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April 30, 2010
What Walmart Brings to Goldman Sachs

This will be instructive to watch, if not exactly fun. Goldman Sachs is turning to H. Lee Scott, Jr., who led Walmart's PR engagement turnaround for most of the decade, to fill a vacancy on its board. How the biggest of the big boxes gained from brighter relational moves could be of great value to the biggest investment bank. 

Fortune calls Scott's selection for the Goldman board "what might be their only smart public relations move in recent memory."  He'll be up for election at Goldman's annual meeting May 7. Scott was Walmart's president and CEO from 2000 to 2009.

"Goldman executives surely feel they are under siege from the critics," Fortune writes. "Mr. Scott knows all about that. Pick your corporate poison – bad press, employee lawsuits, community anger, finding yourself a political pinata – and Walmart and Mr. Scott have been there, done that.

"When Lee Scott took over the helm of Wal-Mart, the firm had what could be charitably described as an 'us-versus-them' mentality, in which 'us' was Wal-Mart and 'them' was everybody else, from critics to the competition, the government, and yes, sometimes even its own employees. The company's public image as a rapacious behemoth reflected that. 

"When he stepped down from the CEO role a decade later, the image was undoubtedly that of a softer, gentler giant, if still a fierce one."

Smart PR moves can't entirely offset skullduggery if it's shown to exist, but getting a giant bank to act more like it's part of the society around it could only be helpful to Goldman Sachs. 

Photos by Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images






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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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