‘Who’ and ‘why’ are the big two questions that should frame any comms campaign from the kick-off. In theory, the bigger the name, the more interest in the story. Last week, Goldman Sachs released new research suggesting that Brazil has a 50 per cent chance of winning the World Cup. Its best analysts – usually seen scrutinising markets rather than sporting competitions – came to the conclusion based on a study of international football matches going back to 1960. Unsurprisingly, the story received widespread pick-up across financial media and digital channels.
You would usually associate a research-based story like this with challenger firms aiming to raise awareness of their brand. Hardly a challenge for one of the world’s largest investment banks. So why has Goldman embarked on this and, more importantly, will it trigger more creative storytelling from other financial institutions that traditionally take a conservative, if not prim and proper approach to communications?
There are many potential reasons. It’s no secret that banks, whether institutional or retail-focused, have had their eyes set firmly on rebuilding their reputations since 2008. Associating itself with an event of the magnitude of the World Cup goes some way to helping Goldman clean up its corporate image. After all, better to be a bank connected with a global event that brings billions of people together, than the financial turmoil of the recent past.
While any out-of-the-box idea like this needs to be approached with caution, especially when it’s a FTSE 100 player, the truth is that for too long, big brands across all sectors have been taking a ‘play it safe’ approach – arguably because it keeps stakeholders happy. Indeed, you could call it the ‘nobody got fired for hiring IBM’ mentality, as applied to corporate communications.
Yet Goldman’s comms innovation (or risk-taking if you are viewing it from the perspective of the defensively minded stakeholder) should serve as a wakeup call for firms that have continued to play it safe. It’s the willingness for a company of this size to associate itself with something that everyone can understand that makes the story so interesting to a wider audience.
There is no guarantee that organisations will follow Goldman’s lead, but we believe the splash it’s story has made reinforces the argument that creative thinking is on the up. Creativity should always sit at the heart of any comms strategy; it’s not the sole province of the publicity-hungry start-up.
And it’s important to build time for creative thinking into communications rather than getting bogged down in bureaucracy. While creativity for creativity’s sake can backfire, firms that fail to bring new ideas to the table will become less relevant. The key is devising a strategy that allows room for creative thinking, while ensuring that any ideas are clearly aligned with business goals.
Alastair Turner is managing director at Aspectus PR.