Archive for December, 2010
As the new year approaches, I decided to assemble my thoughts on what’s ahead in the world of reputation for 2011. I posted eight trends on HuffingtonPost that I see emerging and taking hold over the next 12 months. You will have to check out the post to see what I said about each (my way of saying please check it out). Here they are.
1. Hijacked Reputations
2. Reputation Recoverers Anonymous
3. Reputation Warfare
4. Online Reputation Revisionism
5. Ascendancy of Social CEOs
6. Reputation Blacklisting
7. Reputation Risk Insurance
8. The Corporate Brand Rises
The original title of the post is Ask the Magic-8 Ball: Reputation Trends for 2011. HuffingtonPost shortened it to make it more clear (they are right). However, the Magic 8-Ball is a toy that I used to play with when I was little and which is still around. Here is what Wikipedia says about the toy:
The Magic 8 Ball is a toy used for fortune-telling or seeking advice, manufactured by Mattel. The Magic 8 Ball is a hollow plastic sphere resembling an oversized, black and white 8 ball. Inside is a cylindrical reservoir containing a white, plastic, icosahedral floating in alcohol with dissolved dark blue dye. The die is hollow, with openings in each face, allowing the die to fill with fluid, giving the plastic die minimal buoyancy. Each of the 20 faces of the die has an affirmative, negative, or non-committal statement printed on it in raised letters. There is a transparent window on the bottom of the Magic 8 Ball through which these messages can be read.
Ask The Magic 8-Ball is the perfect ending to a difficult year threatened by a poor economy and many unsettled issues that still afflict populations around the world. The question for the Magic 8-Ball is “Will 2011 Be Better than 2010?” Pick one of the 20 standard answers below that appear on the Magic 8-Ball for what’s ahead. I picked the fifth one — Outlook GOOD. Happy New Year!
- ? As I see it, yes
- ? It is certain
- ? It is decidedly so
- ? Most likely
- ? Outlook good
- ? Signs point to yes
- ? Without a doubt
- ? Yes
- ? Yes – definitely
- ? You may rely on it
- ? Reply hazy, try again
- ? Ask again later
- ? Better not tell you now
- ? Cannot predict now
- ? Concentrate and ask again
- ? Don’t count on it
- ? My reply is no
- ? My sources say no
- ? Outlook not so good
- ? Very doubtful
If you have not read “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership” in the November Harvard Business Review, I highly recommend it. It was written by Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. There are many lessons to be learned from the article that are reminders on how leadership drives meaning and in turn, purposeful reputation.
One of his lessons is about creating a link with the people you oversee or work with. Building a positive company reputation is often as simple as thoughtful communications from the top. It may be just a glance, a handshake or asking someone what they are doing over the holidays. Useem wrote about an incident when the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff visited his business classroom that is a good reminder of how the most ordinary gesture can communicate the extraordinary moment:
It is 10 minutes before class time, and many of the 65 first-year students are taking their assigned seats in a tiered classroom. The general strides into the room—four stars on his epaulets and a half-dozen staffers and security agents close behind. He walks straight to the first row and introduces himself to the nearest student. He shakes hands, exchanges a few personal words, and then moves on to the next student.
Making a personal connection from the top can have a tremendous impact on company or employer reputation. It forges a connection that transcends the everyday rapid fire activity and isolation of working behind a computer that many experience.
Useem’s example has special resonance. When I wrote my first book, CEO Capital, I used many examples of how CEOs build reputation. I used an example of symbolic CEO leadership that I had heard about upon joining my former agency. I had been told that on our CEO’s first day at work at the agency, he (Chris Komisarjevsky) shook hands with every single employee starting in the mailroom and working his way up to the 13th floor where senior management sat. When people wanted to explain to me what kind of company I was joining, they always used this example as a demonstration of the kind of personal leadership that I would witness from the top. It certainly reminds me of Useem’s classroom example.
As the year ends, I wonder how CEOs can more effectively build workplace reputations through communications, both tangible and intangible. It is important to figure out what really counts and will make the difference in keeping your best employees and getting them to go that extra mile.
How much fun is this? Google Labs has this new program where you can search words among a database of two billion words and phrases taken from over five million books published during the past 200 years. Those are all big numbers and mind blowing if you think about it. You can track the usage of “God” or “enemy” or “Lady Gaga.” Since this is now available to the public, I quickly typed in “corporate reputation” to Ngram Viewer and got to see how the term has soared over the past 19 or so years. The above chart shows the upward rise from 1990 to 2009 and demonstrates how much attention has been paid to the term in published books.
Then I decided to look at the terms’ corporate reputation (blue line) and online reputation (red line). As you can see below, online reputation took off around 1998 and is moving upward although it does not come close to corporate reputation in the world of authorship.
I found all this out when reading an article in the WSJ while sitting on a plane (where I get alot of reading done). I was captivated by the ability to capture trends by tracing words and cultural signposts over time. It is a researcher’s dream and I am busy making slides for powerpoint decks that we use to describe the surge of interest in reputation today. I guess you could say that I have been lucky enough to ride the wave.
I was sent a column today that recently appeared in BloombergBusinessWeek on the CEO revolving door. It is worth reading because the author, CEO Kevin Kelly of Heidrick & Struggles, argues that perhaps we are giving CEOs too little time to accomplish too much. We expect miracles in the first 100 days and if that is not long enough, we say we will give them another 100 days. By the end of year one, we expect these new CEOs to be turning around the share price, keynoting at Davos and chiseling their strategy into stone tablets. I was just thinking the same because this weekend I read articles about two CEOs’ performance on their first year anniversaries. The two CEOs barely got credit for what they had accomplished. It takes CEOs at least two years to hit their stride, crisis or not. Of course, if they are not working out, it is time for the boot but lets admit it, most incoming CEOs take about one year to change what was not going right in the first place. From months 12 to 24 or 36 months, the best of the rest starts to take hold.
That’s my two cents for the day.
I’ve been very busy so have not had a chance to mention two studies related to reputation that are worth reviewing.
The first one is about industry reputation which continues to intrigue me. The Harris Interactive Poll found that the most credible industries among 2,152 adult Americans are supermarkets, hospitals, banks and electric and gas utilities. They have been doing this research since 2003. Not too surprisingly but disturbing nevertheless was that when asked this question about 17 industries, a large 48% said “none of these” industries are trustworthy. This was the highest number of people saying this since 2003. Overall, no one industry is doing particularly well and this speaks to the overall downturn in perceptions of business over the decade.
Base: All U.S. adults
|Electric and gas utilities||n/a||n/a||14||14||15||16||16||19||+3||n/a|
|Computer hardware companies||27||29||27||20||18||17||23||16||-7||-11|
|Computer software companies||22||25||22||23||17||16||20||15||-5||-7|
|Packaged food companies||23||23||21||14||12||13||16||11||-5||-12|
|Pharmaceutical and drug companies||13||14||9||7||11||10||9||11||+2||-2|
|Life insurance companies||11||15||10||11||10||9||10||10||-||-1|
|Health insurance companies||7||9||9||7||7||7||7||8||+1||+1|
|Managed care companies such as HMOs||4||5||5||4||5||5||5||7||+2||+3|
|None of these||37||32||37||40||44||44||44||48||+4||11|
|Note: Multiple-response question; n/a = industry not asked about that year|
The second survey that should be on your radar is research by Nora Ganim Barnes. She has been diligently surveying Fortune 500 companies with regard to their social media usage. Social reputation is a growing component of reputation which is why I am writing about this. This is the third survey that she has done on this topic at the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Here are some of her key findings for 2010 (conducted in August/September 2010) which are great to track over time.
1. One quarter (23%) of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing corporate blog with a recent post over the past 12 months. Two years ago, only 16% had blogs so this is a healthy increase.
2. When it comes to industries, the industries with the most blogs are computer software, peripherals and office equipment. This includes companies such as HP, Microsoft, Apple. There have been increases in blogs in the specialty retail industry (Best Buy as an example) and telecommunications as well (Verizon, AT&T).
3. About one third (32%) of top 100 ranked Fortune 500 companies had a blog, a slight dip from 38% in 2008.
4. A whopping 90% of Fortune 500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions. That is good news to see that these blogs are interactive and not one-way.
5. They looked at corporate Twitter accounts (had to have tweeted in the past 30 days) and 60% had Twitter accounts, a jump up from 35% in 2009. Nine of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies had accounts and consistently posted. Specialty retail companies were the most likely to have Twitter accounts. Since they are so consumer-facing, makes sense.
6. A fairly large 56% of the Fortune 500 companies are on Facebook. Not bad but not up to the level it should be and will be over time.
Industry reputations are still failing but social media seems to be exploding (Twitter and Facebook) among the top companies in the US. We are witnessing the Great American Reach Out. Industry reputations could begin the climb upwards if there was greater adoption of interactivity. No doubt industries will take this seriously and jump onboard. CEOs as well will become more socialized in the years ahead.
Since we at Weber Shandwick did that analysis on socializing CEOs and how to turn CEOs from (UN)social to social, I’ve been fascinated by the increasing examples that are popping up. In the December issue of HBR, there is a very good piece on Best Buy CEO’s Brian Dunn and his experience in the digital space. The article starts out with an attention-getting example of how someone hijacked his Twitter handle and wrote “I’ve been having a lot of great sex lately, and here’s why.” The link attached to it was for a Viaga-like pill. (Lesson Learned: Regularly change your password)
Dunn explains his sticking with social media and the many benefits. Here are a few reasons he enjoys being a social CEO.
- Provides the opportunity to interact directly with customers and employees
- Provides insights into trends and news
- It is not just a trend or fad that will fade away
- Lets people know what the CEO is thinking about (from store visits or customers he meets)
Then he says it all: “I like how posting about these things allows us all to be humanized a little bit.” Being social, even for a limited amount of time or on one platform such as Facebook, gives CEOs or other executives some personality and humanity.
Like everything new, it is easier to find reasons not to. But there are many reasons to join the digital conversation, if only to insure that you and your company are in the conversation and where your customers are hanging out. I agree it is not for every CEO but wade in and give it a try.