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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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April 1, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged

Malaysia Airlines Nails the Crisis Communications Checklist but Falls Short on Execution

There is a reason that an effective aviation accident response is considered the pinnacle of crisis management – accidents occur suddenly and without warning. They are massive in scale – both in terms of the physical scene, and the potential to cause a very significant loss of life. And they are followed by a who-dunnit style investigation where every move is scrutinized. Add in episodes of completely tone deaf responses – from the infamous text messages from Malaysia Airlines to Thai Airways’ painting over its logo on the tail of the aircraft last year, and you’ve got a documentary-style drama better than anything on TV. Unfortunately, these events play out quickly and in a very public way, providing fertile ground for others to learn from the inevitable missteps that come in such high-stake, high-pressure situations. The recent tragedy surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370 provides ample “lessons learned” for crisis response, many of which also apply across other industries. This is a case where the airline seemingly fulfilled the crisis plan’s checklist – it had a microsite up quickly and pulled all of its promotional content (both in terms of advertising and use of its social channels). The…

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March 20, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

How Social Media is Elevating Airline Crisis Communication

At MWW we say that 60 seconds is the new first hour (the traditional window for a company to respond to a crisis). Here is a great piece about social media and how it is changing crisis communications in the aviation industry, where the stakes are high, and the room for error is minimal.  

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March 19, 2014 | jzeitz | Tagged , ,

Wonks Beware

We’ve been following with more than passing interest the recent controversy concerning a letter signed by over 500 leading economists, in opposition to a $10.10 minimum wage. Essentially a response to an earlier letter signed by over 600 economists in support of a wage hike, the recent circular raises perfectly legitimate questions that any college student should expect to encounter in a macro-economics class: is a higher minimum wage the most effective means of raising people above the poverty line, or does it have the opposite effect of encouraging employers to eliminate jobs and raise prices – two unintended consequences that might bear down hardest on people living in poverty? Indeed, many progressive economists contend that the minimum wage is a less effective means of fighting poverty than more redistributive measures like the Earned Income Tax Credit. Surely that’s what many of the 500+ economists had in mind when they wrote that poverty is a “complex issue that demands a comprehensive and thoughtful solution that targets those Americans actually in need.” So why the controversy? Because it turns out that the opposition letter originated with the National Restaurant Association, and many if not most signatories – including Vernon Smith, a…

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March 5, 2014 | jzeitz | Tagged , , ,

Making of a Presidential Reputation

Admin’s Note: This post originally appeared on O’Dwyer’s. Writing many years after the fact, John Hay, who served as a young White House aide to Abraham Lincoln, noted that if his boss had “died in the days of doubt and gloom which preceded his reelection,” rather than in the final weeks of war, as the Union moved to secure its great victory against the Confederacy, he would almost certainly have been remembered as a middling or mediocre president. It’s a useful time to think about the historical construction of presidential reputations. Strange though it seems to the modern ear, in his own lifetime, Lincoln was a deeply controversial leader – reviled throughout the South, disdained by a strong plurality of Northern voters, and underrated even by many in his own party, who agreed with one Republican senator that the nation sorely needed “a president with brains; one who can make a plan and carry it out.” It took a massive, quarter-century effort on the part of his aides and family members to rehabilitate his legacy. Lincoln’s son, Robert, carefully managed his father’s historical image. Choking off access to the president’s official papers until 1947, he allowed only two men –…

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March 4, 2014 | dlauer | Tagged , , ,

Corporate Leaders: Eat More Humble Pie

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” At MWW, we counsel our corporate clients to keep one fundamental axiom in mind: people trust people, not companies. An organization’s leadership is on the front line of the reputation game. You can build the best widget or provide the best service, but if your company’s senior leaders convey the wrong values or point of view, your stakeholders will move in another direction. If 2013 was a rocky year for corporate leaders – think Chip Wilson’s curious remarks about Lululemon’s customer base or the personal tribulations of Google co-founder Sergey Brin – it’s encouraging to find a rising corporate star who promises to be a beacon to American business leaders. Enter Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. To be sure, the naysayers have their doubts: could an understated 46-year-old Indian immigrant known for quiet collaboration have what it takes to corral the cowboys of America’s hyper-completive corporate sector and, in the process, reawaken a slumbering tech giant? Only time will tell, but for now I am grateful that the decision is shining a light on the importance of one of the most overlooked and…

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February 25, 2014 | rtauberman | Tagged

Legal Sea Foods Turning a Tragedy into a Cause

Carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by what appears to be a fault in or failure of a flue pipe in a water heater, tragically took the life of Steve Nelson, the manager of a Legal Sea Foods restaurant at a mall in Long Island, NY last Saturday night. The Company responded quickly to the terrible news with postings on its Facebook page and a press release expressing its grief and focusing on the Legal Sea Foods family. CEO Roger Berkowitz traveled to Long Island to personally comfort staff and meet with reporters. As unfortunate as the incident is, it also showed an executive and communication team that was prepared and was on message with their response and having the CEO in the lead. While the investigation continues, from local officials and the Federal OSHA, media reports are looking at the causes (if not potential blame) and what could have been done to prevent such an incident. The Town of Huntington, where the restaurant was located, has already issued a summons to Legal Sea Foods for defective equipment and the Mall owners have been quick to point out that the Mall was outfitted with carbon monoxide detectors. The Legal Sea Foods did…

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February 10, 2014 | admin | Tagged ,

The Top Crises of 2013

2013 had its share of reputation losers but there were also a number of crises that caused the companies involved to take a step back and rethink their strategies. In Part 1 of The Holmes Report’s Top 12 Crises of 2013, Carreen Winters discusses where JPMorgan Chase went wrong with its misguided Twitter Q&A that was meant as an informative discussion and turned into another attack into the company’s reputation. JPMorgan’s reputation is one to watch in 2014 as it looks to reclaim its title as the best of the big banks. Part 2 of The Holmes Report’s list is expected to publish later this week.

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