Tag Archives: Google
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 and Target, 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.
4 Easy Ways to Google-Proof Your Reputation
October 16, 2012
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
3 Rules For Creating A Performance Driving Culture (Hint: It Isn’t About Being A Family)
January 31, 2012
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
“Dear Mrs. Jones,
Little Johnny is bright, articulate and eager to learn. However, his disruptive behavior is a major concern, and penalizes the other 24 children in our class. Please have Johnny write ‘I will not disrupt the class’ 100 times for homework. Hopefully, this will get his disruptiveness under control.”
Increasingly, I am seeing disruptiveness categorized as a positive attribute…companies want to be known as disruptive (often in the context of innovation); leaders are hailed as disruptive. GM’s Dan Akerson recently held disruption exercises with his leadership team.
It is a radical application of common sense to see that doing “more of the same” isn’t going to get America back to work, or pull our economy out of its malaise. As leaders in Washington debate the debt ceiling and policy initiatives to stimulate the economy – in boardrooms everywhere, people are embracing disruption. They are holding up examples like Apple, Google, Southwest Airlines and Chipotle as examples of the inherent value of disruptiveness, and striving to find their own version of disruption.
When it comes to leadership, “disruptive” is the new black. Like most leadership trends, the devil is in the details. True disruptiveness can reinvent, reinvigorate and restore relevance of a company or a brand. But using the disruptive label, without substance, runs the risk of simply adding to the graveyard of overused, meaningless corporate buzzwords like paradigm shift, collaborate and alignment.
Can we disrupt the nature of corporate speak and preserve the authenticity of being truly disruptive? Only time will tell.
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.
This week I attended the Sabre Awards, where MWW Group was named Midsize Agency of the Year. It was a great night to celebrate success, applaud the work of our industry and catch up with colleagues and friends. But in the shadow of that celebration, where Burson-Marsteller was recognized as the North American Agency of the Year, the Facebook scandal was brewing – a scandal which ultimately cost Burson a flagship client.
No doubt there will be plenty of commentary about this issue – painting either Facebook or Burson (or both) as the big bad wolf. But it is our industry, and the PR profession, with the most to lose as that dreaded “spin doctor” label emerges once again.
Working to advance a client’s point-of-view is a legitimate assignment. Ditto for raising issues about privacy or other critical issues of importance. So how can we do this without finding ourselves on the receiving end of reputational dings?
At MWW Group, we believe that trust + relevance = action….and while it appears that this campaign was designed considering the relevance of privacy issues, and perhaps taking advantage of the fact that Google is currently on its heels – failure to focus on the trust part of the equation yielded action that was very different than expected.
Three learnings for all of us:
1. Our clients are the story – we never want to be the story. Trying to be too stealthy makes people more interested in who is behind the issue than the issue itself. Veiled finger pointing creates suspicion. Even if your client won’t give an on the record interview – approaching a reporter anonymously begs to be “outed.”
2. If you are Goliath, it’s hard to be David – and when two giants do battle, expect both to walk away bloody.
3. Never put something in an e-mail you wouldn’t want to see in print.
Trust + Relevance….it’s not an either-or equation.