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If you don’t have anything to say, don’t…

March 4, 2012

In case you missed it, last Wednesday, on February 29, 2012, Andrew Schiff at Euro Pacific Capital Inc in New York got some unwanted attention. He was quoted in a Bloomsberg article on reduced Wall Street bonuses saying his $350,000 salary just isn’t enough. “I feel stuck,” he told Bloomberg, “I wouldn’t want to whine. All I want is the stuff that I always thought, growing up, that successful parents had.” Judging from the thousands of comments to the Bloomberg article and the hundreds of postings it generated, many readers thought that he was indeed whining. (You can read the original article here: Wall Street Bonus Withdrawal Means Trading Aspen for Coupons)

Andrew Schiff, director of communications and marketing at Euro Pacific Capital

Andrew Schiff, from the Euro Pacific Capital website.

Here’s the thing that caught my attention though, Andrew Schiff is the director of communications and marketing at Euro Pacific Capital. That means that part of his job is to talk with the press. Whether you are sympathetic to Schiff’s situation or ready to condemn him as “a poster child for greed and venality” you have to wonder, what the heck was he thinking? I have a good guess – at that moment he wasn’t. At least he certainly wasn’t following his Euro Pacific Capital talking points. He was just speaking for himself, isn’t that okay?

No, it isn’t okay. One of the first lessons you learn in PR 101 is if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it. And I don’t mean the infamous “no comment” – don’t even say that (it sounds as if you have something to hide). Simply don’t volunteer your opinion in a public forum unless you have a specific goal in mind, i.e., some important information you want to convey. This may seem a heretical notion in our Reality TV culture, but “communications” is Schiff’s job. He can’t claim to be the latest Jersey Shore cast member. He also can’t claim ignorance of another in PR 101 basic lesson – you always represent your company and you’re never off the job. This goes for a drunken Apple employee at a bar as well as a Wall Street communications director stuck in traffic.

So, he screwed up. Happens to the best of us. Now what?

In the old days, before the ubiquitous growth of the internet and social media one’s first inclination might be to let this die out naturally. Every story has a news cycle and this, left on its own, would seem to qualify as a one day wonder. But unfortunately for Schiff his quotes touched a nerve and the comments to the original article and the blogs, the Facebook posts and tweets they spawned took on a life of their own. For some, he suddenly became “a poster child for greed and venality” and for others a stalwart defender of the struggles of the 1%.

Schiff soon realized this story wasn’t going away and it was time for some damage control. This time he prepared his talking points and had something to say and he took some calls to tell his side of the story. On Friday NPR aired an interview and posted an accompanying article in which Schiff explains that he was just trying to say that the costs of living well in New York have soared beyond the reach of even the affluent; that the issue was the crazy costs of living and working in New York – not his income. And as someone who has a relatively modest bonus, one sixth of his salary as opposed to the 80% many Wall Street workers receive, he shouldn’t have been included in the discussion at all. While his arguments may seem insufficient to those who have already made up their minds about him, Schiff did come across sympathetically. In hearing his voice, he became a real person, a compassionate character rather than a cartoon. So while it might have taken the director of communications and marketing at Euro Pacific Capital a couple of days to regain his footing, in the end he did. I guess maybe he deserves his salary (and a bonus!) after all….

From → MarComm/PR 101

One Comment
  1. BTW – anyone catch the irony of Andrew Schiff complaining (in the NPR article) about being manipulated by the Bloomsburg journalist? You see, normally it’s the other way around!

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