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September 22, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Is Paid Media the Final Reputation Frontier?

Reputation is one of those amorphous things that people struggle to define, yet seek to protect at all costs.  Famous quotes about the importance of reputation abound, and companies generally accept the notion that reputations are worth protecting. Over the two decades I’ve been working in reputation management, the practice has evolved from an earned media-centric model that was driven largely by the client asks for “positive publicity about the Company, featuring the CEO, please” to a more integrated approach and an understanding that reputation begins with your actions – it is something you demonstrate, more than you discuss.  Clients increasingly acknowledge the importance of internal culture to reputation, as employees are the universal touch point to all of your other constituents.  With the rise of social media, reputation managers embraced content and owned media as an effective tool for enhancing reputation and worked to be prepared for the power and speed of social when a crisis threatens a company’s reputation. Recently, there has been a noticeable uptick in the use of paid media for reputation efforts.  And while “brand advertising” has long been an accepted practice – these campaigns take a more substantive approach and highlight the Company’s values,…

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September 19, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Move the Chains: Roger Goodell’s Fumble Recovery

Just as the calls for his resignation reached a fever pitch, Roger Goodell pulled off a fumble recovery with his news conference today  (Although I’d throw a flag for the late start!). While the NFL, and Goodell, are far from being out of the woods, today marked an important first step in reputation recovery. What did the NFL (finally) get right? Goodell Manned Up – he took responsibility for bad processes, bad decisions and bad outcomes.  And promised to do better.  Never underestimate the value of an apology. Prescriptive and immediate actions were unveiled – education and training for all personnel will begin this month. NFL shed the block and pivoted to how the NFL can be a force for good – supporting credible organizations to tackle the larger societal problem of domestic violence.  They didn’t do it as well as NFL sponsor (and MWW client) Verizon – which made a similar call to action before the NFL did, and has been supporting domestic violence for years. Brought his potential adversary under the tent – the NFLPA by stating that they both agree that “There is no room for violence in the NFL” while outlining the need for change to…

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September 18, 2014 | admin | Tagged ,

The NFL in Crisis – How Can Its Reputation Be Saved?

The biggest news from the NFL over the first three weeks of the season has all been off the field with player arrests and suspensions relating to domestic and child abuse. EVP Carreen Winters recently appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” to discuss what PR issues the NFL is facing and what the league needs to do to restore the trust in the shield. See Carreen’s interview here.

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September 9, 2014 | dlauer | Tagged , , ,

Becoming a lifestyle brand, the Apple way

I’ve led corporate branding and narrative development for companies in every industry, from start-ups to the Fortune 100.  At one point in each and every audit, when asking executives who they most want to emulate or be aligned with, they all say the same thing: “I want to be Apple.” It has happened so often that I have had to specifically re-engineer my question to include a caveat – Apple doesn’t count.  Nor does Nike or Starbucks. These are the go-to brands that transcend their categories. Their very names have become known as widely-accepted verbs by everyone from Wall Street Analysts to Main Street Millennials.  These companies have created such strong emotional connections with their customers that they now serve to validate their identities and customers reciprocate by voluntarily tattooing their cars, computers and even bodies.  Because for their audiences, they are not corporations, they are a lifestyle. Lifestyle brands do more than achieve cult-like status among their followers. They successfully break away from the commodity space.  They command a price and loyalty premium unavailable to competitors. And the secret sauce? After researching and following so many of these brands, including those that have had success on a humbler stage,…

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September 7, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

“Reputational foul…inconsistent messaging…on the commissioner…15 yards”

As one of the world’s largest non-profit trade organizations, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell plays the role of CEO and as chief executive, it is crucial to have consistent messaging from the brand’s voice. And right now, the NFL has a messaging problem. Before the first 1:00 p.m. kickoff of 2014 this Sunday, the league has already created plenty of offseason noise to rival any stadium setting. Let’s recount some of the major news events across the field: This summer, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Brown went through an appeals process to overturn his season-long ban with the league for his second failed drug test. The league recently upheld their decision and the public made it clear they were not happy with the decision. Through a similar time window, on July 24, the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice two regular season games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy for his offseason arrest of domestic abuse; video surveillance shows Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé from an Atlantic City hotel elevator back in February after an altercation between the two. On August 28, Goodell publicly stated his wrongdoing in mishandling the Rice case, more than a month after the…

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August 14, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

The Art of Communications: When To Be Quiet

When you work in the public relations business, you learn to work the news cycle for your clients.  Bright ambitious professionals diligently track breaking news, and get creative about how to fit their clients into the trend.   A celebrity loses a ton of weight on your client’s diet program.  A prominent attorney comments on a verdict.  A CEO gives advice to college grads, or shares lessons learned from his Father on Father’s Day.  All in a day’s work. But there are some news cycles that you should just sit out.  And some in our profession just don’t learn.  I remember UPromise getting hammered when a well meaning, presumably very junior PR person pitched reporters on the “other tragedy of the day” -  lack of college savings -  shortly after the terrorists struck the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Rarely are the offenses so extreme, but it is these kinds of events that damage the reputation of the public relations profession. The most recent example comes from a major agency that tried to capitalize on the tragic suicide of Robin Williams by critiquing the mental health organizations who hadn’t engaged in social media, and reminding everyone that they are “in the…

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July 21, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

GM CEO Mary Barra Stays the Course of Transparency Showing Action at Congressional Hearing

In her third appearance before Congress on Thursday, GM CEO Mary Barra held steadfast to her strategy of transparency and action. Her testimony showed accountability and company changes since the first recalls were announced in February, and it was clear she won over the Congressional panel, with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MS) going so far as to say “some see the record number of recalls at General Motors as a problem. I see it as a good sign.” Building on my assessment of Barra’s previous Congressional testimony in June, she did two things exceptionally well this time around to further her strategy and demonstrated that she has acted on her convictions. 1. Showed empathy and solutions for the victims Empathy is a crucial element to restoring a reputation after a major blow. Barra hit this on the head, addressing the victims and the families who’ve lost loved ones at the start of her testimony. She immediately connected with them by offering her “deepest sympathies” and reassuring them that GM will rectify the situation with “compassion, decency, and fairness” through a no-cap compensation fund. The hiring of outside consultant, Ken Feinberg, is the proof point that demonstrates this compensation will take place…

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July 17, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

King James’ Return to Cleveland – A “Rebound on Reputation”?

Last Friday afternoon, NBA superstar LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his original team, after a four-year stint with the Miami Heat through an exclusive essay conducted by Sports Illustrated. James, an Ohio native, stirred controversy throughout America’s sports fan base in 2010 by publicly announcing his long-awaited free agency decision (aka “The Decision”) on a live ESPN special, with the message “I’m taking my talents to South Beach”resonating in villainous fashion. For those who don’t know, the reputational domino effect on James ensued shortly after, with Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert penning a blistering open letter to fans calling out James for leaving. This followed with countless No.23 jerseys burned or banished, and a chorus of “boos” directed at The King in every corner of the country. No matter the timing or his sincerity in the letter, was this enough to repair King James’ reputation?  After the 2010 decision, I looked at James’ reputation though a branding lens: a personal brand that caters to his advocates and ignores his detractors through an extremely narrow view of his stakeholders. From the grandiose television spectacle to the “What Should I Do” commercial that took a victimized approach in his…

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July 3, 2014 | seis | Tagged , , ,

The Power of a Diverse Workplace

Less than a month after Google disclosed its disappointing diversity numbers, Facebook followed suit with a nearly identical diversity report. At Google and Facebook, men make up 70 percent and 69 percent of both companies’ respective workforces, and combined, Caucasians and Asians represent a staggering figure of over 90 percent of both companies’ labor pools. These figures are representative of a troubling trend among far too many companies and are out of line with a U.S. workforce in which people of color make up nearly a third of the total labor force. This lack of diversity is simply inconsistent with the type of business strategy America’s most innovative companies should pursue and the message they should be communicating. While the days of “othering” are gone, there’s growing societal emphasis placed on acceptance and inclusion, creating a diverse workplace is not only a moral imperative; it’s a smart business strategy. Deloitte’s 2014 Human Capital Trends survey describes a diverse and inclusive workforce as “a company’s lifeblood.” Numerous studies from organizations such as Deloitte,  McKinsey & Company, and The Center for American Progress have proven the various benefits diversity has for a company.  From helping to understand customers’ differing needs and cultivating relationships…

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July 2, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

When Values-Based Organizations Go Wrong: Why Hypocrisy is the Enemy of Reputation

Free speech is alive and well – at least on social media – and it has never been more evident than it is with the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision.  Placing religious freedom, personal liberty and other Constitutional arguments aside, watching this situation unfold begs the question about the reputation implications of being an organization that is “values-based.” Most organizations are built on core values – some through a purposeful design of mission and vision statements, followed by the core values the organization espouses.  Others have been less orchestrated – but not less meaningful – often derived from the personal values system of the founders – maybe even religious values. Some of the greatest, most iconic companies in America were built on a religious foundation.  The Hersey Chocolate Company was certainly influenced by Milton Hershey’s Mennonite values.  Marriott’s commitment to The Mormon Way is well documented, as is its refusal to offer pay-per-view pornography in its hotels.  Tyson provides Chaplains of multiple faiths for its employees and believes in spirituality in the workplace.  And Timberland’s CEO credits his Jewish faith for his commitment to treating all people with dignity, and severing ties with Chinese factories for human rights violations. So why…

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