S&P’s PR skirmishes began as the credit-rating downgrade rumours began ramping up last week. Then, when the White House found an error in its debt ceiling deal calculations, the war erupted.
S&P altered its rationale and went ahead with its announcement anyway, and it was shredded by both the media and the Obama Administration, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
S&P’s sovereign ratings managing director John Chambers followed up his hard-hitting weekend comments by making his rounds on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, and its global leader David Beers appeared on CNN and ABC.
Both executives wholeheartedly defended the decision, and Beers strongly dismissed the criticism as a “smokescreen for the unhappiness … about the decision.” It’s evident that they’re not backing down.
Meanwhile, parent McGraw-Hill and its CEO Harold McGraw III have remained utterly silent. This serves two purposes: distancing McGraw-Hill’s other branded divisions — such as its education segment — from the S&P backlash, and reinforcing its assertion that its subsidiary ‘s decisions about ratings are made completely independently.
Will S&P’s PR strategy work? It’s a unique situation, and S&P has many PR fronts to defend itself on: media, government, businesses, consumers and its own parent’s shareholders. If its staunch defence of its position can appeal to the average American (as Donald Trump seems to think S&P’s trying to do), they may yet come out in good shape.