Tag Archives: reputation
LeBron’s Taking the Heat: Can This Reputation Ever Rebound?
October 29, 2010
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.
Shell Oil Company's Reputation
October 6, 2010
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.
American Airlines earns its bad reputation, one mechanical delay and one nasty flight attendant at a time
August 16, 2010
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.
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.
PR firm’s reputation at risk from HP’s CEO fiasco
August 10, 2010
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.
Your culture and your “behavior” are your brand
August 9, 2010
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cracking the Code on Being a Most Admired Company
March 23, 2010
Fortune’s Most Admired Companies list is undoubtedly sparking renewed conversations by reputation managers about their place on the list. This list is often used as the single greatest test of efficacy of reputation programs. While the editorial team at Fortune certainly holds influence, they are quite transparent about the process, which emphasis the opinion of executives/peers, directors and analyst. Geoff Colvin’s column in the latest issue provides great support for my point of view that reputation begins and ends with employee engagement.
Employees at all levels are the universal touch-point for all of your constituencies – and often, your reputation is only as good (or not) as the experience your customers, shareholders, business partners, communities and influencers have with those employees. Reputation begins at home. Colvin’s column states it eloquently:
“It turns out that this year’s leaders — the industry champs that really did come through the recession on top, such as UPS, Disney, McDonald’s, and Marriott International — differ from the stragglers in at least one way: They actually believe what every company proclaims about people being their most valuable asset.”
The Hay Group’s survey methodology debunks a lot of myths for reputation management practitioners, and indicates that the ability to attract and retain talent is their number 1 indicator – above all of the other Building Blocks of Reputation such as quality of management, innovation, long term investment value and even quality of product services.
As we look at the list of influencers on the Fortune survey – directors, peer executives, analysts – it makes a great case for the importance of executive visibility programs, such as our CEO EquityBuilder™ programs, which help create, reinforce and preserve the admiration of these influencers for leaders, and by association, their companies.
Clearly this list isn’t perfect….Toyota still ranks well, although the data would clearly be different if the survey were re-done today. But if you didn’t make the list, or want to improve your ranking, begin by looking within. Reputation begins at home.
Carreen Winters can be reached at email@example.com.