Archive for November, 2006
How influential are business people? Well not so influential. Atlantic Monthly just came out with their Top 100 most influential figures in American history. Since the list is compiled by a panel of historians, no surprise that past presidents, inventors, architects, sports figures, entrepreneurs, social advocates, and political types made this list of highly reputable people. The first five were no big surprise — Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, FDR, and Alexander Hamilton. Ronald Reagan came in at #17 and Richard Nixon at #99.
Not too many celebrities made the list besides Elvis Presley (#66).
Thought it would be worth seeing who the panel chose as the most influential business people in American history. I counted 8 such individuals with such sterling reputations that they qualified for the list:
John D Rockefeller (#11)
Henry Ford (#14)
Walt Disney (#26)
J P Morgan (#37)
Bill Gates (#54)
Sam Walton (#72)
William Randolph Hearst (#80)
Sam Goldwyn (#95)
Most interesting is that nearly all are entrepreneurs and business-builders. No hired guns like CEOs such as Jack Welch or Mark Hurd. Not even Steve Jobs.
Bill Gates is the only living most influential business person among the top 100. Quite an honor.
Came across an alert about the troubled reputation of feta cheese on HomeboyMedianews . As I have mentioned previously in this blog, reputation issues are now universal.
After many years of negotiations, the European Commission awarded Greece the rights to the feta name. To my surprise, there have been ongoing skirmishes over feta cheese for nearly a decade since I also found this article on the Internet — “Pan-European War for Feta Cheese.”
The reason feta cheese is now in the news is that its quality is being questioned by farmers and industry experts. In case you did not know (I did not), feta cheese should be 70% sheep’s milk and 30% goat’s milk. As noted in the HomeboyMedianews blog, “According to the Agricultural Ministry, there are 8.7 million sheep in Greece and 5.3 million goats.” Sounds to me like Greece has the right proportion of sheep and goats to rightfully claim the title of feta cheese capital of the world. Obviously not that simple or countries would not be fighting over feta cheese.
After some more feta-searching, I learned that Wisconsin was in danger of being dethroned as the cheese capital of the world and handing over rights to the crown to California. Another cheese war.
Reputation is always worth fighting over.
Forbes just covered The Reputation Institute’s newest survey on the world’s most reputable companies among 30,000 consumers. Consumers rated their most respected companies in their own countries. Forbes’ Hannah Clark wrote: “‘Reputation’ has become a watchword in the corporate world, and safeguarding a company’s image is now a top priority for many CEOs.” I was delighted to read that sentence since our new research is titled Safeguarding Reputation.
For good reason, The Reputation Institute adjusted the findings to account for regional differences. French respondents, for example, tend to rate companies less favorably than Brazilians. From my experience researching different countries on reputation, Brazilians are consistently the most enthusiastic, upbeat reputation-watchers I’ve ever seen.
If you go to the Forbes web site, you are able to look at the most respected reputations by country and industry (just click on country/industry or even rank and magically the data is resorted!).
The most highly rated company in each country are:
Brazil (Metalurgica Gerdau)
Canada (McCain Foods)
Chile (Empresas Copec)
France (Compagnie Generale)
Germany (Deutsche Lufthansa)
India (Tata Group)
Italy (Barilla) Also #1 in the world
Mexico (Grupo Bimbo)
Netherlands (Koninklijke Philips)
Poland (Bank BPH)
South Africa (Woolworths)
South Korea (Samsung)
Switzerland (Federation of Migros Cooperatives)
USA (Kraft) Also the only US company among the top 10
The Reputation Institute’s work is headed by Charles Fonbrum who should be applauded for his diligent and quality work researching reputations since 1997. Whereas much of the work I do is focused on perceptions of companies among global business executives, Charles’ work is usually conducted among consumers. There is much to be said about what the general public thinks today. Their support is critical to long-term company growth, success and sustainability. Bravo Charles!
A substantial majority of global business executives (79 percent) believe that companies with strong corporate responsibility track records recover their reputations faster after crisis than those with weaker records. The finding comes from our survey, Safeguarding Reputation, that was conducted in 11 markets worldwide. I quote from our press release on the survey findings.
- “Reputation recovery is increasingly driven by more than financial metrics,” said Weber Shandwick’s International Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Brendan May. “As social, economic and political agendas increasingly influence consumer and market issues, companies now recognize that a record of corporate responsibility can inoculate a company against long-term reputation failure. Responsibility is no a longer nice-to-have. It is now a must-have corporate mandate.”
Global business executives were also asked to rate factors that build company reputation today. Over one-half (55 percent) surveyed report that being recognized as committed to corporate responsibility contributes “a lot” to a company’s overall reputation. European and Asia Pacific executives were more likely than their North American counterparts to agree on the importance of corporate responsibility in driving reputation.
Companies have awakened to the fact that corporate responsibility is a business imperative in building a good reputation today. Leaders understand that responsible companies attract the best talent, earn valuable trust and generate more positive word-of-mouth. In fact, KPMG International reports that 52 percent of the largest 250 firms of the Fortune 500 publish corporate social responsibility reports, an increase of 45 percent from three years ago.
Have started seeing a few blogs mention that Dell CEO Kevin Rollins’ head is about to roll. The drumbeat for someone to blame for Dell’s slippage usually begins a few months before reality hits. The problems at Dell have been exasperated by HP’s terrific quarterly performance and Dell’s postponement of its third quarter numbers. Dell cited the “complexity” of an ongoing investigation of the company by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
My experience is that someone has to pay for reputation damage before a company can move on. As our research continues to show, the CEO usually takes most of the blame regardless of the circumstances. The Dell clock is probably ticking.
I have frequently mentioned how much I enjoy collecting different phrases containing the word “reputation.” My hope is to one day start my own repu-pedia. Some of the fun terms I have come across recently are reputation assassins and reputation blindness.
This week I stumbled over a new one — reputation rehab — in an article by Peter Osnos of The Century Foundation (11/13/2006) on the recent election. Osnos writes: “So Powell and Rumsfeld may yet emerge from Reputation Rehab.”
Since so many individuals and companies have suffered reputation ills of late, reputation rehab fits well with the times.
I think about BP nearly every day. The simple reason is that BP’s once-revered reputation is at stake.
The Chemical Safety Board released its results last week: “What BP experienced was a perfect storm where ageing infrastructure, overzealous cost-cutting, inadequate design and risk blindness all converged. The result was the worst workplace catastrophe in more than a decade.” Those are harsh words from the Board’s supervisory head on BP’s Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 people and wounded 180. The consensus on BP was summed up in The Economist (4th November 2006) — “They were invincible, and now they are ordinary mortals.” BP was untouchable for years until its recent string of events (Texas Refinery fire, Alaskan pipeline corrosion and allegations of propane price fixing) that is rapidly tarnishing their gilded crown.
As a reputation-watcher, I believe BP will eventually navigate through this perfect storm. BP’s decade-long campaign to educate the world about global climate change and the danger of greenhouse gas emissions will keep them from losing maximal (sorry if that is not a word but I like it) reputation. An otherwise strong corporate responsibility record has to be worth something if not the benefit of the doubt. Lets not give up on BP so quickly. I predict that they will learn from this massive failure and get back to business smarter than ever.
BP, Chemical Safety Board, Texas City Refinery, Alaskan pipeline, propane trading, reputation, tarnished reputation, corporate responsibility, global climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, reputation-watcher, The Economist
There is a new service available for those worried about their reputation and that of their family. If you are worried about personal information out there about you, your child or your professional reputation, go to Reputation Defender. I first heard about it in Wired. As they say on their beta test web site, their goals are: 1) To search out all information about you and/or your child on the Internet, wherever it may be, and present it to you in a clear report and 2) To destroy, at your command, all inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful, and slanderous information about you and/or your child using our proprietary in-house methodology.
Several companies are getting into the business of adjusting one’s reputation online. Visible Technologies does something similar. Interesting new business model for reputation worriers. Perhaps a new syndrome –repuphobia — is around the corner for those fretting about what others are saying about them. And repudoctors will soon hang out shingles.
We just launched our new reputation management Web site – reputationRx (www.webershandwick.com/reputationRx). This new site houses the latest news, research findings, insights, best practices and commentary on how to build and safeguard CEO and corporate reputation. It is also the newest addition to the thought leadership we are building at Weber Shandwick which we started with the release of Safeguarding Reputation™, the first wave of our corporate reputation research.
Why “reputationRx”? There are two reasons why we chose this name. First, the origin of Rx comes from Jupiter’s astrological sign, which was originally placed on prescriptions to bless recovering patients. Second, Rx also refers to a remedy, cure or solution for a problem. As reputations rise and fall, reputationRx will provide you with the remedies, research and insights needed for recovering reputation, and building and safeguarding enduring reputations.
Hope to see you there.
SABMiller plc, the leading global brewer, announced the appointment of a Head of Reputation and Corporate Communications. Michael Farr is the man and I welcome him to this loosely confederated group. SABMiller reports in its press release that this is a newly created position and “…recognises the fact that SABMiller’s reputation is one of the company’s key assets.” Where is the drumroll! Michael’s responsibilities will be to direct the development and positioning of SABMiller’s reputation across global stakeholder groups, building the corporate brand, and overseeing a team charged with e-communications strategy, corporate publications, internal communications, events and hospitality activities. Sounds like a terrific job with a well-respected SMART company. Welcome Michael!