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April 8, 2014 | jzeitz |

Litigation PR Lessons From The Brigadier General Sinclair Trial

Admin’s Note: This post originally appeared on The Holmes Report In late 2012, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, a highly decorated combat veteran and deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, was charged with sexual assault. Initial media coverage was toxic; he was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion before the case even went to trial. Friends and supporters approached MWW’s crisis communications group and asked if we could help set the record straight. We perform a wide range of services for corporate clients, including crisis plan development; media monitoring and analysis; press relations; and war-room setup and staffing. While litigation support is well within our wheel house, we had never worked on a military court martial. But we agreed to take the assignment when we looked at the evidence. The evidence showed that General Sinclair made a number of bad personal decisions, but he didn’t assault anyone. He had an extramarital affair with a junior officer, and when that officer came to realize that he didn’t intend to leave his wife, she understandably became angry and reported the relationship. As the second party to an adulterous relationship, the accuser also faced legal exposure. She soon amended her…

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April 7, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: JCPenney v. JPMorgan Chase

And it all comes down to this: the final game of the tournament. The winner takes home the trophy, and the loser just takes the bus. In this matchup, we have two strong teams squaring off after two bruising rounds of competition. Here’s where things currently stand: JCPenney JCPenney came into the tournament as a serious underdog. They’ve been down before – way down – and rebuilding a championship-worthy team for a second time simply seemed like too much of a long shot. Just don’t tell head coach CEO Mike Ullman. He took on Toyota in the first round and General Motors in the second, handily beating both as the two automakers continued to struggle to overcome their own demons. Coach Ullman has reignited the “Retailers” and their fans with a consistent emphasis on the fundamentals and a light touch of modernization – all while maintaining the iconic retail tradition that Americans love to love. By returning to discount pricing and coupons, loyal fans are returning, and with a fresh focus on online sale, particularly home sales, new customers are starting to take notice, as well. When it comes to March Madness, a true Cinderella story is born when the…

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April 5, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: JCPenney v. General Motors

JCPenney: In the first round, JCPenney proved that returning head coach CEO Mike Ullman was onto something when the “Retailers” defeated Toyota to advance to the Final Four. When Ullman returned to the helm of the iconic American brand, he had his work cut out for him. The previous coaching staff had essentially run the program into the ground with new strategies that were poorly suited for its loyal fans. By bringing the focus back to fundamentals, JCPenney is reviving the winning strategy that made it an American success story from the start. It all centers on building confidence in players, fans and stakeholders, through a steady commitment to customer service, cultivating talent and online retail. While it’s too early to tell whether loyal “Retailers” fans will renew their season tickets, a 25 percent jump  in share price immediately following the release of the quarterly earnings report in late February indicates that something in Coach Ullman’s playbook is working. If JCPenney and Coach Ullman can continue to shift the focus away from the disastrous decisions of the past and stay centered on the opportunity for change, growth and innovation, the “Retailers” could easily take home the trophy. General Motors: GM…

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April 4, 2014 | pwalotsky | Tagged , ,

Throwing in the Towel: How to Build Reputation in a No-Win Scenario

Last week, while most fans of college athletics were glued to their television screens as the March Madness Tournament pressed into the Sweet Sixteen, a much more dramatic event with long-term impacts for college athletics occurred in Chicago. On March 26, a National Labor Relations Board regional office recognized Northwestern University football players as university employees capable of forming a union – not student-athletes who are exempt from organizing rights. This ruling sent chills down the spine of athletic directors and NCAA officials across the nation, and may be looked upon years from now as a seminal moment in amateur sports, comparable to Curtis Flood’s suit against the MLB’s reserve clause in 1969 which set the foundation for free agency in professional sports. While a formal ruling that would allow college athletes to form a national union and collectively bargain for all college athletes is likely years off due to extensive appeals and litigation, between this instance, the ongoing O’Bannon case against the NCAA that is scheduled to see the inside of a courtroom this summer, and the recent anti-trust suit against the NCAA by star sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, the fundamental business model in college athletics is headed towards…

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April 4, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: Target v. JPMorgan Chase

Target: Despite a slow start, Target put in a strong showing in the early round, easily defeating SeaWorld with slow, but generally well received outreach from the CEO, a front office shake-up and a new effort to appeal to “season ticket holders” with free credit monitoring. However, Target’s offense was dealt a serious blow with the recent revelation that warnings about suspicious activity on its network went unheeded in the weeks prior to news about its major data breach during the hectic holiday rush. Newly acquired starting forward, CFO John Mulligan, recently made his third start before a Congressional panel, fielding questions about a Senate report that found Target missed multiple opportunities to prevent the theft of millions of customers’ credit card numbers and personal information. With this information only recently coming to light, it’s too early to know if the damage will be enough to erase the benefits of being an early favorite. As opponents continue to seek ways to leverage this new perceived weakness, it remains to be seen if the “Bullseyes” can adjust their playbook this far into the season.  Additionally, with ongoing litigation over the theft yet to fully ramp up, it’ll take more than a…

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April 3, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: General Motors vs. Bank of America

General Motors: A few months ago, GM seemed to be leading the charmed life.  The “new GM” had put the bailout behind the company, and exuberance for its new CEO Mary Barra abounded.  And then came the recall.  Some experts say that Toyota’s settlement is a precursor for what may come for GM, which could change its game. But for right now, GM gets high marks for an effective, transparent response.  Prior to the recall, Barra highlighted reducing bureaucracy as one of her priorities, and a culture of accountability will serve the company well during times of trouble.  As a new CEO, she has the ability to be the person who solved the problem, without necessarily carrying the baggage of creating the problem. Bank of America: Thomas Jefferson had a bank account at Bank of America. They are, after all, Bank of America.  Just a few short years ago Bank of America was touting its “higher standards,” was growing rapidly and seemed certain of an entrenched position among America’s leading companies.  Until the company wasn’t. Today, it seems the company has a lot of work to do if it wants to be seen as more than just a profit monger. …

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April 3, 2014 | dlauer | Tagged

Why The Right Brushstroke Can Make All The Difference In Target’s Recovery

John F. Kennedy once likened the duality of a crisis to the two brushstrokes used to form the Chinese word: “One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” Target has continually been in the hot seat since announcing one of the most impactful consumer data breaches on record. Closing on the 100 day mark, reverberations from Main Street to Wall Street are still being felt, punctuated by record low customer traffic numbers and a drastic drop in the stock. Given that the company chose to ignore a “suspicious activity” system warning after hackers infiltrated, its reputation – arguably its most coveted corporate asset – is suffering. With the worst behind it, the good news for Target is all signs point to its commitment to recovery.  The company’s leadership has taken many critical steps that are enabling them to begin restoring trust in the brand. To date, it has accelerated its $100 million plan to roll out chip-based credit card technology and built more secure walls between its network and added more “two-factor” authentication protocols.  It has made the move to clean house and take names (including its…

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mary barra

April 2, 2014 | lmahler | Tagged ,

Grading Mary Barra – How the New General Motors CEO Performed before Congress

Anyone who follows the political comings and goings of Capitol Hill knows that congressional hearings around hot-button issues are often tense, difficult moments for those called to testify. Such events attract widespread media scrutiny and can be a make-or-break moment for corporate leaders.  It’s not just the corporation’s reputation on the line; it’s the CEO’s personal brand at stake. We’re seeing this dynamic play out this week in the case of General Motors (GM), which has recalled 2.6 million vehicles over safety issues that led to a documented 13 deaths. Recently uncovered documents indicate that GM employees knew of the defects years ago and chose not to fix them, citing cost concerns. It is against this backdrop that new GM CEO Mary Barra appeared before Congress this week. Here, we take a look at the strongest and weakest parts of her performance: Issuing an Apology:  A+ When your company has done harm to its customers, the first step is to issue an apology – preferably before you’re asked for one. In this case, Barra started her testimony with a heartfelt “I am deeply sorry.” This acknowledges to your stakeholders that you are aware of your organization’s shortcomings. Showing Compassion to…

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April 2, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: JCPenney vs. Toyota

JCPenney: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  It’s hard not to root for JCPenney.  They are another company we’ve been watching for years here at ROR.  Mike Ullman is a veteran of retail turnarounds, and he’s fixed JCPenney once before.  He is bringing back the proven game day strategies of private label brands and promotions to drive customer traffic.  Reliable moves like closing unprofitable stores, and doubling down on key categories like home goods should serve JC Penney well.  Ullman also knows how to establish benchmarks and communicate progress in a turnaround – he’s outlined a plan that stakeholders can understand and support –and he is delivering against that plan. Toyota: If JPMorgan Chase is peaking at the right time, Toyota is doing the opposite.  We’ve been following Toyota’s woes here on ROR for a few years now, and despite some valiant efforts to focus on safety, such as the launch of its new Collaborative Safety Project, Toyota is announcing recalls almost as frequently as retailers report same store sales.  The recent Lexus recall, combined with the $1.2 billion dollar settlement makes the company an underdog in this tournament. Winner: JCPenney.  Because great coaches win big…

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April 1, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: JPMorgan Chase vs. Carnival Cruise Lines

Continuing in our matchups for Reputation Bracketology, today’s pair: JPMorgan Chase vs. Carnival Cruise Lines – both companies on the reputation bubble. JPMorgan Chase: JPMorgan Chase is scrappy.  Most people would count out any company that paid a $13 billion fine to the Department of Justice.  But this is a situation where the “strength of schedule” matters – and since financial institutions are among the most hated, least trusted organizations on the planet, being less hated than Bank of America may help JPMorgan Chase pull out a win.  The company’s game strategy is transparency and accountability – owning its problems and defining the path forward.  However, as executive pay continues to dominate discussion, Jamie Dimon’s 74 percent pay raise could plague the company if they advance to the further rounds. Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruise Lines is like the Rocky of Reputation Bracketology.  The company keeps taking punches, but keeps getting back up. A weak “conference” with everything from fires on board, to widespread illness to passengers falling overboard on cruise liners keeps Carnival on its heels.  However, it has managed to work towards winning back customers without massive reductions in price – so I wouldn’t count them out just…

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