Archive for November, 2008
Could not help but notice the reactions of leaders in my search of how countries, politicians, hotels and so forth were being impacted by the tragic events in Mumbai. I went to the web sites of US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Browne, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Nicolas Sarkozy, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Zardari. Not all have dedicated sites so I would then wander over to the government sites. No doubt these leaders were extremely busy as this crisis unfolded over days. However , Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (naturally), British Prime Minister Gordon Browne and President Elect Barrack Obama were the only leaders that mentioned the crisis on their respective home pages and blog (Obama has a blog). A few of the dedicated government sites mentioned the events but not many. As mentioned in a previous post, Indian Prime Minister Singh had a stirring message. I was surprised that Sarkozy did not have a dedicated site but maybe I could not find it on Google. Medevev has a dedicated area on the government site but there was no mention of the tragedy. There was nothing yesterday (27th) or today (28th) from Pakistan’s Mr. Zardari. Maybe there is some protocol that I am missing but dedicated web sites make sense in today’s unpredictable and fast-moving world.
Just reviewed how some web sites in India are managing the terrorist crisis online. The two hotels where explosions occurred and hostages were taken – the Taj and Oberi – both had statements on their home page websites deploring the terrorisms and providing phone numbers for people to call. The Taj reported that “We will rebuild every inch that has been damaged in this attack and bring back the Taj to its full glory. 7.30 am IST, November 27, 2008.” The prime minister of India, Dr. Singh, has information on his web site with a text release of his comments and condolences for the top security officer. The broadcast I saw on cnn.com was not on their web site. All of the other sites have relevant information such as the Consulate General of the U.S. in Mumbai letting American citizens know they can get lost passports without delay [“U.S. citizens who have immediate travel plans and have lost or damaged passports can come directly to the Consulate to obtain an emergency replacement passport.”]. The Mumbai police also has emergency telephone numbers to call. One of India’s major airlines had no information on their home page about the crisis. I had read that Fortune 500 Unilever had officers at the Taj but they have information on their global home page and a statement that “Unilever Management Team at Mumbai safe. We wish to confirm that the Unilever Group CEO Mr. Patrick Cescau, the Unilever CEO-elect Paul Polman and the HUL Management team including HUL Chairman, Mr. Harish Manwani and HUL CEO Mr Nitin Paranjpe, who were at the Taj Hotel (Mumbai) yesterday, had left the hotel last night itself and they are all safe and accounted for. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by these unfortunate events.” Reputations can be damaged during a crisis such as this if information, limited as it may be, is not forthcoming. During the September 11th attacks in New York, I monitored how companies used the Internet to provide information and one conclusion was that companies learned a vital lesson in crisis management at the time. Many companies learned how to use the Internet to crisis manage online for the first time. Most company web sites were not used effectively to provide news and information to those concerned. Alas, times have changed.
My sincere wishes for a speedy end to a horrific situation.
Interesting tidbit. It would be hard to ignore the influence of CSR or CR (depending on which term you like to use) on corporate reputation. The two go hand-in-hand today and will continue to regardless of the economic slowdown. Companies cannot afford abandon their responsibilities to communities and the environment while they wait for share prices to sort themselves out. However, we can all expect a tightening of the funds that have supported CR (my preferred term) programs as 2008 ends and 2009 appears (not soon enough!). While having a discussion about CR in the office on Monday, I recalled a fact we had uncovered and probably used in a presentation over the past year. We looked at whether there has been an increase in the term “greenwash” or “greenwashing” over the past several years. I do not recall the term being widely used years ago. One of my first recalls of its usage or something close to it was in a speech by BP’s former chairman and CEO Lord John Browne. At one point, I can safely say that I had read every single speech of his since I found his “thought leadership” compelling. He often made a statement about BP’s global climate change initiatives not being spin or “pr” and he used some sort of “green” term.
Back to the interesting tidbit. In the quick research we did at Weber Shandwick, we learned that the term “greenwashing” increased 993% since year 2000 in the global top-tier media. Whereas “greenwashing” appeared less than 50 times in the global media in 2000, it has soared ever since. It’s that viral influence working again….
Noticed two very interesting things in Seoul, South Korea this week while visiting. They both impressed me and enhanced Korea’s reputation in my mind. First, as I was going through immigration to have my passport reviewed, I noticed the little counter where people sometimes have to fill out their landing cards because they forgot to do it on the plane or filled it out in pencil. One usually sees pens set aside in this area for people to fill out their personal information. In the Inchon airport in Seoul, they had several pairs of reading glasses at the counter available for people who might have troubled eyesight. Since it is usually older people who need these seeing aids, it made me think about what a kind and thoughtful gesture this is. In New York where I live, any glasses left unattended at JFK Airport would probably disappear in moments. The other reputation-booster that I noticed was when I was in a taxi on my way to dinner with my colleagues. For some reason, I am used to being in the back seat (I take too many taxis or sat in the back for too many years when my kids were younger) and the headrest in the passenger seat always blocked my view. Sitting in a car’s backseat requires you to look sideways to take in the landscape or cityscape. Forget about looking straight ahead. In Seoul, the taxi driver clicked a button and the headrest snapped downwards so I had a perfect view of what was in front of me. As I sat there I could not believe my good fortune. I had an unobstructed view of dynamic and highly visual Seoul. Why don’t American cars do this with their cars? Anyone who has spent time in the backseat (usually women and children) knows how annoying it is not to be able to look straight ahead without the headrest blocking your view. I usually console myself with the idea that the headrest is there for safety’s sake so why complain. But when I heard that click and saw the headrest collapse, I thought that someone somewhere in Korea listened to someone who spends a lot of time sitting in the backseat. Good for Korea.
On my second trip to Beijing this year, I come away again with admiration and awe at brand China. In fact, in a speech I gave at a conference, I commented on the rise of brand China and the ascendency of brand Obama. The two are intertwined in my mind and both passed extraordinary milestones with flying colors (the Olympics and the presidential election, respectively). Both changed perceptions and enhanced reputations of multitudes of people. And each is still at the beginning of their superpower status. As a reputation watcher, I can envision the many steps and stumbles ahead as their reputations build, deepen and get damaged over the years. Reputation damage is inevitable as leaders rise to power. However, failure is what leads to success.
One morning before a meeting I went to the Temple of Heaven, a large park where older people gather early in the day to meet and greet. All I could think of was the movie Cocoon where a group of elderly people were rejuvenated by aliens. There were hundreds of older people in small groups singing, dancing, exercising, playing cards, flying kites, fencing, singing, and on and on. What surprised me was how much fun everyone was having and could only wish that New Yorkers like myself would take the time to work at getting to this higher state of being. No one was in a rush to anywhere. No one cut me off because they had a more important place to go. No one looked each other up and down to judge their trappings. After seeing so many young people in Beijing on the streets, in meetings and in restaurants and shops, I had a deeper appreciation for brand China’s respect for elders. These elders were happy fellows and I look forward to visiting once again when I return to get a fix. It was a sight to behold.
I just got a twitter account although I feel like a novice at it. I figure that if I try out twitter I can at least understand it better if I am asked about it. And maybe I will learn something. Always a good thing. People who tweet seem to love it. Also I just read that e-mail is for old people and is just like writing letters. So I thought I’d join the younger generation and keep my comments short and limited to the 140 words allowed on twitter.
After Barack Obama was elected as President this week, I got my update on twitters that mention the word reputation. This was November 5th. There were 50 tweets early in the morning about reputation. Here are some of them.
- The Bush administration has done an incredible amount of damage to the reputation of the United States around the world (so unnecessary).
- Now Obama has the reputation of David Palmer to live up to (David Palmer is the black president in the hit series 24)
- He will also strengthen international reputation. Probably important for country that boasts “most powerful country in world”
- It’s a shame b/c John McCain allowed his reputation to tank by the way he acted. I don’t think he is all that bad.
- We have a country to rebuild, reputation to restore, a spirit to ignite, and a president to lead us. Thank you everyone.
- You Americans have lived up to your reputation. Good job.
- I think Americans might have a better global reputation in the near future. Anyway, I’m hopeful. I like to be liked.
- An amazing man, amazing speech, and I’m amazingly aware at 5:30am. This is a great day to heal our nation’s reputation. I’m proud of us today.
- McCain really sullied his reputation with this campaign.
- It’s definitely going to take more than this election to restore our reputation…but it’s the first rockin’ step in the right direction.
- America and the world believes we can restore our reputation on this planet and for our future.
- McCain’s concession speech may salvage his reputation that was tarred by Palin’s campaign of hate.
- Gotta wonder whether it’s in McCain’s power to repair his reputation. I admired him greatly for many years.
I think we will see the reputation of the U.S. rise once again once Obama takes charge. It will take a while however to restore reputation. Will be counting the days.
Some days are just better than others. Most everyone says that Mondays have a bad reputation. Same goes for months of the year. Some months have better reputations than others. June July and August are almost always good in my book. However, if we had to vote today, October would be the month with the worst reputation. Financial losses in Japan and the U.S. have been the worst in decades during the month of October. According to the Financial Times, “October has confirmed its reputation as one of the most punishing months for investors…” It is therefore obvious that the 10th month of the year needs public relations help to improve its standing among its competitors – January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, November and December. My firm, Weber Shandwick, would be glad to hear from October if it is looking for reputation guidance. One way to begin the reputation recovery process would be to invent a special day for October along the lines of Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, Christmas, etc. We do have Halloween but that’s a scary holiday. There must be a smart way to build the right messages for October and find the right spokespeople. I’m on it.
In an oped in today’s Financial Times, Edward Mortimer mentions the Salzburg Global Seminar taking place next week with the FT. Mortimer is a SVP with the Salzburg seminar and was the FT’s foreign affairs editor. The meeting will include DC insiders, think tank types and influencers who are knowledgeable about the workings of U.S. policy and administration, FT analysts, and worldwide policymakers. Mortimer says that the idea behind the seminar is “to distil a message from the world” that can be taken to the brave new administration. And, in this new perfect world of cross-collaboration, the hope is that non-Americans at the seminar will take home a “message for the world”to their publics and governments. Just the notion of inter-continental messages sweeping the globe warms the heart after years of DC-communicationlessness (a new word).
The “message from the world” reminds me of a postcard I picked up after 9-11. I have it hanging on my office wall. The front simply says, “Dear Mr. President.” The postcard sender has to fill in what he or she wants to tell the president. Perhaps president-elect Obama will start a blog. What a cool idea.
If Obama wins the U.S. presidency, it will confirm that the era of “soft power” leadership has arrived. The notion of soft power was first posited by former Harvard Kennedy School dean Josephy Nye Jr. Soft power is the power to attract (legions of Obama advocates ) vs. hard power which is the power to coerce with economic or military might (think George W Bush). As Nye says and I wholeheartedly endorse, “The dictionary says that leadership means going ahead or showing the way. To lead is to help a group define and achieve a common purpose. There are various types and levels of leadership, but all have in common a relationship with followers. Thus leadership and power are inextricably intertwined. I will argue that many leadership skills such as creating a vision, communicating it, attracting and choosing able people, delegating, and forming coalitions depend upon what I call soft power.”
It is hard to confidently predict at this hour who will win the 2008 presidency but my sense is that we have all witnessed how Obama has shaped our preferences for change and the electorate’s renewed passion for re-engagement with American values.
I am totally overwhelmed by information today. I imagine everyone feels that way. Therefore I was fascinated to read an article on multitasking that made me understand why I feel as if I had recently caught attention deficit syndrome. And how can I advise companies on reputation building when no one can concentrate long enough to pay attention to any corporate messages or good deeds or CEO apologies?
Although I try to do a few things at once such as talk on the phone and take care of email and read what’s happening with the election, I know that I am a failure at listening carefully enough when I try to do that. I get angry at myself when I try.
The New York Times article mentioned a 2005 study (“No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work”) that found people moved from one project to the next every 11 minutes. Best of all was the crazy finding that it took 25 minutes for people to return to the original project they were working on. And another study found that people are now guilty of self-interrupting! I confess that is happening to me too. I will be working on something and then after 12 minutes will self-interrupt and call someone or send an email to someone out of the blue. How can people concentrate at all when they are constantly other-interrupted or self-interrupted. What does this say about our ability to focus our attention on which products or services to buy or places to work? As for reputations, how can you find that perfect moment to reputation-build and have people hear you?
The experts in the article recommend that we break away from our blackberries and focus on our conversations without building in distractions. Now that I recognize my inability to focus while doing three things at once, I am working at only doing one thing at once. I am totally overwhelmed by information today. I imagine everyone feels that way. Therefore I was fascinated to read an article on multitasking that made me understand why I feel as if I had recently caught attention deficit. And how can I advise companies on reputation building when no one can concentrate long enough to pay attention to any corporate messages or good deeds or CEO apologies?
Although I try to do a few things at once such as talk on the phone and take care of email and read what’s happening on the election, I know that I am a failure at listening carefully enough when I try to do that. I get angry at myself when I try. The article mentioned a 2005 study (“No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work”) that found people moved from one project to the next every 11 minutes. Best of all was the crazy finding that it took 25 minutes to return to the original project the person was working on. And another study found that people are now self-interrupting. I sense that happening to me too. I will be working on something and then after 12 minutes will self-interrupt and call someone or send an email to someone out of the blue. How can people concentrate at all when they are constantly other-interrupted or self-interrupted. What does this say about our ability to focus our attention on best products, services, places to work? As for reputations, how can you find that perfect moment to reputation-build and have people hear you?
The experts in the article recommend that we break away from our blackberries and focus on our conversations without building in distractions. Now that I recognize my inability to focus while doing three things at once, I am working at only doing one thing at once.
Of course, I just got a twitter account which is an additional distraction. Could not help myself. I told myself I have a job to do in following the tweets on reputation. Good excuse Leslie.