Some random notes on reputation from the past few days….
1. “Green” is having a hard time when it comes to reputation. Greenwashing claims are piling up as more advertisers try to appeal to socially conscious consumers. According to the U.S. Advertising Standards Authority’s public affairs department, “We received a record number of complaints about green claims last year, which had more than doubled from the year before, to over 300.” Companies need hard and clear evidence to make statements about their products being carbon-neutral, sustainable, organic, non-toxic, ozone friendly, 100% recycled. The reputation of “green” is quickly losing its power over consumers if it continues to be used irresponsibly. The Financial Times article where I read about this evolution of green’s reputation said that there are certain terms that are more passable than others such as “kinder to the environment,” “ecologically improved,” and “more environmentally friendly than before.” These might not satisfy consumers and marketers although they may be more credible. More stringent rules are on their way in the U.S .and U.K. Greenwashing charges against “green” could dilute its reputation altogether if we are not careful.
2. As our research on managing reputations online revealed, executives are very worried about the leaking of confidential documents. Another article I read recently in the Financial Times states that networking security is at greater risk than ever before. Executives seem aware but will be surprised at how easy it now is to break into company networks and steal information. The CEO of NCC Group, a network security firm, says that his team of “ethical hackers” has a success rate of 97.8% in hacking into corporate networks. Not only are wireless networks making it easier to break into corporate networks but so are stolen or lost laptops and devices. I thought it was very cool to read that one of the safety recommendations was for companies to use a “remote device wipe” so that all the data on a lost device could be obliterated on demand. Sounds very 24 to me (the program with Jack Bauer). After reading this article, I vow to never leave my laptop out on the desk of a hotel room just waiting to be taken. The article says that we should never assume we are safely covered network-wise. The executives in our study are right to be worried.
3. In today’s WSJ, an article on CEO turnover in the financial sector helps make a point that surfaced in our other recent survey on CEO reputations. We learned that nearly one-half of rising executives (49%) say that they would take a CEO position if offered. We stated that this was good news because positive CEO succession is critical to our nation’s economic recovery. The authors wrote, “ There aren’t any highly attractive CEO prospects in the financial-services industry. The best players won’t risk their careers going to a troubled enterprise.” Therefore the job number one for companies right now is to increase their leadership development programs and groom rising executives for the long-term. According to the Booz & Co. terrific survey on CEO turnover, 18% of financial services firms lost their CEO in 2008 and of these, more than half were pushed out. As the WSJ reports, several firms are now looking for CEO replacements – AIG, Hartford, Freddie Mac. The reputation of the financial services sector is in great need of repair and only when we have willing, seasoned and values-driven executives in the corner suite, will we be able to talk about a reputation recovery in the financial services sector.