Tag Archives: reputation

September 25, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

If the Pope were a PR Guy, Here’s what he’d tell your CEO


As Pope Francis continues his tour of the United States, people of every faith, race and creed have lined the sidewalks for a glimpse of this simple, humble servant of the poor.  The topic of servant leadership isn’t a new one, but it is always relevant.

This Pontiff has captured the imagination of the public in a way we haven’t seen in some time, and his leadership style is both inspiring and effective. Fundamentally, it boils down to three things.

  1. Stay close to the front line – when the Pope is offered the opportunity to meet or dine with the great leaders of our nation, he prefers, instead to be with the poorest of the poor.  He recognizes those people who are generally under-recognized – from people living in poverty, to immigrants to women of religious orders. And along the way, his humility reminds us that what you do is more important than what you say.
  1. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – the Pontiff has apologized to the victims of abuse at the hands of clergy – the biggest Church scandal of our lifetime; he reminded pro-life Members of Congress that supporting the death penalty is inconsistent with being pro-life, and urged us all to remember that this is a nation of immigrants, and that he is the son of immigrants.
  1. A positive message elicits a positive reaction – even the most stern of messages are delivered with compassion and kindness – and what this Pope does better than any other in my memory is his ability to help us all see the good in ourselves, and encourages us to aspire to be our best selves.  In an environment where leadership, particularly elected leadership, is defined and discussed almost entirely in the negative, a leader who takes a positive approach is a refreshing change of pace.

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 than one percent will do it, but 100 percent will view you positively for offering it.” – David Woolwine, Allstate

“Reputation and brand aren’t the same thing. Reputation is an indicator of how your stakeholders view your actual performance, and communications is part of that. To influence reputation, corporate narratives need to be clear and consistent”. – Nick Adams, VP Corporate Branding, Novo Nordisk

“Culture eats strategy for lunch. Recruit for talent, create skills based roles, invest in your people and you will achieve growth”. – Gerard Van Grinsvan, CEO, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

“Too much success is a reputational risk, because it can make an organization stop listening (to stakeholders)” – Majken Schultz, Copenhagen Business School

“When a CEO’s compensation includes reputation metrics, you can be sure that those priorities trickle down.” – Bob Calamari, SVP Enterprise Marketing Research, Bank of America

March 15, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Managing risk and reputation, without crushing your employees’ souls

Yesterday I wrote about the latest Goldman Sachs reputation issue, and made the statement that Reputation Begins at Home….what your employees think and do is more import than anything a Company spokesperson says. Nowhere is this principle more evident than in social media.  More specifically, in a Company’s approach to social media policy.  To some, social media is the Wild West…uncontrollable, prone to “shoot-outs” and fraught with risk.  These companies either prohibit use of social media in the workplace, restrict employees from identifying their employer, or regulate the heck out of it with restrictive, complicated social media policies.

But many are realizing that while the mediums are changing, the issue of employees as brand evangelists (or not) hasn’t.  Employee tweets aren’t really that different from their conversations with friends and neighbors in the supermarket, at the ball field or the church potluck.  The only difference is the size of the audience, the speed of the message movement and most importantly, your ability to know what they think and say, and if anyone is paying attention.

Trust and Relevance are the foundation of reputation.  The key question is this:  Do you trust your employees to say and do things that make you relevant in a way that builds and enhances your reputation? Or not?  If the answer is no, you have a culture problem – not a social media problem.

This is not to suggest that social media policy isn’t important.  It is very important.  You wouldn’t build a swimming pool in your back yard without teaching your children to swim. How do you make a social media policy that does its job, without crushing your company’s culture and soul?

  1. Reflect the medium – social media is conversational.  It’s short.  Pithy even.  A long, legal-eze policy sends the wrong message.
  2. Teach them to swim – rather than provide long, legal sounding lists of DON’T’s or rules, tell them what they should do, and why.  Create a common vision and goal for what social media can do for your reputation, your brand and your company – and invite employees to participate and support those goals.
  3. Keep the DON’T DO list very short.  When my kids were learning to swim we had two rules – you never go in the pool, not even a little toe, without a grown up.  And you only jump feet first, facing front.  We only got into discussion of diving vs. jumping and water depth once they had mastered the basics. If the DON’T list is short and straightforward enough, people will comply.
  4. Be realistic, and provide a safety net – Let’s face it, #@$%! happens. And when it does, employees need to know what to do, and where to go for help. Speed is the name of the game here…if employees can recognize their own “oops” and get help correcting it, you will fare much better than if you find out once you are a trending topic.

Seems to me that The GAP is getting it right, in terms of policy.  Will that translate into social media reviving the brand?  Too soon to say.  What are the best practices in social media policy?  Would love to hear your thoughts.


October 29, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

LeBron’s Taking the Heat: Can This Reputation Ever Rebound?

No one transforms sports legends into brands better than Nike – with Michael Jordan as the ultimate example. With 6 NBA Championships, a foray into Major League Baseball and a footwear and apparel following that makes retailers still weep with joy nearly a decade after his retirement, brand Jordan is like an MBA case study on unlocking the potential of a brand. And Nike was on its way to replicating this success, with LeBron.

Using my focus group of five – the starters on my son’s championship Pee Wee basketball team – I’d say LeBron was beating Jordan hands down. (This was the same group that in 2nd grade indicated they know Michael Jordan – he makes nice shoes.). Of these ten-year-old basketball aficionados, 4 out of 5 wear LeBron’s gear religiously – and all five of them, plus most of the bench, wear Nike basketball sneakers exclusively – leaving Converse scratching their head about where they went wrong with marketing Dwayne Wade’s apparel.

Then came The Decision.

Nike is no stranger to spokesperson scandal. They stood behind Tiger Woods throughout his marital trouble. But what happens when the scandal isn’t in the athlete’s personal life, but is directly related to the game, and specifically the personal marketing of where he’ll be “bringing his talents”? And when the fans’ approval of the legend drops like a lead balloon?

If you are Nike, you make a commercial.

I can’t be sure about the intent of this “What Should I Do?” film, but portraying LeBron as the martyr seems like a misguided approach. No one is going to feel sorry for LeBron, no matter how many crucifixion poses you insert to portray James as a victim, while attempting to harken back to the happy days when the five-story We Are All Witnesses billboard served as a point of pride for Cleveland.

I think it’s safe to say that Nike isn’t actually trying to crowdsource a solution with “What Should I Do?” I think the question is a rhetorical one, designed to portray LeBron as being in a no-win position in order to garner fan sympathy.

What should LeBron do? Spare us the pity party and just play the game. And wait for a new sports legend to fall from grace or for some other event to occur that helps fans move on.

When dealing with a reputational crisis, sometimes the hardest thing to do is be quiet, go back to doing a great job at whatever you do, and wait. But sometimes, the problem can’t be communicated away, and it takes actions to restore confidence and trust of your stakeholders.

LeBron needs to Just Do It. Talk less. Play more. LeBron may never regain the hearts and minds of Cleveland. But bringing a championship to Miami might just improve his popularity, and sell lots of sneakers, too. Nike’s betting millions on it.

October 6, 2010 | admin | Tagged , ,

Shell Oil Company's Reputation

Marvin Odum the President of Shell Oil Company was interviewed on stage at the World Business Forum by Eric Pooley the Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek to discuss Shell’s leadership role in the global energy marketplace.

As the President of an oil company, Marvin faces a number of challenges in today’s environment. On one hand, oil companies are routinely demonized for their role in climate change and oil spills. On the other hand, the world that we live in today needs oil in order to function.

So what does the president of an oil company do to help maintain a positive reputation?

Marvin said that as an oil company, they’re fully committed to researching and developing alternative sources of energy. They’re allocating a lot of their resources to developing everything from bio-fuels to methods for carbon capture and storage. By exploring these alternative energy sources, Shell is not only practicing good business, but they’re also working to ensure that they will be seen as innovators in the field of alternative energy and thus helping to strengthen their reputation.

August 16, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

American Airlines earns its bad reputation, one mechanical delay and one nasty flight attendant at a time

Apologies in advance for this long post…but you’ve got to hear it all to believe it.

Air travel has become positively uncivilized….and really, when you pack hundreds of people into a flying tin can, there are bound to be issues. Add a lengthy security process, crowded cabins (I know airlines are all touting leg room, but I’d really like some elbow room, please),crowded skies which lead to all kinds of delays and lost luggage, it is no wonder that any time there is an issue in the air, it makes big news.

From what I remember about Economics 101 (which isn’t much), deregulation is supposed to drive prices lower, and increase competitiveness of an industry. We got the lower fares, no doubt. But somehow, the kind of service you’d expect from competitiveness just isn’t happening.

I’ve worked with airlines as clients for most of my career, and I am generally sympathetic to their plight. But sometimes, an airline earns its bad reputation. Take American Airlines….big, aloof, arrogant. And the experience I had with them last month is so outrageous, you couldn’t make it up. Like millions on the Internet, I now believe that American/American Eagle is the worst airline on the planet.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in July, I (over)packed my wheelie bag and headed to the airport for a trip to Springfield, Missouri via Chicago O’Hare. My general rule of thumb is this, “If you need to make a connection to get there, I don’t need to go.” And connections via O’Hare usually spell trouble. But sometimes, clients pick locations that don’t have non-stop options. The ticket agent asked if I would check my bag, as the flight was very full…and I reluctantly agreed – I didn’t want to be difficult, and since I was arriving on Sunday night, I wouldn’t be in a rush.

Despite the blue skies, thunderstorms in the Midwest were causing havoc all over the system. Weather delay number 1. Stuff happens. Not their fault. When we arrive in Chicago, the flight attendant announces connecting gates – and while we are very late, I figure this means that the flight to Springfield is also very delayed. After a fellow passenger dropped the luggage that they didn’t ask him to check on my flip-flopped foot, I de-plane and hobble my way to the gate, which is in an entirely different concourse….only to learn that this flight left long ago. The gate agent advised that he could not help me rebook, and that I needed to go to the rebooking center, where they will rebook me and provide me with a hotel voucher. By now, my big toe is swollen and black…so I gimp it back to the rebooking center (which is back where I started, and if you’ve ever been to O’Hare you know that I’ve covered a lot of distance at this point).

The rebooking center is a BANK OF PHONES…no humans in sight. And no hotel vouchers in sight. So I hobble out to the ticket counter. After a minor scuffle with a duty manager, they agree to get my bag for me (originally they wanted to hold it and send through to Springfield – but I explained that I could not arrive at my meeting tomorrow in a juicy sweat-suit.) I get rebooked – they tell me the first flight of the day is sold out (but I later learned it left with 4 empty seats)…and book me on the next one. I’ll be a little late for my meeting, but it will have to do.

Monday morning comes, and my flight to Springfield is cancelled, Mechanical Number 1. Rebooked on the next flight. That flight gets delayed due to a Mechanical. Mechanical Number 2.

I finally arrive in Springfield, several hours late for my all day meeting, and wearing flip flops because I can’t get a shoe on. 26 plus hours after I left home. Not a great showing, but stuff happens.

Tuesday comes, we wrap up our meetings and head back to the airport. I’ve re-booked my ticket to go through Dallas, because I am thinking that O’Hare has bad karma for me. That flight gets cancelled. Mechanical number 3. Rebook back to the original flight through O’Hare. We board, get ready to push back, and they can’t close the door. Mechanical Number 4….we get deplaned, sit in the gate, and they announce re-boarding. Here is where the wheels really fell off.

This is my 4th mechanical in 24 hours. I am starting to worry about the maintenance competency of AA. And I am getting worried about being stranded overnight for the 2nd time in as many days. As we board, I asked the ramp agent in a weary voice if we were really leaving this time…because a Delta flight is leaving shortly and I don’t want to get stuck in Springfield. She responded very sarcastically, “Well, we are boarding you aren’t we?” (As if I hadn’t already boarded and de-planed 30 minutes earlier.). Silly me, I thought I might get an “I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience, I hope you have a good flight home.”

So in a calm but annoyed voice I said, “Well, I’ve had 4 mechanicals in 24 hours, which seems statistically impossible. Since you seem to be running the worst airline on the planet, I thought I’d ask before I miss the last flight of the day out of Springfield.” In hindsight, perhaps the calmness of my reaction was a problem…but more on that. She gives me a very snide “gee, thanks for sharing” response, and I head onto the aircraft, settle into my seat, turn off my BB and put on my iPod.

I see Julie the flight attendant approaching me, and she indicates that she’s heard I had “a problem with the gate representative”….silly me, I think she is there to apologize. Like Julie McCoy of Love Boat fame, I think she wants to have a perky chat with me and smooth things over. Anticipating this desire to be helpful, I decide to be gracious. I smile and tell her, “You can’t even imagine how many bad things have happened to me on your airline in the past 2 days…but there is no point in talking about it, I really just want to get home and put this trip behind me.”

It was then I realize that she wasn’t there to apologize….she proceeds to tell me that she is going to get the captain, and that I am in the exit row and she doesn’t think I am capable of serving those duties due to my “mental state.” (You know, if you curse and scream at a flight attendant they pop the chute and quit…but if you calmly tell them you’ve had a bad experience, you are the crazy one.)

“Really, you think I would refuse to open the door and let this entire airplane full of people die because I think you run a crappy airline? By all means, if you feel you need to get the captain, go ahead….but I think these people would really like to go home.”

She comes back….alone….and advises me (and the entire aircraft) that she thinks I am mentally unstable and that I need to move to a seat alone in the first row near the captain.

Now I am upset, angry and humiliated, but I know better than to argue with her….because I want to get home today. So I tell her, calmly, that I would be happy to move so that I can be the first one off her airplane. Once I am in my new seat, and she is “guarding me” in the galley, she advises me that she is filling out a report to the FAA because I’VE CAUSED A DELAY!!!!!!!!!!

So I am still speaking in a low voice, but I told her I’d be sending a report of my own to the DOT and that I’d like her name….because she may not like it, but I am certainly entitled to tell them that I am dissatisfied with the experience I’ve had on their airline, and that doesn’t make me unstable or the cause of her delay, and considering that I’ve been booked on 5 flights in 48 hours and not one of them has been on time, I didn’t think her argument would wash. She declines to give me her full name (“against company policy”) and the captain tells her to sit down and stop arguing with me so we can leave.

I arrive in Chicago, take another delay and finally get home to Newark.

Now, throughout the trip I tweeted and used my FB status….and the only thing I got was e-mail from friends at other airlines asking if they could sAAve me. Nothing from American. I got auto-emails from AA telling me that the flight had been delayed to a time that had already passed (so a message that we were delayed until 6 p.m., for example, arrived at 6:15)

I wait a week. Then I send a letter to American Airlines. Not because I want anything from them – heck, lifetime Gold Elite status wouldn’t make up for the bad experience I’ve had. But I would like to know that the flight attendant in question has been advised that she didn’t handle the situation well.
Nothing. Literally. In fact, I haven’t even been able to get the miles posted to my account for that hellacious trip.

72 hours of hell in the air – or in this case, mostly on the ground. 4 mechanicals. 2 other delays. 1 nasty flight attendant. A host of rude, incompetent people. Sorry American Airlines…you have a bad reputation, and as far as I’m concerned, you’ve earned it.

August 11, 2010 | bsilver | Tagged , ,

Fish on! Jenny was a hoax, but the reputation rules still apply

Okay, we confess – we took the bait about Jenny and her white-board flame job of her boss, Spencer. Turns out it was all a hoax.

But we were in good company. Word is that Leno’s people were scrambling around yesterday, trying to find Jenny in order to get her on his show. Ditto for Good Morning, America. In fact, Gawker called it “The Quitting Tale that Suckered the Whole Internet.” Including them!

It reminds me of the day that the New York Mets listed Sidd Finch on their 1985 spring training roster, but at least Sports Illustrated and George Plimpton had the decency to pull off that prank on April Fools Day.

All kidding aside, our points about reputation and social media still stand. In an era when news can spread instantly from a variety of sources, executives can’t be too careful, corporations have to keep their crisis protocols / plans fresh and their crisis teams, internal and external, have to be ready to respond on a dime. You never know when a real Jenny will turn up on the Internet with her white board.

August 10, 2010 | bsilver | Tagged , , , ,

PR firm’s reputation at risk from HP’s CEO fiasco

At what point does the reputational fallout from Mark Hurd’s resignation rain down on Hewlett-Packard’s PR advisors?

The New York Times reported today that APCO, a well-respected PR firm, advised HP’s board to get ahead of potential leaks associated with the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by then-CEO Hurd.

The board took the advice, disclosing the unsupported allegations. Hurd resigned later that week – not due to the sexual allegations, but because he admitted to falsifying travel expense reports.

But I digress. Let’s look at APCO’s role here. APCO seemed to follow the crisis playbook – be proactive, be open and provide full disclosure. So far, so good. But if they made a mistake – and you could make a strong argument that they didn’t – perhaps it was to counsel their client to move quickly without all the facts in hand.

Now APCO’s reputation is getting bruised by a variety of media outlets, including the Times, which concluded its story today by reporting that APCO “does not have a particularly strong reputation for crisis management or technology expertise” despite advising corporate icons such as Microsoft, Intel and yes, HP, on such matters.


August 9, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Your culture and your “behavior” are your brand

Our CEO sent me this great piece about the 5 Commandments for Brands in the post-crash economy that was posted by Fast Company.

At its heart, the piece suggests that brands must help consumers achieve balance – defined as a move toward simplicity – and must be trustworthy. In fact, much of the piece reads like a primer for how to approach CSR.

One of the things I love about this piece is its simplicity – one of the core values it recommends for brands, by the way. And for me it crystallized a concept about CSR that has been on my mind.

I recently had a discussion with a colleague who is an expert in consumer marketing, and to her, CSR is all about branding, with a heavy emphasis on cause.

For me (and many of my co-contributors to this blog), CSR is all about reputation…about engaging employees and building a culture, about growing your business (and its value) and about earning the trust of key stakeholders in government, community, industry and the consumer marketplace.

It could be that when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But I think that what this really means is that we are both right.

At MWW Group, we’ve always advocated a total stakeholder approach. As CSR continues to drive further convergence of corporate reputation and brand, this approach will be more important than ever.

March 29, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Customers Really Don’t Come First…..But Don’t Say That to Your Customers

Last week I had the privilege of moderating a panel at a seminar by The Conference Board on the customer experience. It was a great conference with leaders from iconic service and experience organizations like Disney, Starbucks and the Girl Scouts.

Our session was about creating a culture for service, and our panelists provided some great insights into this critical subject matter.

Stan Hart of Ritter & Associates talked about the importance of measurement in order to translate the language of the importance of service into action at all levels of the organization.

Ed Reilly of the American Management Association provided some great context around the reason that service and customer service has been elevated to a C-level imperative, and provided great guidance on how to provide the leadership and training that “walks the talk.”

For me the proverbial “a-ha” moment came during a session led by Michael Chen, CEO of GE Commercial Finance. He talked about the 4 I’s of creating a culture for success, and reminded us of the window of Batman’s girlfriend who told us (in Batman Returns) that actions are more important than intentions. He also said “Customers don’t come first – your employees do. Treat your employees like customers, and they will treat your customers like royalty.”

It’s great to hear that coming from a CEO, because this simple truth is so often forgotten as companies become entangled in creating measurement protocols, rolling out CRM programs and otherwise focusing their customer service resources externally. Your employees are the single greatest asset you have in achieving customer satisfaction – they impact every step in the process. And the power of social media means that you are only as good as the worst decisions of a single employee. Just ask Domino’s – who found itself battling a massive reputational threat after a couple of part time employees posted some distasteful video on YouTube.

Carreen Winters can be reached at cwinters@mww.com