Comms Challenge – Goldman Sachs & The Pope

In a tweet earlier today, I wondered who had the bigger comms challenge – Goldman Sachs or the Vatican? This was spurred by this Memo From Vatican City in the NYT today, plus other coverage looking at criminal and civil charges for Goldman. What’s interesting here is that at the core both organizations have the same challenge – their internal culture of secrecy is increasingly at odds with a world of more transparency in the way decisions are made. Let’s look at the challenges they both face:


  • Clearly has systemic values failure and is dealing poorly with coverup by blaming the media (next up: “lamestream media” tag applied).
  • Is losing money and followers in much of the world.
  • Has divisions between central authority and distributed delivery
  • Discussion strikes totally at the core of the organization – trust and faith have been compromised.

Goldman Sachs:

  • Did not live up to core values (long term greedy, clients first).
  • Has governments around the world zeroed in on them as poster child for finance reform.
  • Discussion strikes totally at the core of the organization –trust is critical.


My take: the Vatican has a bigger problem long term, GS the bigger problem short term. Both could help themselves. Here is what they should do:

Vatican: You have to find a way to declare the crisis over. There have been people who have resigned, now is the time to do a clean sweep, regardless of cost. Anyone aware or associated with the abuse cases who did not immediately act needs to be removed from their position. Those directly associated need to be moved to positions where the rest of their careers are spent in prayer for the future of the church. The leaders in the Vatican need to step up activity, set up a more transparent process that involves laity (not just Vatican officials) and pledge to implement changes recommended by this group. Model would be commission style – study, recommend and implement.

Goldman Sachs: Find a sacrificial lamb (hint “Fab”). Make minor changes to systems, but trumpet them loudly. Show just a smidge of remorse. Stall for time. Find a part of the finance regulation bill you can support and do so loudly. Revamp internal ethics training, make it public, make it stick (find another sacrificial lamb).

Votes on twitter and FB indicate that people agree…Vatican wins this one. But not in a good way.

3 Responses to “Comms Challenge – Goldman Sachs & The Pope”

  1. Tim Says:

    This line made me chuckle: ” the Vatican has a bigger problem long term” — of course they do… their problems don’t end when they die 😉

  2. fxshaw Says:

    HA! Of course that was what I meant. Seriously.

  3. mary branscombe Says:

    I’d kind of like both organisations to stop doing morally bankrupt things before they start publishing their public image…

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