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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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June 19, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

GM’s CEO Mary Barra Smartly Sticks with Strategy of Transparency in Congressional Hearing

GM CEO Mary Barra’s testimony to Congress Wednesday was a demonstration of true integrity. Too often, we find leaders giving empty apologies. But Barra offers a new way forward for leaders who find their institutions (in this case, and in others, themselves) under the microscope, and learn the raw, honest truth – they are deeply flawed. Barra’s strategy of transparency around the mistakes made by previous leaders is admirable, and her continued self-criticism and forward-looking, specific recommendation for change are critical in order to rally support around the “new GM” she is trying to create. Her decision to act on all of the Valukas Report’s recommendations is evidence that she’s not just talking; she’s really making an actionable commitment to turning the company’s reputation, business and culture around. The Valukas report was indeed, as Barra herself puts it, “extremely thorough, brutally tough and deeply troubling.” However, Barra’s acknowledgement of the realities of the report and moreover, her suggestions to proactively address the issues raised shows that she is not afraid to rise to the occasion – her communication externally, if matched internally with a “we rise and fall together” mantra will serve her well. The verdict is still out on…

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June 17, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Will Corporate Citizenship Become the Reputation Game Changer As Starbucks Ups the Ante?

As if ethically sourced coffee weren’t enough to make your $5 cup of coffee a fashion statement. Starbucks upgraded its reputation to a double shot Venti with the announcement that the company will pay for all employees to go to college. That’s right, all employees – and without the handcuffs of retention requirements, partial reimbursements or anything else. For brands that are planning their next pink product line in a cause marketing pile-on known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month (aka October) and calling it corporate citizenship; or viewing themselves as the education advocates by donating school supplies to teachers – think again. The notion of social purpose as a business driver is catching on, fueled by leaders like The Gap, who’ve pledged to pay above minimum wage; Google, whose employees are required to spend a portion of their work week doing something other than company business, and even Apple, where CEO Tim Cook is seemingly defining his legacy not on design or innovation, but on doing the right thing. Starbucks – whose humble beginnings with health insurance for all and banning guns are beginning to look like simple table stakes for what was to come. The data is clear –…

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June 5, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Top Ten Quotes From the Reputation Management Institute Conference

As the Reputation Management Institute’s Annual Conference wraps up, my notes are peppered with some great quotes and food for thought about reputation – how to build it, protect it and measure it. In no particular order, my Top 10 quotes: “If you aren’t out there talking, someone will do it for you. And you probably won’t like it.” – Jake Siewert, Global Head of Corporate Communications, Goldman Sachs “Effective management of an issue that impacts reputation requires structure, and messaging. Not just messaging.” – Chuck Saia, Chief Risk, Reputation and Crisis Officer, Deloitte “If you try to be a secret, you get recognition for the bad news, and not the good news. Even private companies need to engage externally.” – Charlese Wheeless, Principal Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs, Bechtel “Reputation management isn’t about firefighting. It is about putting up smoke detectors.” – Kasper Nielson, Reputation Institute “We want employees to support corporate strategy, but we don’t ask them what they want in exchange” – Cees van Reel, Author of the Alignment Factor “To improve your reputation, be bold. Allstate will refund the premium for any policy holder who has an auto claim and isn’t satisfied with the outcome. Less…

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June 4, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

From Hotels to Healthcare – It’s All About Reputation

I’m at the Reputation Management Institute’s annual conference listening to great speakers talk about how to embed reputation considerations into business strategy and decision-making in order to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace. This morning’s panelist had me at “Hello.” Gerard van Grinsven is the CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, but ironically, he isn’t a healthcare guy. He is a former hotel executive, now running cancer treatment hospitals and outpatient clinics. With that unique background, he had some great insights to share on reputation management: 1. Every business is a customer service business, including healthcare. The customers own your reputation, and we need to deliver what they value most. 2. Don’t spend so much energy focusing on your competitors. It distracts from your mission, and managing your reputation with a “relative to your peers” approach is a guaranteed race to the bottom. 3. Reputation is built from the inside out. Employees need to understand and embrace your vision before anyone else will. 4. Reputation leaders decline to smell their own perfume. Every stakeholder needs a high level of emotional engagement from you. If they aren’t willing to rate you at the top of the chart, that means they’re…

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May 8, 2014 | dlauer | Tagged ,

Fields’ First 100 Days Starts Now

It’s official. Mark Fields will soon take the helm of one of America’s most iconic corporations of all time. And just as it is for any new chief executive, the pressure is on. All eyes will be on Fields’ every move, ears hanging on every last word, interpreting the hidden, strategic connection to layoffs, cuts, sluggish sales, or whatever the anxious situation du jour may be. The “first 100 days” – often thought of as the most critical period with the ability to make or break the reputation of a new CEO – has already started, even before his first cup of coffee in the corner office. Once thought of as a CEO’s “honeymoon period”, the first 100 days has become nothing short of a test, and unfortunately, easing into it is not an option. In fact, now more than ever, the first two months leading up to the official start date plays a more integral role in the perceived success or failure of a new CEO’s reputation tenure. For Fields specifically, this is a time for strategy and planning…not necessarily for Ford, but for his own, personal leadership approach. So what should he be doing starting today? CREATE AN…

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