Tag Archives: Google

June 19, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , , ,

What does your company’s dress code do for your reputation?

richard branson

Summer is here – temperatures are rising, and so are the hemlines. As a proud product of Catholic School, I’ve always been a fan of “the uniform” – makes morning decision making easy and you never have to worry about looking appropriate. And the good Sisters at my all girls Catholic school swore that there was a link between our dress and our behavior – we were loud, unruly and “harder to manage.”

Which is exactly the point. While some traditional companies, particularly in industries like banking and professional services, still embrace formal dress, the most desirable places to work these days are no longer blue collar or white collar jobs – they are no collar jobs.  Apple. Google. Facebook. And they aren’t just technology companies – Virgin, Quicken Loans, and Starbucks.

Companies with a casual dress code are viewed as more innovative, more creative and generally “cooler.” And now, they may also begin to assert that their casual dress code is better for the environment. In a recent post about why he ditched the tie, Richard Branson notes that offices where everyone is suited up in a tie are generally kept cooler during the hottest summer months.

Dress codes are a reflection of values and culture. Companies who preserve traditional dress often embrace traditional hierarchy and process as well, while casual environments may offer less structure and a more entrepreneurial environment. Dress code has long been considered part of the narrative for winning the war for talent. But it can also be part of your reputation equation. The key is to consider and communicate about why your company embraces a casual dress code and the outcomes of that decision.

July 3, 2014 | seis | Tagged , , ,

The Power of a Diverse Workplace

diversegrouplargeLess than a month after Google disclosed its disappointing diversity numbers, Facebook followed suit with a nearly identical diversity report. At Google and Facebook, men make up 70 percent and 69 percent of both companies’ respective workforces, and combined, Caucasians and Asians represent a staggering figure of over 90 percent of both companies’ labor pools. These figures are representative of a troubling trend among far too many companies and are out of line with a U.S. workforce in which people of color make up nearly a third of the total labor force. This lack of diversity is simply inconsistent with the type of business strategy America’s most innovative companies should pursue and the message they should be communicating.

While the days of “othering” are gone, there’s growing societal emphasis placed on acceptance and inclusion, creating a diverse workplace is not only a moral imperative; it’s a smart business strategy. Deloitte’s 2014 Human Capital Trends survey describes a diverse and inclusive workforce as “a company’s lifeblood.” Numerous studies from organizations such as Deloitte,  McKinsey & Company, and The Center for American Progress have proven the various benefits diversity has for a company.  From helping to understand customers’ differing needs and cultivating relationships with new customers, to increasing employee retention rates and inspiring new ideas through varying backgrounds and viewpoints, a diverse workforce leads to more opportunities and ultimately, positive bottom line impact.

Creating a diverse workplace is critical from the standpoint of both the employee and the employer. According to Cone Millennial Cause group, in a sample of 1,800 13-25-year-olds, 80 percent said they wanted to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society, and over half said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation.  A 2011 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that while Millennials believe companies talk about diversity, they are not taking tangible action to create equal opportunities. As Millennials continue to pour into the workforce and companies increasingly seek to engage a global, diverse audience, creating an inclusive, accepting culture is the key to attracting and retaining talent.

Given its influence over employee retention and acquisition, its power to foster creativity, and increase productivity and efficiency, having a diverse workforce can mean the difference between stagnation and innovation…and outwardly communicating this diverse culture is just as critical. By taking tangible steps to transcend tolerance and shift towards embracing differences at every decision, at every level of an organization, businesses can increase their competitiveness in a dynamic global economy.

humble pie

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 under-appreciated traits of leadership: HUMILITY.

Everything about Nadella’s leadership style defies the Type-A, in-your-face demeanor that conventional wisdom (incorrectly) holds as essential for those seeking to “right the ship.” It may sell books and earn magazine covers to bully, belittle and berate, but history has shown us time and again that brute force bows to humble strength. Don’t believe me? Check Wikipedia for bios of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Malala Yousafzai.

In the spirit of this counter-intuitive argument, let me highlight some of the “don’ts” of good corporate leadership, rather (as is more usual) the “dos”.

You don’t need to be the loudest (or smartest) person in the room.

All great leaders have a strategy: don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Let their strengths complement yours. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” and take time to listen to the answer. Whether in a meeting, correcting a failing strategy or providing feedback, those “in charge” need not constantly remind everyone around them that they are (yes, we know…) in charge. Let silence invite opinion. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn.

Don’t let it get unprofessional. EVER.

Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, but make no mistake: the quiet leader is not the weak one. A confident leader is comfortable resolving conflict, not manufacturing it. As a leader, you’re responsible for setting the tone for an organization’s culture and behaviors. Treating colleagues with respect at all times is the gold standard, and the example begins at the top. An effective general once said, “You manage things, you lead people,” so showing your human side when dealing with colleagues is important. Show empathy and respect and you’ll get it back.

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft navigates the choppy waters of change over the next 100 days. We’ll surely continue to hear pessimists spread doubt about Nadella’s unassuming style – but sometimes it takes quiet strength to reset the sails.

October 21, 2013 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

Can a CEO opt-out of earnings calls?

In case you missed it, last week Google’s CEO announced that he may not be joining future earnings calls. Some news reports are citing vocal chord troubles, while Page himself suggested it was a need for him to “ruthlessly prioritize.” But how can Larry Page be a CEO if he can’t talk? Do they do all of their strategy meetings via Google Hangout? And if it is a question of priorities, shouldn’t his shareholders be a priority 4 times a year?

Many are citing the precedent of Steve Jobs opting out while battling cancer, which was obviously an extreme example. Others may recall Jeff Bezos who was very clear that he wasn’t going to concern himself with Wall Street’s short term priorities. But that didn’t mean he didn’t show up.

What are the implications of a CEO stepping back from investor relations commitments like a 4 time per year call? I’ve had many a client over two decades that would prefer to decline the quarterly firing squad known as the analyst call. And I’ve had a few that probably would have been doing their Company, and their shareholders, a service by playing hooky on those days.

We know that at least one-third of a Company’s valuation is tied to intangibles. When pressed to get specific about what those things are, quality of management, leadership and vision are the most frequently cited variables. Perhaps Google feels that the CEO-investor version of playing hard to get will increase his perceived value?

Woody Allen said it best, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” My view: if you want to be the CEO, you have to show up.


September 12, 2013 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

Yahoo’s Logo Redesign as Brand Reputation Tactic

Yahoo’s recent logo redesign campaign sparked a lot of conversations about the struggling Internet company that has seen its market share and brand relevance fall as perceived innovators Google and Facebook have continued to dominate the social search market in recent years. Whether you love or hate the new logo, it was a bold move from the brand that goes beyond the exercise of logo redesign into proactive reputation management.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer explained the effort: “When you get to the point that your brand doesn’t match your logo, then you have a problem. We did it in a way that came from a very authentic place. What the brand is really about is the products. That’s what we’re focused on. We’re happy with the logo, but for us, the focus is really on the product.”

The change cuts deeper than that. This initiative was focused on giving the Yahoo master brand a much needed face lift. Its goal was to change public perception on not just their product, but about the greater company, its leadership, its culture and people. It was a major social call to say: we are cool again, we are relevant.

Let’s see if it pays off.

January 9, 2013 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Reputation Fail! Who could have made it, but missed the opportunity?

I believe in second chances. That’s why Rocky gets to come back. Why playoffs have a wild card. And why it isn’t over until the fat lady sings. Last January, we published a list of reputations to watch – the companies whose reputations were at a crossroads, and whose actions in 2012 would dictate their future. Some, like J&J, seem to be muddling along – they haven’t permanently shot themselves in the foot, but the absence of a major negative issue is hardly a ringing endorsement for reputation rehabilitation. Same for Sears, whose acquisition of Kmart still seems like a big mistake.

This year’s biggest missed opportunities:

HP – There is nothing like a new leadership regime to give a company and its reputation a fresh start. And after the Mark Hurd debacle, and the entry of Meg Whitman, I was rooting for HP. But two major post-acquisition write downs and lots of finger pointing have done little to restore HP’s reputation mojo.

Facebook – Last year saw Zuckerberg punching back after a nasty movie portrayal with a massive philanthropic donation to Newark public schools. With its reputation at a crossroads, Facbook IPOed, with well-documented and disastrous results. Still relevant because they are prolific, but not on many “Most Admired” lists, and that is too bad.

North Korea – was on our reputations to watch list last year, because the election of a new leader might have been the start of a new era for the nation as a participant in the free world. And while Kim Jong Un is meeting with Google’s Eric Schmidt, most believe that is about appearances, not really change. It isn’t good when your finest moment as a world leader is being parodied by The Onion as the Sexiest Man Alive, and having China fall for it.

Sesame Street – An unfortunate sex scandal for Elmo changed the trajectory after Mitt Romney’s Big Bird comments gave American’s favorite neighborhood a boost in relevance.

October 16, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

4 Easy Ways to Google-Proof Your Reputation

There is a lot of discussion about optimizing your content, your news, and even your photos for SEO. New tools allow us to put photos and logos in a newsroom, and then track where they are used. But have you thought about the important defensive steps to take to “Google-proof” your reputation?

Once upon a time, protecting your online reputation was mostly about buying the negative URLs related to your brand or company name… (yourcompany)sucks.com, and the like. But today the task is much more complex. For example, Google the phrase “completely wrong” and you will get a full page of Mitt Romney images.

The notion that anyone – from Presidential Candidate to CEO to Product Manager – could dream up every possible phrase and develop the appropriate defensive strategies just isn’t realistic. But here is what you can do to protect your reputation using search engine reputation management (SERM):

  1. Engage in “Reverse SEO”: This is the process of removing (de-ranking) websites other than your own from the first pages of search results, ensuring that those searching for certain targeted terms (such as your company name) see the information that you’ve highlighted. For example, a company experiencing recent negative press might rather focus search attention on their CSR efforts instead. By pushing negative press down in search results, you can vastly decrease the chance of those pages gaining traction and damaging your own or your company’s reputation.
  2. Consider Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Purchasing keywords is another reputation management investment that can smooth over bad press should an issue arise. We saw an example of this in President Obama’s 2008 campaign, during which Sarah Palin referenced the then-presidential nominee as having a connection to William Ayers. After this reference was made, Obama’s team purchased several keyword phrases that targeted Obama and William Ayers. As soon as users typed in these terms and clicked on the paid Obama ads that comprised much of the search results, these users were driven to a website created by Obama’s team to address any questions people may have had about the issue.
  3. Strengthen Your Social Presence: Oftentimes, social properties for companies or executives comprise the first few search results for that person or company’s name. If this presence and engagement is robust enough, links to that company’s Twitter handle, Facebook page, or other properties can continue to dominate those top slots even during a crisis. Blogs are also a great way to improve a business’ SEO presence, and have the potential to attract many links and references from outside sources, which Google sees as trustworthy and relevant. Blog content is also easily shareable and should be pushed out to other social networks to expand this targeted presence even more.
  4. Tell the Search Giants: While the large search engine companies may seem unapproachable, you can contact them if you feel that a search result site violates the search engine’s guidelines in any way. To learn more about Google’s criteria for removing or de-ranking content, or to submit a claim, you can review this here.

July 23, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

A Beginner’s Guide to Socializing Your CEO in Three Easy Steps

Every day, new studies arise that make the case for why your CEO needs to get social – and the benefits to employees, shareholders, customers and influencers alike. Social Media is a real-time focus group, you can “tune in” to hear what any of your constituencies are thinking, and more importantly, to see what they are doing – sharing, liking or otherwise endorsing.

From a CEO’s perspective, social media offers the kind of insight that typically requires an appearance on Undercover Boss to obtain. The relative anonymity of social media – which some suggest may be the very thing that is making the C-Suite socially shy – provides an opportunity for the kind of candid, authentic discussion a CEO may be hard pressed to find in a corner office.

If you are reading this post, odds are you are already listening….so where to begin? Facebook (friends can’t be bad!), Twitter (brevity is the soul of wit) or even Quora’s Q&A formats all have their own appeal; but wherever you choose to start, you can follow these three easy steps to getting socially active and engaged.

STEP 1: SHARE CONTENT & FACTS – Transparency and trust start at the top. Social media provides an excellent opportunity for sharing information about corporate developments, in the CEO’s own words and voice. Michael Dell is a CEO who shares corporate news on Twitter. Similarly, Bill Gates shares lots of information about the Gates Foundation, studies, successes and new projects they are funding.

But the real opportunity in sharing is to share about something beyond your company news. Everyone loves to know what is on a CEO’s mind. What are you reading? Watching? Thinking about? And don’t hesitate to share knowledge or news that came from someone else, either. The retweet is your friend here, and it won’t detract from your own personal thought leadership one bit. Just make sure you maintain your own voice in between retweeting, liking, or giving a +1 to someone else’s content on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, respectively.

STEP 2: SHARE INSIGHTS – We trust people, not companies. Social media provides the opportunity for individuals to feel they know you, and can trust you…as the primary trust ambassador of your Company. Once you’ve accomplished the basics of using social media as a distribution channel for your news of the day, consider sharing deeper insights. How do you move past “who,” “what” and “where” information and provide the “why” as a thought leader? What are your views on your industry? The economy? On Leadership? This is how a CEO of one company can become the voice of an entire industry. And this is how a leader can achieve a feeling of intimacy in a large organization or among a large audience. Frank Sorrentino of North Jersey Community Bank (an MWW client) does this really well.

Mark Cuban, for example, has a Twitter feed that mirrors his interests – from sports, to digital media to entrepreneurism, Cuban has a well-informed opinion and is always happy to share it. Cuban’s distinctive, “in-your-face” manner may not work for all CEOs, but it works for him. As a medium that welcomes such on-the-fly, brief thoughts, Twitter is the perfect place to voice these opinions – and often is the perfect place for your CEO to start his or her social media engagement.

STEP 3: CONNECT & ENGAGE — The final step in becoming a truly social CEO is for the CEO to begin engaging with people he or she follows on Twitter, hosting chats or hangouts on Google+, or otherwise exchanging ideas in real time with stakeholders. These activities may be moderated or un-moderated, screened or unscreened, depending upon the executive’s comfort level and that of legal counsel.

Richard Branson engages and connects on Twitter in his signature freewheeling style, mixing promotional tweets about various Virgin companies with queries to his follower base about environmental issues, management trends and product ideas. He promotes charities, political causes and inspirational or funny quotes with equal fervor.

Which CEOs do you like to follow via social media, and what can we learn from them? Share your thoughts and suggestions for CEOs to add to my list!


July 19, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

Who is right: Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg? Leadership Lessons from Working Moms

It isn’t every day that the newly appointed CEO of a mega-company says “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long. And I will work throughout it.”

It’s great to see companies appointing leaders who aren’t middle-aged white males. And it is great to see a Board of Directors recognize that someone’s vision, talent and ability to lead are more important than the fact that she might have something in addition to work in her life…like a family. But I’m not so sure we should begin applauding this move as evidence that the glass ceiling has been shattered. There is a leadership lesson here, for sure. But is it a good one?

On some levels, Marissa Mayer is probably like every ambitious, driven woman I’ve ever known (other than the Twitter trending topic and the CEO thing, of course). She’s just like me, 18 years ago. Pregnant with a first child, women everywhere believe that having a baby is no big deal – just one more thing to juggle into the mix, a few more items on the to do list. I remember wondering what I would do ALL DAY on maternity leave. I even cried my last day of work before my daughter was born. The only day I cried harder was the day I came back, after 10 weeks that flew by in a spit-up clouded haze.

So maybe her statement is the understandable naiveté of a soon-to-be first time mother. Maybe she will regret that promise; maybe she will go from the delivery room straight to the board room. That is between her, her husband and the Yahoo Board of Directors, and it shouldn’t be used to add fuel to the fire in the never-ending Mommy Wars.

No one would care if a newly-appointed male CEO was expecting a baby…it wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, much less a headline. And few women are CEOs before they sunset their child-bearing years. So what’s the fuss? Didn’t we settle this issue somewhere around the time that Diane Keaton starred in Baby Boom? Didn’t Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg establish the Working Mom 2.0 profile a few weeks ago when she told the world it was OK to leave work to be home for dinner?

It is hard to know if Marissa Mayer’s appointment despite her pregnancy is a victory for working women everywhere. Or if her commitment to working throughout her maternity leave sets an impossible standard that all women will feel pressured to emulate.

It is easy to chalk this one up to personal choice. But when you are talking about C-level leaders, their personal choices take on greater significance. Leadership is demonstrated, not discussed – what you do is more important than what you say. So Yahoo and Marissa Mayer can tell employees that they can, should or even must take their vacation, their parental leave or their sabbaticals. But will anyone believe her? Or will there be an unspoken pressure, at Yahoo, or among working women everywhere, to wear their shortened maternity leave or unused vacation days like a badge of honor?

Who do you think is right: Marissa Mayer, or Sheryl Sandberg? Let the debate begin.

January 31, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

3 Rules For Creating A Performance Driving Culture (Hint: It Isn’t About Being A Family)

I consider myself to be a student of “culture building.” And I whole heartedly believe that culture has a direct impact on business performance. It was a lesson I learned as a young PR pup, learning the ropes with my first big client, Continental Airlines – whose efforts to change their culture saved the airline and resulted in a business school case study kind of turnaround.

Since then, I’ve observed, learned and absorbed every client’s approach to culture – and it is no surprise that the annual Fortune Best Places to Work leaders all talk about the role of culture in enabling their businesses to be successful.

Building a performance-driving culture isn’t rocket science. Most of the rules of the road come from simple lessons we all learned from our grandparents:

  1. Treat people with respect. Google’s Larry Page said it perfectly: “When you treat people with respect, they tend to return the favor.” Respect isn’t just about talking to them nicely – it is about trusting them to have some control over their work – whether that is their schedule, their assignments, and management of priorities. Respecting them enough to share the big picture strategy. And yes, work-life balance counts too. Page says you need to treat employees like family – you probably need to treat them better than family.
  2. Treat people as individuals. Employees are not a flock of sheep. We’ve developed super sophisticated ways to market products to micro-targeted groups of customers…recognizing the trend in individualization applies to the internal customer too and can be a real differentiator. It’s also how companies like Wegman’s and companies you may never have heard about like Camden Property Trust break into the Top Ten. Perhaps the most extreme examples of this philosophy are the 14 companies who have a “no layoffs” policy. The interesting thing about them is that many of them are in businesses that are hardest hit by the recession and changes in public policy– retailers, travel companies, healthcare and even AFLAC. So they aren’t businesses who grow in all cycles.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Repetition is the key to culture building. Grandpa’s story about walking to school uphill both ways served a purpose. When you are sick of talking about something, your team is just starting to hear it. And when you are ready to choke yourself, they are starting to believe this is more than the “direction du jour.” Stay the course. Reinforce your message. And most importantly….walk the talk.