Archive for June, 2008
Now that I am back in the USA, I keep thinking about the recurrent questions I received during my many media interviews and internal staff Q&A while visiting Shanghai and Beijing. I was repeatedly asked my opinion about what I thought of companies and organizations who were not donating the proper amount of money for the Sichuan earthquake victims. Having read everything I could before arriving in China, I did not really come across anything that fully prepared me for the intensity surrounding this topic. Although I had an inkling that this was simmering because a journalist alluded to it before I arrived, I did not appreciate how much attention was being paid by the Chinese people to which companies had given in earthquake assistance. In fact, company individuals were often asked to publicly disclose the amount they had given in relief and they were not sure what the right amount should be. When this topic came up, the story of the CEO of a large real estate company also surfaced. Apparently the CEO was among the first to donate money and discuss his contribution on his blog. However, many people believed that the CEO had erred by not giving enough and stained his reputation. The CEO apologized under public pressure and announced he was contributing more to the natural disaster. It seems that people were aware of a list of the top 20 company donors, multinationals and non-multinationals alike.
I can’t recall the U.S. media covering who did not give funds during Hurricane Katrina. Instead I tend to recall the companies that did the right thing, not necessarily only financially but in kind provisions and volunteerism. Obviously a very interesting difference between Eastern and Western cultures when it comes to disaster relief and understanding of what corporate responsibility means. This experience made me realize how important it is to see the world through the eyes of different cultures and to recognize the power of civil society upon corporate behavior. The pressure from employees and the community were dramatically driving corporate giving.
I was also asked twice in Beijing what would happen if an earthquake occurred during the Olympics in August. This question reminded me of how I felt after the terrorist attack on in New York on September 11th which I witnessed up close. After 9-11, barely a day went by for nearly two years that I did not think that another attack was imminent in New York. For that very reason, I did not regard the question as strange although now that several years have passed, I do not think about it constantly. In response to that question, I believe that the Chinese government is as prepared as any country and learned a lot over the past six months to effectively handle such a crisis if it should strike. Hopefully the Olympics will be smooth sailing and triumphant for all.
I am visiting our office in Shanghai before heading to Beijing. I was particularly excited to come to Shanghai because my son studied here for six months recently during his semester abroad from college. He has been learning Mandarin since he was about 10 years old and has already spent two summers in Beijing. So I wanted to see Shanghai as he saw the city during his many months here.
Last night my gracious Weber Shandwick colleagues took me to a restaurant on the Bund that provided a view of the financial center and the old section of the city. The skyline is absolutely extraordinary — gleaming, tall, modern, flashy, whimsical, creative, and bold. My first reaction was that the financial center looked like Second Life in real life.
I am learning alot about the reputation of Shanghai and its cosmopolitaness. It is dynamic, energized and rushing to the future.
Just seeing the skyline caught my breathe. Beyond impressive.
Today I will be having lunch with clients, media interviews and even being interviewed on TV about my favorite topic. Reputation is certainly a hot topic here as China deals with the aftermath of the earthquake, the Olympics, globalization and building brand awareness and differentiation for its corporations and its country.
My son has lived in the future and his mom is just learning to understand what he saw. I have alot of catching up to do.
I have not written recently since I have been traveling throughout Asia Pacific for my book and meeting Weber Shandwick clients. Media interviews are on the agenda as well. One of the side effects of my visit to AP, unexpectedly, is that my own perceptions of Weber Shandwick grows brighter and brighter every day. Although I often feel that I understand the depth and breadth of the firm, I see now that not until you visit the network do you truly understand. As a visitor for just a day or two in each market, I also get to meet my colleagues en masse in internal staff meetings. Without a doubt, my Weber Shandwick colleagues are WOWing me. Everyone is enthusiastic, client-focused, smart and generous of spirit. Little did I realize that as I talk about building corporate reputation at luncheons and events, I myself would personally be so impacted by Weber Shandwick’s reputation and its future. Definitely a big return on reputation for me.
So far, I have visited Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong. Off to Shanghai and Beijing this week and then back to NYC next weekend.
I was catching up on my reading this morning when I learned about presidential candidate Barack Obama’s newest web site. Talk about taking a lesson from corporate America on handling myths and rumors! My blog has previously referred to Starbucks and Coca-Cola having designated areas on their sites that let them refute rumors. Well, Obama now has one and it is worth visiting. It is called Fight The Smears. The YouTube generation is sure shaking up the entire presidential election. Obama’s YouTube Channel has nearly 1,200 videos. More than 50m people have apparently watched Obama’s videos. The advocates are turning out in numbers for this unusual presidential candidate. We are learning that reputation-building online is infectious.
On another subject, am listening to BBC while posting and heard that more confidential documents were left on the subway by someone. The information reveals data on money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism. Since this is the second such incident in a week, embarrassment is an understatement. The reason I raise this is that our 2006 research found that “security breaches” and “data losses” are among the top five triggers of reputation loss. Fairly prescient I might say.
Universum’s list of ideal employers for undergraduates and MBA students is out and not surprisingly, Google ranks #1 as it did in 2007. By the way, if you are interested in reputation and do not know about Universum, check them out. I think their research is fascinating and provides important clues into why some employers are preferred over others. The next four ranked companies are Disney, Apple, Ernst & Young and the U.S. State Department. How does E&Y get such a high rating when it was #12 one year ago. BusinessWeek says that its high score comes from E&Y’s early adoption of Facebook as a recruitment tool. I checked it out. It has nearly 15,000 fans, a You Tube on why to intern at E&Y, profiles, events, internship info, and lots more.
Another reputation survey is out as well. Reputation Institute’s third annual Global Pulse survey is out and the following companies head the list. Again Google leads the best reputation list. This survey is among consumers which differs from the younger audience sampled in the Universum study. Congratulations to the folks at the Reputation Institute who have succeeded in delivering a top-notch survey and reputation monitoring business.
2008 Best Corporate Reputations in the US-Top 25 Companies
(Rank US Companies Global Pulse Score of 1-100)
1 Google 85.23
2 Johnson & Johnson 83.48
3 Kraft Foods Inc. 82.79
4 General Mills 81.34
5 Walt Disney 81.22
6 United Parcel Service 81.05
7 3M 79.79
8 Xerox 78.44
9 Colgate-Palmolive 78.04
10 Texas Instruments 77.22
11 Eastman Kodak 77.13
12 General Electric 76.82
13 Sara Lee 76.48
14 FedEx 76.28
15 Deere & Co 76.12
16 Goodyear 76.00
17 Apple 75.42
18 Hewlett-Packard 75.10
19 Intel 74.94
20 Publix Super Markets Inc. 74.91
21 Caterpillar 74.78
22 Whirlpool 74.41
23 Boeing 74.37
24 Costco Wholesale 74.33
25 Dell 74.26
Reputation Institute’s research model is built on 7 dimensions of reputation: Products/Services, Innovation, Workplace, Citizenship, Governance, Leadership, and Performance. What interested me was that when two drivers — Governance and Citizenship — are combined, they account for more than 30% of a company’s reputation. This proves that leadership at the top and corporate responsibility are critical to reputation today.
While on the road last week, I was asked whether I knew of any surveys about perceptions of government entities. This question probably came up because I was talking about the extraordinary rise in coverage and chatter on country reputation. At the time, I said that I did not really know of any survey on government bodies and thought it would make for an interesting survey. When I returned home, we looked into whether such a survey existed and yes, found one. The GFK Roper Consulting survey on federal agencies was mentioned in the The Washington Post in January 2008. The sample comprised nearly 2,000 Americans in the summer of 2007.
The most favorable ratings were given to the U.S. Postal Service, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. The lowest favorability was given to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (for the second year in a row FEMA came in last place). The poor handling of Hurricane Katrina has been responsible for lowering perceptions of FEMA’s reputation over recent years.
Interestingly, Americans did not know much about some agencies to be able to rate them. This included the Bureau of Land Management, the Administration of Aging, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Hate to say it but they need some pr assistance on getting their reputations noticed!
Enterprise Leadership Network (IT Strategies for Delivering Business Value) interviewed me about how C-level executives such as CIOs can build their reputations.
Thought you might want to tune into the podcast. Enjoy if you are in the mood.