Monthly Archives: March 2012

Managing risk and reputation, without crushing your employees’ souls
March 15, 2012

Yesterday I wrote about the latest Goldman Sachs reputation issue, and made the statement that Reputation Begins at Home….what your employees think and do is more import than anything a Company spokesperson says. Nowhere is this principle more evident than in social media.  More specifically, in a Company’s approach to social media policy.  To some, social media is the Wild West…uncontrollable, prone to “shoot-outs” and fraught with risk.  These companies either prohibit use of social media in the workplace, restrict employees from identifying their employer, or regulate the heck out of it with restrictive, complicated social media policies.

But many are realizing that while the mediums are changing, the issue of employees as brand evangelists (or not) hasn’t.  Employee tweets aren’t really that different from their conversations with friends and neighbors in the supermarket, at the ball field or the church potluck.  The only difference is the size of the audience, the speed of the message movement and most importantly, your ability to know what they think and say, and if anyone is paying attention.

Trust and Relevance are the foundation of reputation.  The key question is this:  Do you trust your employees to say and do things that make you relevant in a way that builds and enhances your reputation? Or not?  If the answer is no, you have a culture problem – not a social media problem.

This is not to suggest that social media policy isn’t important.  It is very important.  You wouldn’t build a swimming pool in your back yard without teaching your children to swim. How do you make a social media policy that does its job, without crushing your company’s culture and soul?

  1. Reflect the medium – social media is conversational.  It’s short.  Pithy even.  A long, legal-eze policy sends the wrong message.
  2. Teach them to swim – rather than provide long, legal sounding lists of DON’T’s or rules, tell them what they should do, and why.  Create a common vision and goal for what social media can do for your reputation, your brand and your company – and invite employees to participate and support those goals.
  3. Keep the DON’T DO list very short.  When my kids were learning to swim we had two rules – you never go in the pool, not even a little toe, without a grown up.  And you only jump feet first, facing front.  We only got into discussion of diving vs. jumping and water depth once they had mastered the basics. If the DON’T list is short and straightforward enough, people will comply.
  4. Be realistic, and provide a safety net – Let’s face it, #@$%! happens. And when it does, employees need to know what to do, and where to go for help. Speed is the name of the game here…if employees can recognize their own “oops” and get help correcting it, you will fare much better than if you find out once you are a trending topic.

Seems to me that The GAP is getting it right, in terms of policy.  Will that translate into social media reviving the brand?  Too soon to say.  What are the best practices in social media policy?  Would love to hear your thoughts.


Posted by cwinters at 6:41 pm | Tagged , | Comment (0) | Trackback (0)

What every company should learn from Goldman Sachs
March 14, 2012

I’m sure the water coolers on Wall Street are buzzing over this piece, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” which appeared in today’s New York Times. The world’s communal water cooler – Twitter – certainly is.

A damning recitation of changes in culture, lack of ethics and putting profits ahead of people – this piece confirms what we all suspected was happening behind the scenes at the big banks, but until now, couldn’t prove.

It certainly isn’t the first time these accusations have been leveled at Goldman Sachs or any of its investment bank peers. But unlike most exposes, this isn’t informed by unnamed sources or disgruntled employees firing back after dismissal. Rather, this is the tale of an executive who worked his way up from an internship at Goldman Sachs, who once believed so strongly in the core mission of the firm, he appeared in the recruiting video shown at every college campus in the nation.

But after 12 years at the firm, he could no longer look recruits in the eye and tell them Goldman is a great place to work. And so he did the noble thing – he left. And then he wrote this piece, powerful in its simplicity, notable in its lack of exaggerated accusations, and backed by the ultimate action – walking away from a great, presumably high-paying job.

No doubt the pundits and spin doctors will have loads of advice and counsel to help Goldman Sachs counter this piece and discredit its former executive. But these approaches are ill-advised, only reinforcing his main message: the culture at Goldman is indeed, awry.

In my view, his most serious accusation is his assertion that Goldman leadership lost hold of the culture – and replaced it with one where it was all about profits for the firm, not about what was best for the clients.

Let this be a cautionary tale for every professional service company – when you put your own needs ahead of your clients, you’ve lost your way. When that event becomes commonplace, you’ve lost your culture. What comes next? Losing your clients, and ultimately your business.

A professional service firm should be professional, and it must serve. To borrow from SNL’s Coffee Talk – discuss amongst yourselves.

My advice for Goldman? Demonstration is more powerful than discussion. When your reputation is under attack, these issues can only be fixed from the inside out, leading with your policies, your people, and more importantly your practices. To be the gold standard again, Goldman needs to act like it. Employees need to understand that the firm is only as good as the actions and choices of each individual. Reputation, like charity, begins at home.

Next, clients need to be assured that their interests are being served, above all else. That, more than profits, their business is what matters most. But trust isn’t earned in a day – it’s earned every day. So keep working hard every day to build it back.

Finally, understand that there is no silver bullet or easy fix to counter the proponderence of evidence that something is amiss at Goldman Sachs. Might some bold, symbolic moves or changes be helpful? Sure. But, while reputations can be blown in an instant, they can only be repaired slowly, over time. Start now.

Posted by cwinters at 5:29 pm | Tagged , , | Comment (0) | Trackback (0)

The Power of Simplicity: Wisdom of Dr. Seuss’ for Communicators
March 2, 2012

In schools around the world, children are celebrating the birthday of Dr. Seuss. If you haven’t read Dr. Seuss since childhood and think it is all about green eggs and ham, you are missing one of the greatest lessons on the power of simplicity. Yes, Dr. Seuss gave us whimsical nonsensical rhymes to encourage reading skills like Hop on Pop. But he also gave us some great wisdom – and he did it simply and memorably. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”The Lorax

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Horton Hears a Who!

Dr. Seuss didn’t use a fancy messaging matrix, or a complex narrative structure. He kept it simple, and focused on what was important to that story. Perhaps he said it best this way, “Sometimes the questions are complicated. The answers are simple.” Whether you are a speechwriter, a media relations guru, a lobbyist or a digital media specialist – this is great advice for all of us in the communications field. And for life.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.

Posted by cwinters at 9:43 pm | Tagged | Comment (0) | Trackback (0)