.

  20. Dara Says:


    Great post! I am currently in a PR Planning class and we are doing mock-cases on how to deal with crisis situations. Your tips are not only really funny, but also really helpful for me to understand exactly what to do in crisis situations. My advice for the these bankers is to lay low for awhile, quit spending unnecessary money that they don’t have, and hope the American people forgive them for their stupid ways.

  21. Kel Says:

    dara, you appear to have more wisdom as a student than these boneheads have as executives. rock on!

  22. Dave Baldwin Says:

    Big Bankers are like Rock Stars who Know that everyone likes, I mean Loves, what they do…. and they are incapable of listening or coming to a ‘logical’ conclusion that doesn’t fly in orbit around them. While ‘humiliating’ them might seem like a good idea, I don’t think that works with people that don’t pay attention.

  23. Kel Says:

    dave, i think you are probably right with your rock star theory. the thing with rock stars is most crash and burn at some point. it will be interesting to see if anyone has a “holy shit” moment of self-actualization where they realize their mistakes. long-term unemployment and a personal finance crisis can often be a catalyst for this…although i wouldn’t hold your breath.

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  25. Crisis PR Advice For Bailed-Out Boneheads Says:

    All your ramblings only show that you are jealous that these people had an opportunity to go to Las Vegas on the companies dime. Las Vegas is one of the hardest hit cities from the home crisis. Why don’t you try telling the workers of Las Vegas why they should not get any of the money these companies are willing to spend in their town? Maybe some of the people facing foreclosure or the ones who have already lost their houses could have kept their jobs or houses if these companies followed through with their plans. Turn the PR light on the plight of Americans living in Las Vegas and that the journalists are snubbing their problems. Heck, they’re snubbing all Americans by ridiculing the fact that companies are willing to spend money which would reach the pockets of those needing it. Keep up your selfish beliefs and our country is doomed.

  26. Kel Says:

    this is in response to comment #25. dude, i don’t know where your anger is coming from but it is misplaced. my company does pr for a loan modification company. i know the home foreclosure market inside-out-and-sideways. i already have the “pr light on the plight of Americans living in vegas.” spending money on a boondoggle trip to vegas is not going to help as many people in need as a well thought out housing plan for all americans who are in that rocky boat. there is a better use of taxpayer money to help the unfortunate people in vegas who are facing foreclosure. i don’t think obama’s plan is there yet, but it’s heading in the right direction.

  27. Christopher Says:

    I was reading about the AIG bonus issue when I thought about this post. I agree with your opinion on the “Top Talent” matter. The harshest critic is the court of public opinion. To save face, not only should they rescind bonuses for ‘top talent,’ but they also should fire the folks in the ‘Special Financial Products’ section of AIG.

    When Societe Generale had that large scandal back about a year ago where one of their traders lost billions making bad bets, SG fired him right away in order to start the process of restoring their credibility. The same should happen here (with AIG).

  28. Kel Says:

    christopher, i love, love, love that insight and idea. the best news i heard today on the aig front was that a few employees had given back their bonus without being asked. i’m sure the public outrage had something to do with it, but i give them tremendous credit to proactively take a step in the direction where so many others failed to.

  29. rider waite Says:

    Extremely good article and I favor your attitude towards enhancing standards. Thanks for putting this particular material up. This is EXACTLY what I’ve been searching for. Keep blogging. Looking towards reading your following post.

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