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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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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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