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May 5, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Opening a Window of Goodwill

One of the cardinal rules of PR is that the status of your reputation will determine people’s initial response to any situation. If you’ve worked hard to build a good reputation, then people will be more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong, which buys you a magical window of time to right the ship before things get too ugly. By stockpiling goodwill among your stakeholders when times are good, you can even lengthen the amount of time that window is open. On the other hand, if you haven’t spent the time to enhance your reputation or stockpile goodwill, then that valuable window of time is most likely shut tight, and righting the ship becomes an even bigger challenge in the onslaught of public scrutiny. A perfect example occurred recently when the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report outlining how the IRS distributed over $2.8 million in bonuses over the last two years to employees who had been disciplined for various offenses, including giving $1 million in bonuses to over 1,100 employees who hadn’t adequately paid their own taxes. For an organization that rates as the least popular federal entity,…

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May 2, 2014 | pwalotsky | Tagged , , , ,

Brilliance Behind the Scenes: The Quiet Victors in the Clippers Saga

The swift, appropriate, and authoritative action of the NBA – and particularly new Commissioner Adam Silver – has been widely praised by every crisis communications expert across America as a new high-watermark in execution. Certainly, Commissioner Silver and league officials deserve immense credit for not only doing the right thing, but doing it quickly and conducting a flawless press conference on Tuesday. The only flaw to pick at in the entire response predates the Silver era: the NBA long tolerated shameful Donald Sterling’s conduct prior to the new audio that triggered this immediate crisis. Specifically, Sterling was known as a virulent racist for the better part of a decade thanks to several discrimination lawsuits brought by tenants of his housing units and even NBA Hall of Famer and former Clippers General Manager, Elgin Baylor. Still, despite the tremendous response by the NBA, it’s arguable that the best strategists in this instance were the players. It’s starting to emerge in the reporting that Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player, current Mayor of Sacramento, and Chairman of the NBPA Search Committee, quietly articulated to Commissioner Silver on behalf of players that if anything short of a lifetime ban, maximum fine, and pursuit…

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May 1, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

When it comes to corporate reputation, trust begins at home

It’s always fun, and OK, even a bit vindicating, when you find actual data to support something you’ve always believed. Like the notion that reputation and trust begin at home, with your organization’s employees. If you haven’t seen this little tidbit here on this blog, perhaps a study featured in HBR will convince you. You may have seen the headline that a quarter of employees don’t trust their employers. But what is more interesting than the headline, is the deeper dive into why and what that means. MWW friends, colleagues and clients may recognize a few of these tidbits: Communication is key to trust….but what you do is more important than what you say Two-way dialogue is more important that top-down communication Telling people how and why is more important than the “what” or factual information And for those among us who are challenged with managing multiple generations in the workplace (spoiler alert: we are going to talk about Millennials here) – workplace stress is defined very differently by the generations. And what your parents described as “knowing your place” Millennials describe as a major source of workplace stress: lack of participation in decision-making. HBR is full of great information…

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April 30, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Buffet Backtrack on CEO Pay: Reputation Buster, or Just Buffet Being Buffet?

The Oracle of Omaha has spoken, or in this case, not spoken. After boldly pronouncing large shareholders as the last line of defense on CEO pay just a few years ago, Buffet declined to vote against the Coca-Cola compensation packages he termed excessive. In fact, he declined to vote at all. Is abstaining a cop out, or sending a signal, as Buffet suggests? And will his apparent lapse in backbone damage his reputation as the tough-talking, common sense billionaire who makes headlines any time he issues a pronouncement? Buffet has built a reputation as being a contrarian voice, with results that consistently outperform the market. And that is his secret sauce: performance. So long as he continues to perform, any perceived “flip flops” in position will likely be chalked up to eccentric billionaire behavior. But should that performance wane…then we may see Buffet’s reputation decline like an OTC stock.

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April 29, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Can you monetize your reputation? Ask Vernon Davis

Reputations are often described as “priceless” – particularly among those who’ve earned a stellar one. But the latest Fantex IPO of Vernon Davis suggests that reputation can be quantified, and even monetized. If you haven’t been following, Vernon Davis is the world’s first publicly traded NFL player – offering fans an opportunity to “buy in” to his future earnings – which are presumably one part athletic performance (and contract payments) + one part endorsements (presumably the biggest upside is here). For sure, securing top dollar endorsement deals is about performance and exposure – and a trip to the Super Bowl sure wouldn’t hurt. But nothing kills endorsements quicker than a reputational problem. Ask Oscar Pistorius. Arguments are raging about whether or not “buying in” to an athlete is a clever new investment opportunity, or a scheme to bilk fans of their hard earned money. As to the question of whether his personal reputation will impact the value of that investment – the answer is pretty clear. This notion takes the practice of personal reputation management – whether for CEOs, athletes, musicians or elected officials to a whole new level. And goodwill banks will be more literally – banks, measured in…

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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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