Gladwell, the bestselling writer of The Tipping Point and What The Dog Saw, was the key note speaker at three recent events for small business owners sponsored by Bank of America, according to a press release from the bank. The bank held events in Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington D.C. over the past few weeks and despite that Gladwell is a business writer and not a businessman himself, his remarks seem to have made an impact on some of the entrepreneurs in the audience.
"Malcolm Gladwell has been a source of inspiration for me and my business for many years," Tom Kristof founder of the Sozo Center for Assisted Living and Advancement in Gainesville, Texas was quoted BofA's press release.
But for New York-based media, news and culture blog The Awl, the speaker series may be just another baffling public relations faux-pas by Bank of America. The unlikely union between the bank and the journalist, prompted the the site to put the words "The Heck???" below a link to the press release.
Bank of America recently experienced a widespread public backlash after it announced and then subsequently cancelled a $5 debit fee. The fee and others like it prompted thousands of customers to abandon banks for credit unions.
Critics also derided the bank after a series of strange foreclosure proceedings, including an attempt to foreclose on a house that had already been sold, a house that no longer existed, and, in one case, over a late mortgage payment totaling $0.00.
But, the bank seems to be following the advice of some prominent government officials by parading Gladwell around to small businesses. Earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged banks to do more to help small businesses.
In the same press release discussing Gladwell the bank also emphasizes its plan to hire an additional 1,000 small business bankers by 2012 to accomodate the needs of its entrepreneurial clients.
But in general, banks including Citibank, whose stringent lending practices have led many companies to switch to regional banks, have recently upped small business lending, according to PayNet, a tracker of small business financing. Small business lending rose 14 percent and 18 percent in September and August, respectively, PayNet finds.