Would Getting Lloyd Blankfein on 'Oprah' Lift Goldman Sachs's Image?

Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey
Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey

Can Oprah do for Goldman Sachs (GS) what she has done for many entrepreneurs and authors? The positive surge of public opinion and upswing in business activity, known as "The Oprah Effect," that generally accompany guests on Oprah Winfrey's talk show has executives at Wall Street's signature firm considering a new marketing plan that includes CEO Lloyd Blankfein possibly appearing on The Oprah WinfreyShow.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the investmant bank that Main Street loves to hate is implementing a branding campaign to lift its image. Venturing into the glaring spotlight that Oprah can provide is just one of a number of changes the 141-year-old bank is considering.

In the wake of the credit crisis of 2008, the government bailout of the financial services industry, Blankfein's painful grilling during Senate hearings on the banking crisis and the Security and Exchange Commission's civil suit against Goldman for allegedly withholding information about a synthetic collateralized debt obligation based on subprime mortgage-backed securities to investors, Goldman is using its website for the first time to communicate its positions on issues that could help it combat public scrutiny.

Perceptions Affect Ability to Operate

At a communications industry event in London, the Journal reports that Fiona Laffan, Goldman Sach's head of media relations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that since going public in 1999, the previously very private company has come to realize that "perceptions of the firm directly affect our license to operate."

Laffan said few clients have distanced themselves from Goldman in the wake of the SEC civil suit, but acknowledged that the increased scrutiny of its trades and other business practices has represented a major media challenge for the company. Something has to be done to help the bank better manage possible conflicts of interest in the press.

"There are people [in the bank] who think we should go on 'Oprah'," said Laffan. "I'm not one of them."

Of course, scoring an appearance on Oprah is no easy feat, especially in the later half of her final season on the air. Oprah is big on intimate and inspirational stories that show insight into how individuals overcome personal challenges. It's hard to imagine any "challenges" that Blankfein, who is largely -- if unfairly -- perceived as an overpaid Wall Street banker, could discuss that would inspire Oprah's largely female audience and boost Goldman's brand.

Nonetheless, a more aggressive media campaign including television appearances for Goldman's top executive seems inevitable -- even if Oprah is not on the list.

Originally published