Going Public: Goldman Sachs’ Public Relations Strategies during the Financial Crisis (2007-2010)
posted by Department of Sociology for HKU and Public
Event Type: Public Lecture/Forum/Seminar/Workshop/Conference/Symposium
Event Nature: Law and Politics
This study analyzes the public relations strategies that Goldman Sachs deployed during the recent U.S. financial crisis. The analysis is based on an extensive content analysis of three newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today), from summer 2007 to summer 2010. I identify when, how and why Goldman Sachs decided to “go public” (Kernell 1986), namely to actively engage with the general public via the media to influence legislation. I examine the reputational, regulatory, and legal risks that the bank faced. Heavy reputational risks did not trigger much public reaction from the firm. Only the combination of reputational, regulatory, and legal risks which materialized in the summer of 2009 led Goldman Sachs to go public. The bank started an aggressive public relations campaign, which can be traced in interviews, press releases, data leaks, charity, and advertising campaigns. This move was very unusual for this very secretive firm. I expose that its situation as the most vilified bank on Wall Street, with no large customer or employee base, forced Goldman Sachs to adopt this risky strategy, which partly backfired. This study contributes to a better understanding of the political and media strategies of corporations enmeshed in widely publicized scandals.
Olivia Nicol is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Singapore University of Technology and Design in Singapore. Her work concentrates on the attribution of responsibility in long and complex causal chains. She focuses on the recent financial crisis in the United States (2007 – 2010). She is not interested in knowing who was responsible for the crisis, but how responsibility was constructed through a blame game. She examines media excerpts drawn from three main newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today) to analyze the games of accusations and counter-accusations for the crisis. Overall, her work participates in the renewed interest in the interplay between morals and markets in economic sociology. Her research has been funded by the AXA Research Fund and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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