Citi Lays Off 11,000 and Blunders Press Release

Citi_logoSomeone needs a better editor-and a heart. To announce 11,000 employee layoffs, Citi issued a press release titled, "Citigroup Announces Repositioning Actions to Further Reduce Expenses and Improve Efficiency." "Repositioning" appears 17 times in the release.

Sure, layoffs usually are good news for Wall Street, but the real damage is the layoffs, not mentioned until late in the release and suspiciously absent from the three lines summarizing the statement up front:

  • Fourth quarter 2012 pre-tax charges to total approximately $1 billion
  • Approximately $900 million of expense savings expected to benefit 2013 results
  • Projected annual expense savings to exceed $1.1 billion beginning in 2014

The quote from new CEO Michael Corbat is a real tear-jerker, too:

"These actions are logical next steps in Citi's transformation. While we are committed to – and our strategy continues to leverage – our unparalleled global network and footprint, we have identified areas and products where our scale does not provide for meaningful returns. And we will further increase our operating efficiency by reducing excess capacity and expenses, whether they center on technology, real estate or simplifying our operations."

Although companies may justify jargon as required for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), they are free to craft messages any way they would like. Companies need to be smarter about their audiences, knowing that employees likely will read their press releases.

Assignment Ideas:

  • Read the entire press release. Identify all of the verbs that can be improved. Also look for nominalizations, and change these nouns and adjectives to strong verbs.
  • Rewrite the press release. What improvements can you make to the text and the CEO's quote?