Did Citigroup fire its public-relations department when it laid off those 50,000 people a few months ago? Among the many problems faced by the beleaguered bank is the fact that no one seems to be managing their image. There was the long Times takedown of the bank in November, which was only officially commented upon ex post facto. Then there was Riskmeister Emeritus Robert Rubin's disastrous defense of himself in The Wall Street Journal, and the long period of dilly-dallying over bonuses. And when, apparently, the Post called to ask the company to comment on their recent decision to purchase a new $50 million jet, a Citi employee responded like a petulant child.
"Why should I help you when what you write will be used to the detriment of our company?" replied Bill McNamee, head of CitiFlight Inc., the subsidiary that manages Citigroup's corporate fleet, when asked to comment about the new 7X.
"What relevance does it have but to hurt my company?"
Okay, it kind of blows our mind to do this, but in the interest of the hundreds of thousands of other people employed by Citi not losing their jobs, we'll give Bill a few tips on what he should do should he receive another call from the media.
1. When a paper calls for comment, don't look at it as helping them. Look at it as helping yourself. For instance, giving a quote that makes your company sound guilty as all hell and like you've been totally busted doing something wrong is a bad idea. Presenting a few reasons for why the company deserves a new jet when it is laying people off and its stock price is scraping the bottom? Much better.
2. Regarding relevance: Try to imagine yourself in the time and place in which we all exist. Might the Post have another reason for asking about Citigroup's $50 billion bailout, other than the fact that the Post is mean and wants to "hurt your company"? Might the public in fact have an interest in the matter, due to the $350 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of "your" company? It's "our" company now, Bill. Spin that around in your little noggin.
3. Try not to cry, Bill. No one respects a crier.