There is an old saw in marketing and public relations that if you don't quickly brand your company's products and services the public will brand them for you. Whether that brand ends up being good or bad becomes secondary to the fact that you are not likely to ever get out from under the image the marketplace has provided.
The new adage we are likely to see adopted will say something along the lines of, "When the president of the United States starts bad mouthing your brand, it's not going to survive."
There is, quite frankly, nothing a crisis communications expert can do to mitigate AIG's situation, which is why you have seen the company and its executives remain decidedly silent. First, they run what amounts to one of the world's greatest financial scams and help send the U.S. economy into a state of collapse and then they ask taxpayers to save their company because it is so important to America and the world that it can't be allowed to die and then they use that bailout money to provide bonuses to the precise individuals who drove the company and the country off a cliff. How can that be fixed, either in reality or perception?
It can't. No matter what a communications expert advises an AIG executive to say, it is too late; actions have outstripped any ability to undo harm. Anything anyone says will be a bit like what Texans describe as "puttin' earrings on a hawg; there's some ugliness there ya just can't hide."
Check out the rest of his post here. Jim Moore really nails it.