Tag Archives: Disney
Celebrations and Citizenship
June 15, 2011
Today is IBM’s 100th Birthday….it is also my daughter’s 16th birthday – so it is a big day all around. Unlike the celebration I am planning – which includes a party bus and a jam-packed day (and night) of entertainment, IBM is celebrating their day with service to the community.
This is an important trend in a citizenship movement by major corporations…the notion that service to others is more important than simple philanthropy. Checks to support the arts, medical research and hosting galas are all fine. Indeed, many worthwhile causes couldn’t survive without it. But more progressive organizations are looking at their ability to impact their communities in a hands-on, service oriented way.
For CSR to meaningful, it must be relevant – internally and externally. A service-oriented approach bridges that relevance gap in one simple swoop. Employees who are involved in a hands-on service project feel better about their companies, and feel proud to be a part of them. And demonstration of philanthropy and citizenship is more accretive to reputation than talking about it.
Here are some examples of great companies and brands who bring this philosophy to life:
• Starbucks has partnered with the HandsOn Network, a non-profit that organizes volunteer projects, and has a goal to donate 1 million community service hours from its employees by 2015. This is in addition to the $22.4 million Starbucks distributed in 2010 in corporate giving and grants.
• Disney’s VoluntEARS program allows employees to volunteer for causes of their choosing and aids in raising money for charities that employees support. Disney VoluntEARS assist in more than 2,200 projects through 495,000 hours annually. Employees also raised $1.7 million through Disney’s assistance.
• Intel supports its employees to volunteer all around the world and matches every volunteer hour with a monetary contribution. Intel also uses its employees’ capabilities to establish technology in classrooms in developing countries.
Similar programs from MWW clients – Deloitte’s Impact Day, a massive celebration of the organization’s year-round commitment to workplace volunteerism, and Nikon’s work in local communities both home and abroad contribute to a service-oriented approach.
Relevant approaches to worthwhile causes, which is meaningful CSR.
Reputation Begins At Home: Why Companies with “Top Reputations” Stay There, Despite Major Crises
June 9, 2011
What does that mean?
First, when it comes to lists and rankings, perception lags reality – good or bad. It takes time for the lists to reflect recent events. It also suggests that there is merit to the schools of thought around goodwill banks, and my personal POV that how you respond to the crisis can have more significance than the crisis itself. But there are some other interesting learnings here:
1. Reputation begins at home. A key driver of Google’s performance on this reputation score was their workplace culture, governance and citizenship. Perhaps Google.org wasn’t a bust after all. To be considered for the list, companies had to rank high in their home market as a “table stakes” for consideration.
2. The Art of Storytelling – a quick breeze through the Top 10 suggests that the ability to tell a great story – to stand for something beyond just your products or services…whether it is innovation and design (Apple), family, fun and entertainment (Disney) or the Volkswagen lifestyle.
3. You’ve got to be relevant to consumers, even if you don’t sell directly to consumers – It is no surprise the big winners on this list are consumer brands, but it isn’t a requirement. Intel, No. 9 on the list, doesn’t sell anything to consumer directly. But they’ve done a great job making “Intel Inside” relevant to an audience far beyond the decision maker at Dell, for example.
The Reputation Institute also points out a key fact – the leaders on this list don’t treat Reputation as a brand imperative – they treat it as a business imperative – ingrained into their policies, business practices and operations.
Harris Interactive came out recently with its annual Reputation Quotient Survey and there are some interesting developments.
The top spot in 2010 went to Berkshire Hathaway but not so this year after the Sokol fiasco, which we’ve previously written about here in Return on Reputation. Now Berkshire Hathaway is down to No. 4 – not bad, all things considered, but still a precipitous drop from a previous, largely untarnished image. Who dropped off the top 10 list entirely? Coke and Microsoft…replaced by Disney and Apple. Google moved up two spots to rank No. 1.
What does all this mean for companies who care about their reputation? That it’s a fickle thing and as Warren Buffett famously said, takes an instant to evaporate. Not only that, but everyone has a say these days in what kind of company you are. Google came in first for its financial performance and workplace environment…proof positive that all stakeholders weigh in when it comes to reputation.
Investors and employees clearly gave Google a boost on the ladder in today’s 24/7 interconnected world, and that matters. Every company spends a lot of time thinking about how they communicate with Wall Street – conference calls, press releases, one-on-ones with big institutional investors. But probably not as much time focusing on the way they talk to employees and how they empower their employees to talk about the company, too. Smart companies have “ambassador” employees blogging and participating on Facebook, Twitter, etc., after implementing forward-looking social media policies that lay out the ground rules. Google it and you’ll see.
Is Executive Branding Ever Too Much of a Good Thing?
January 18, 2011
The Apple PR machine is on overdrive convincing the world that the team at Apple is up to the task of running the company without Steve Jobs. And they’re doing a pretty good job of it, in large part because they’ve weathered this crisis once before, and have the results to prove it. They’ve got the financial community on board, with supportive analyst quotes about the depth of management. And they even got a NYT story today with a headline that talks about Apple’s deep bench.
Yet an informal poll around the office today failed to yield a single member of our MWW Group news junkie team that could name a single member of theirs (other than Jobs) — even with all of the media attention around this news and the management team at Apple.
Has Jobs become so larger than life, that Apple just couldn’t be Apple without him? Is his “brand” too much of a good thing?
The tech sector is filled with iconic, branded leaders –Ellison, Jobs, Gates, Bezos. No first names, or companies, needed. Even in that crowd, the Jobs mystique is legendary – it’s hard to say whether the iPad, and its migration to an entire i-lifestyle, made Jobs cool again, or if it was the other way around. (Remember, he was actually ousted from Apple in the mid 1980s).
I think the question isn’t whether Jobs has been “over-branded.” Plenty of organizations have transitioned an iconic CEO – Welch at GE, Gates at Microsoft, Kelleher at Southwest Airlines – to name a few. All of these companies have retained strong, positive reputations. The question really is whether Apple has done enough to prepare for an eventual transition. Should members of their team have better name recognition outside of Wall Street, particularly since this is not Jobs’ first time taking a leave of absence for serious health issues?
It is my sincerest hope (and seemingly that of the Twitter-verse) that Jobs will return to the helm, fit as a fiddle. But even under the best of circumstances, he can’t stay forever.
To me the real question is whether Apple can “culture-ize” the Jobs mystique, so it can continue beyond his years of service, like Walt Disney. Or will it need to re-invent itself under the vision of a new leader, and become a new, equally successful Apple?
For years, Disney Theme Parks have been known as the “happiest place on earth,” yet persistent rumors about Disney as a difficult workplace have abounded that behind the Mouse Ears and the Zippity Doo-Das was in fact, an “evil empire.”
This recent survey indicates that there may be some truth to those rumors. The 2010 BlissIndex considered employee satisfaction (or, in Disney’s case, dissatisfaction) with growth opportunities, salary and benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, job security, senior management and ultimately – whether or not employees would recommend it as a good place to work. It’s hard to believe that the most magical place on earth is actually closer to hell on earth for those that work there, ranking behind 40 corporations and even the military, which, also surprisingly, came out on top.
Having cited brutal working conditions and likening Disney to Nazi concentration camps, employees are not holding back when it comes to telling the world what conditions are really like in the land of talking animals, beloved Princesses and happily ever after.
While the disenchanting news isn’t enough to keep my family away from Orlando (yet), it should be more than enough for management to sit up and listen to the ambassadors of the brand’s reputation. Disney’s reputation and its future business are at stake, making this one problem worth solving, no matter how difficult. Being the happiest place on earth is a tall order. And it is a promise that will be hard to keep when employees are disgruntled and disenchanted. And once the experience stops living up to the promise, even Prince Charming won’t be able to save them. The time for action is now.
How can Disney put the whistle back into Whistle While You Work?
They can start by listening. Acknowledging the issues and seeking input to improve their culture, with the goal of elevating the employee experience to that of the guest. I’m not talking about an overnight fix. The first step in restoring credibility in the eyes of any corporate stakeholder is listening. Maybe it’s a series of virtual town-hall meetings, maybe it’s in-person workshops, but the dialogue must be started and the focus should be on how to be successful. Maybe it’s time to rekindle the passion that the franchise was built upon. But the concept of treating employees like guests is a good place to start. Eliminate the double standard between treatment of your colleagues and your guests. And in the words of Jiminy Cricket…let your conscience be your guide.
This survey is like the warning to Snow White not to eat the poison apple. They can act on it, or wait for that apple to choke them.