Archive for November, 2011
We recently released an interesting exploration on the relationship between top corporate communications officers and legal counsel when it comes to reputation management. I have already posted about this relationship where these two senior corporate officers seem to be working together more than ever. In light of the multiplying crises that companies and its leaders are facing on an hourly basis, the relationship between the two officers including outside counsel has to be strong and respectful. As we say in the report, “general counsels (GCs) and chief communications officers (CCOs) are now finding themselves participating in the same reputation management strategy meetings, conference calls and contingency planning sessions. GCs, external legal advisors and CCOs now have no choice but to trust and understand each other.”
There are several noteworthy insights and best practices in “Managing Legal and Reputation Risk” but two stand out for me in particular. The first is that you can’t prepare enough and expect surprises. …”executives still find the nature or intensity of the situations they’ve managed to be unfamiliar or unanticipated on some level.” This is so true. There is always something overlooked or unexpected. In fact, it seems to me that it is getting harder to find precedence for some of the crises that arise. For example, the Olympus crisis has few precedents. For this very reason, being ready, practicing a few scenarios ahead of time and giving time to “near misses” are sensible readiness processes to have in place.
Another finding that resonated with me was how general counsels appeared more willing today to balance the interests of the business with legal priorities. They said this, not just me. There are times when the short term hit (such as apologizing or admitting that the company could have done better and will do better in the future) outweighs the costs of winning or losing in a court of law down the road. The fact that many of the legal counsels we interviewed agreed that the “short-term pain for long-term gain” is often the right strategy demonstrated the transformation in communications-legal circles that we explored.
Another stat to add to the many on how long it takes to recover reputation. Actually I should say…to add to the few. There really are not that many besides the one we did some research on that shows it takes about three to four years after a crisis. However, I found this one from the Ponemon Institute and Experian that says that nearly 850 executives say that it takes about one year to restore an organization’s reputation after a data breach. It also found, depending on the type of breach, that the average loss ranges from $184 million to over $330 million. Or put another way– the minimum brand damage is a 12% loss which could increase to 25% of the brand value if the breach was horrific.
Just as disturbing is the lack of data breach preparedness according to the research. A fairly large 43% had no plan in place to deal with a breach of confidential leak or theft of customer data. Perhaps this is why there seem to be so many. Most companies are unprepared and do not think of a data breach in the same way they do another type of crisis that is more common. Either way, it is critical to be prepared since if you really want to make your customers mad, a data breach is a surefire way to make that happen.
There is an unusual campaign afoot to adjust the reputation of Japan. It is called The Cool Japan Promotion Strategy Programme and is housed at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry – METI. The campaign is to make Japan’s reputation more creative by highlighting its fashion, music, food and animation. The concept has accelerated due to the horrific earthquake’s aftermath and the need to rebuild reputation quickly in as many ways as possible. The basic concept is to export the cultural creativity of Japan similar to what is done with cars. Such an occurrence happened in Singapore in October where a pop up store devoted to Harajuku Street Style – Japan’s edgy fashion district–appeared featuring small lines of Japanese fashion. Harajuki is the train station in Tokyo where many fashion stores, boutiques and used clothing outlets can be found for young people who hang out dressed as anime or manga characters. These fashion-ables break all the rules, mix and match, and have an anything goes mindset. Must be working since I found a line of clothes at Target when I searched. The Japanese reputation for fashion and culture is expanding as wished.
I just read this wonderful interview with Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies. He has written a book titled Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Mnanagement Upside Down. And that he does. The reputation of employees seems to be gaining more steam lately. More CEOs are asking how to engage employees better and more creatively and harness their advocacy. Nayar’s strategies and tactics are compelling — not only are detailed financial performance delivered directly to employee desktops but all (ALL) employee appraisals or performance reviews are posted on HCL’s internal website for all to see. And get this, this includes the CEO’s review. His theory is that he too can learn from direct feedback.
The CEO seems very plugged into the employee component of the value equation. Here are a few things that really stood out to me. He must have a fine reputation among his employees to bear his soul so publicly and turn everything on its head. There are other good examples in the article so I recommend you read it. And here’s to all those dancing CEO bloggers out there!
“We also looked for symbolic ways to be a model of openness. One thing I did was publicly dance in front of all my employees. This was to remove the halo that a CEO has around his head. Meaningful conversation happens after you have set the stage in this way, after you make clear that you are as open as anyone else — crazy but effective.
I started writing a blog called “You and I,” in which I encouraged employees to ask me questions in the open. The only rule I made was that when you ask the question, it must have your name attached. All 60,000 employees should see your question and my answer. At first, I was depressed by the result, because I mostly received negative questions that made HCL look bad. People said things like, “Vineet, I don’t accept what you’re saying.” Or, “You lack vision; you haven’t articulated what the company’s size and scale will be in 2010.”
So I held an open house with a group of employees. “I’m feeling pretty bad,” I said. “Nobody is saying what is positive about our company. Do you think I’ve unlocked a genie that is spreading demotivation?”
Their answer was interesting. They said it is good to wash dirty linen in public, in this case on the blog, because it builds trust. There are no rumors. We discuss everything openly and honestly. We don’t always have solutions to problems, but at least we expose them. Out of that, I began to share the financial numbers and give my perspectives, and the tenor of the blog comments began to change.”
Strange juxtaposition. While I was away in Europe for two weeks, I read the Walter Issacson book on Steve Jobs. It was truly captivating and compelling. I finished it on my flight home from London and was intrigued from the first word to the last. The book is written in the style of Apple which is that it is simply written, elegant in its prose, effortless, intelligent, and intuitive as you learn how his early thoughts translated into his future work. Like Jobs’ overall thinking, the book, like his computers, could be for anyone, techologist or not, male or female.
When I got home Friday night, I sorted through some of the magazines that had arrived. New York magazine’s cover story was about the rise of Ms. magazine and had Gloria Steinem on the cover. It was commemorating the feminist movement at its start in 1971 and as an insert in New York. The opening lines were a stark reminder that women have come far. In the 1970s, women had trouble getting credit cards without a man’s signature. Almost impossible to believe, right?
The two reads — the Jobs book and the magazine commemorative article — made me ponder. While reading the story of Steve Jobs, I mentioned to one of my traveling partners that I was disappointed that women figured so small in Jobs’ life. The book is full of men he loved and loved working with. There was little mention of his mother, Clara, and few women populated his life at Apple except for two or three. The preponderance of characters in Jobs’ life were men who had technology, engineering or design backgrounds and helped build the wonder that is Apple. There were indeed insights about his daughters, his wife, his former girlfriends and his sister but the ratio of men and their achievements and contributions at Apple, Pixar and NeXT far outweighed the women’s.
I am not sure what to think about the lack of women in high places in Jobs’ hierarchy but I would have been curious to know what he really thought of the second sex and technology. I understand the relevance of Adam but where’s Eve’s place in the story? The reputation of women in the techology world, in Silicon Valley and in digital today is a question that begs exploring. I imagine that someone else will notice and clarify for me. And I imagine that someone is writing a book proposal about Steve Jobs and the women in his working life.
Just returned from a multi-city tour of Europe where my colleagues and I talked about socializing your brand. This was based on our (Weber Shandwick) new recent research. We spoke to many clients and prospects about digital communications and the rewards and risks that come with this new territory. Someone asked how you balance the reward-risk ratio when your senior management does not recognize that digital is so important to reputation today. In fact, our research found senior marketing/brand/comms executives saying that over half (52%) of a brand reputation today is attributed to how social it is. And this figure is expected to grow exponentially as time goes by. This gentleman said that being a social brand is akin to surfing with sharks. I loved the analogy because it explains how great it can feel to employ digital to communicate and give voice to a brand’s story and yet how unexpected it can be when you feel that shark ripping into your reputation.
The answer of course is being prepared. That’s what the best of companies do. Crisis readiness gives you the head start you need today, in both a digital and non-digital world. Reputation is increasingly hard to manage while swimming with the unknown.
It has been a very hectic week as we travel around to the many markets in EMEA to discuss Socializing Your Brand, our new research on what it takes to be truly social today. As always, I try to keep up with other news and events and that has been harder than usual as my laptop crashed between markets.
Caught an article citing Michael Silverleaf, legal counsel hired by News Corp., saying that it would be harmful to air information related to “a culture of illegal information access” because it would be “extremely damaging to NGN’s public reputation.” (NGN=News Group Newspapers) I had a double take when I read the last two words of this sentence. Is there such a thing anymore as a public vs. private reputation? It seems to me that there is no longer a divide between private and public. There are no secrets and we are all public figures and public institutions. Let`s get real.
The other article that caught my eye came about while taking a train with my colleague to a mountain top village near Geneva. Instead of day dreaming as I had hoped, this brought me back to reality. The article is terribly interesting because it is about women CEOs and how their husbands support them in their quest to the top. James Stewart wrote it probably because he was thinking about the new female CEO of IBM who recently joined the exclusive – and small — club of women CEOs.
“Asked at a Barnard College conference what men could do to help advance women’s leadership, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the landmark “Men and Women of the Corporation,” answered, “The laundry.””
Hah. If only it were that simple. Made me realize that I had to get back to the hotel and get some laundry done quickly for the next leg of the tour.
Thought leadership, according to an alert I just received from LinkedIn, is up 5% in terms of people’s skills. Apparently 38, 710 people have attributed this skill to themselves. That seems like alot and a little. Hard to say. However, I’ve written here several times on the challenges and opportunities of being a thought leader. It comes in and out of fashion depending on the economy and the industry. Yet, who can argue with having new ideas and thoughts? In my line of work, thought leadership has definitely increased in importance. Communications and public relations agencies are now expected to have the pulse on new ideas and insights for our clients and the industry as it increasingly reaches the top echelons of companies. Communications is ubiquitious and can make the difference between success and failure. Bringing new ideas to the fore on how communications and reputation are transforming the world at large (including politics) is critical.
What I find hard is coming up with new new ideas that break ground. Here at Weber Shandwick, we probably outpace the industry in developing a wide range of new ideas and launching new research endeavors that back them up. Instead of relying on one or two big thought leadership efforts, we challenge ourselves to think differently every quarter. Hard stuff. But I am personally gratified to hear that 38,709 others are doing the same.