Archive for February, 2011
Because “badvocates” are everywhere, I am always drawn to reading about them when it comes to reputation. An article on Mashable about what to do with badvocates made me think twice. A person is quoted who used to handle complaints for Intuit and she suggested that one way of dealing with detractors was to use an avatar.
“…engaging and displaying human avatars changed sentiment from 65% negative towards QuickBooks to only 35% negative. My avatar was always a picture of one of my children and me during that time. I regularly told folks that it was easy to say ‘f**k you’ to Intuit the brand, but really hard to swear at the mommy and the baby. Especially when the mommy was helping.”
So this got me thinking that a reputationXchange avatar could be fun. Not that I am being attacked or haranged by detractors. I just thought that perhaps I should consider it if I am recommending it to others.
I am always eager to learn how other countries are managing their company or brand online reputations. Here in the U.S., it is always a topic of conversation at work or at home. Therefore I was pleased when a colleague in our office in the Hague sent me some research they did among executives in Dutch organizations on the subject. I was particularly pleased that they cited our global research that we did on online reputation management in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Here are some of the facts that jumped out at me and here is the link if you are interested in learning more.
- Most Dutch companies actively monitor social media but do not react proactively when something appears online that impacts their reputation.
- Dutch companies are slow to react to detractors online or what we call badvocates (I would say that companies here in the U.S. do not necessarily react that quickly either). Dutch companies are quicker to respond to advocates or those who support them than their critics. I think that this reflects the difficulty in getting executives to agree on what to say to detractors. There are so many opinions and people to consult unless you are extremely well-rehearsed or fairly advanced on the social media continuum.
- A large 62% said that they had encountered badvocates online and one-quarter felt that they had difficulty controling their impact. I would have expected the latter number to be higher since it is hard to control one’s badvocates. It is hard to know what to do unless you are in the social media conversation often and have built credibility.
- Suprising to me, these executives believe that positive comments online have a greater impact on reputation than negative comments. I would have thought the other way around since detractors’ negativity travels so quickly here in the U.S. But this does make sense.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) say that Dutch companies do not have a plan for managing reputation online. That seems to compare with the U.S. in terms of preparation. I think that most companies think about online reputation management but their planning is less than perfect.
As my colleagues concluded, “organizations hear what they want to hear.” I have to totally agree with this conclusion. When I wrote my book on reputation recovery, one of the salient points I learned is how hard it is for companies to stop believing their own propaganda. It is more difficult than ever to think out of the silo or box. Perhaps that is because every misstep today can be magnified and amplified. Someone once said to me that it is easy to listen but harder to hear. That is the truth.
If you can read in Dutch, you might want to go here.
MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting just launched a new study that found that nearly 7 in 10 companies intend to accelerate their investment in sustainability this year. The global survey among 3,100 corporate leaders also found that improved brand reputation is the biggest benefit of addressing sustainability….nearly 50% agree that this is true. Brand reputation seems to be the bottom line these days.
If you are interested in “the order of things,” as Malcolm Gladwell titles his smart article (subscription required) on college rankings, you will be very keen to read this article appearing in The New Yorker. The central argument is about the validity of the U.S. News rankings criteria and its ability to drive sane university presidents insane. The U.S. News magazine no longer exists but the appetite for these sundry rankings of colleges, law firms and hospitals, and more, is unsatiable. When the 2011 rankings on the Best Colleges were released, the web site saw more than 10 million visitors that month. As Gladwell says, the head of the rankings team — Robert Morse – sits atop an entire industry that invented itself.
Gladwell goes through arguments one by one to point out the arbitrariness involved in picking the best colleges. He says, “There’s no direct way to measure the quality of an institution–how well a college manages to inform, inspire, and challenge its students. So the U.S. News algorithm relies instead on proxies for quality–and the proxies for educational quality turn out to be flimsy at best.”
Ultimately Gladwell gets to the key point. He quotes Michael Bastedo, an educational sociologist at the University of Michigan, who has spent time analyzing the U.S. News methodology. Bastedo says it simply, “rankings drive reputation.” I could not have said it better — in three words no less. The professor also says, and I wholeheartedly agree, that sometimes rankings do work. He cites two good examples — asking professors in a field to rate others in the field makes perfect sense since they probably read what their peers are writing, saying and doing while training students. Or he says that rankings work when the subjectrequires specialized knowledge such as the Wall Street Journal college rankings based on what corporate recruiters are seeing from graduating seniors looking for jobs.
But as we all know and intuit for the most part, rankings are very subjective and depend on who you are asking, how the attributes are worded, weighted and ordered. Gladwell’s article is a good read because it becomes immediately clear that many variables go into what makes something number one and it is very likely to be not what you are looking for as a filter.
There is no doubt that there is a vicious loop today where rankings drive reputation and reputation drives rankings. Despite this insightful knowledge from Gladwell, we all still have to compete according to the standards and rankings of the day. Alas, have to go and fill out an application for something right now. I might just win.
My friend Joy Sever, another reputation addict, was just featured in the Wall Street Journal on her business, TellmeOmuse. The title of the article pulls you right in — Mythical Manhattan. I love her self-description on the web site: ” Joy Marie Sever first read Homer’s Odyssey in 2001. Nothing (and everything) has been the same since.” I might steal this for myself when people ask me how I discovered my love of “reputation.” In a way, I do say the same thing. I usually say that my love affair with “reputation” began when I first spied my first most admired companies feature.
“Ms. Sever, a social psychologist, doesn’t have an advanced degree in mythology or classics. She’s an inspired amateur, her passion growing out of reading Homer’s “Odyssey” around 2001. At the same time, she was doing research and helping to create measurement systems about corporate reputation, the results published in The Wall Street Journal. She started to see fascinating parallels between the Greeks and their gods’ obsessions with reputation and those of the Fortune 500 CEOs about whom she was researching.”
If you have an interest in mythology, the Odyssey or expanding your horizons, take a read.