I spoke on a panel one week ago organized by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) in Connecticut. The topic was “Can They Really Say That About Me?” I was joined by terrific panelists….John Hines of Clark Hill (Online Reputation: Legal Perspective), Polly Wood of Reputation.com (Protecting Your Online Reputation), Dr. Pamela Newman of Aon‘s Newman Team (Insuring Reputation) and Stephen Schultze of the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy (Policy Perspective on Reputation). We all had a terrific time learning from one another since we all approached reputation from different angles. I approached reputation from a company point of view, John from a legal point of view, Polly from an individual point of view, Pamela from an insurance perspective and Stephen from a policy angle. John Hines organized the event and we are hoping to take the show on the road to Chicago.
Stephen brought up a question that has been lingering in my mind since the session ended. He asked whether society was perpetuating a “reputation gap.” He posed the idea that there is a divide between those that can police their reputation and those that cannot. It costs money, time, resources and know-how to protect your reputation, build positive mentions to push down the negative, open new domains and populate social media to create good first impressions. The “have nots” do not have the same access to information and Internet savvy to protect their reputations, balance the positive with the negative or hire an online reputation management specialist to help better situate their reputations. Just yesterday I wrote on this blog that nearly $1.6 billion was spent in 2012 managing reputations online. With figures like this, Stephen Schultze has to be right asking whether there is a reputation gap. The answer is clearly “yes.” Perhaps some of these online reputation management companies should provide services pro bono for some of the unfortunate who are maligned online and do not know where to turn to for support.
As for me being in the reputation business myself, I do make it my business to help people whose reputations have been tarnished by explaining what they can do and where they might seek help. So I hope that I am doing my bit to narrow the reputation gap.
As I mentioned, I am traveling in Asia to talk about social CEOs and generally spread the good word about our thought leadership and Weber Shandwick. It is so terribly interesting to present our research and learn what people have to say and listen to the kinds of questions they ask. Today in Shanghai someone asked me what type of emotional commitment a CEO has to make to become a social CEO. What a great question! It definitely takes an emotional commitment. Not only does a CEO have to commit time and resources but there is a genuine personal commitment as that goes hand in hand with being social. You are putting yourself on the line as well as your ego. It also takes courage. In our new upcoming research which we have not released yet, executives are quite aware that being a social CEO takes courage. It is not for the faint-hearted. However, one CEO reminded me that the CEO job is all about risk anyhow. True.
In addition, at a presentation yesterday in Beijing, someone mentioned that even if you cannot get your CEO to be social (meaning using social media in some shape or form), CEOs need to commit to “the intrinsic value of sociability.” He rightly said that sociability (whether online or not) should not be ignored in this business environment. It can make a significant difference. Smart advice.
As you already know, I am keenly interested in how CEOs manage their tenures. In my book on CEO reputation, I referred to the various stages of a CEO’s tenure as the seasons of a CEO. When I wrote it several years ago, it started with the Countdown period (pre-announcement), the first 100 days, the first year, the middle years and ends with the last 100 hours and legacy-setting. Since then, I have continued to follow CEOs closely but have been particularly fascinated by how CEOs can use social platforms to build their companies’ reputations and to some extent, their own. That is what I explained in this new article on CEOs getting social in their early tenure. (See also Weber Shandwick’s Socializing Your CEO II)
Surprising to me, despite billions of people communicating and socializing online, little has changed in experts’ advice to CEOs or other executives on how to navigate their early tenure by taking advantage of social tools. In three separate research investigations on how CEOs spend their time by Harvard Business School, the European University Institute and the London School of Economics, and Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti, the words “social” or “digital” did not appear once in the nearly 30,000 words written. Management consultants’ white papers on CEO transitions reveal little attention to how to effectively use social platforms. I have about 15 articles with smart advice on CEO successions and transitions that I send to new CEOs and not one mentions using social media. Further still, an online search of the most relevant 30 hits for “how CEOs should use social media in their first 100 days” does not retrieve a concise blueprint whatsoever. Instead, the mentions consist of lists of Twittering CEOs, reasons why CEOs don’t use social media, events and primers for getting into the social game, articles written by CEOs of digital agencies, and do’s and don’ts for CEOs who use social media.
Social media should be incorporated into new CEOs’ early playbooks. Whether CEOs are communicating, engaging in two-way conversation or simply listening in, social media platforms should be gradually adopted. As technology increasingly permeates all aspects of business and society, CEOs cannot afford to be out of touch with their cultures, how their products or services are being received and what their competitors are up to. Moreover, as the next generation of technology-literate CEOs start taking office as 77 million baby boomers leave the stage, being socially-literate will become the norm, not the exception.
For these reasons and because all these management consultants seemed to be overlooking social media as a leadership tool in their early CEO days, I wrote this article titled Get Social: A Mandate for New CEOs. It just appeared this week on MIT Sloan Management Review’s nicely redesigned Social Business site. Please take a look if you are a new CEO and getting the social bug! Or if you are advising CEOs to jump on the social bandwagon even a little. I firmly and proudly believe that this might be the first (or among the very first) articles on how and why CEOs should be social citizens at the start of their tenures and not wait til their seasons come to an end. There are some great examples from CEOs and presidents of companies such as Aetna, Etsy, GM, MassMutual, Best Buy and BAE.
Totally fascinating to me that China releases a list of its wealthiest citizens, similar to the Forbes 400. The list, Hurun Report, had some amazing facts worth sharing and which I learned about reading The Economist. The leading source of wealth came from individuals making their living off of manufacturing and not real estate as it was one year ago. There were also interesting correlations between wealth and zodiac signs with those born in the year of the Rabbit outranking those born in the year of the Snake (2nd) and year of the Dragon (3rd). At the bottom of China’s wealthiest 1000 individuals are those born in the year of the Ox. The reputation of the Ox is in danger.
But most interesting was the downfall of some of those who make the Hurun or the Forbes Wealthiest people list. There is greater scrutiny from tax collectors, regulators and the public. There is even a book titled “The Curse of Forbes” which describes the problems that surface when being lauded as one of the nation’s richest. In a report that the article cites, researchers found that those companies headed by entrepreneurs who make the list find that their market value declines sharply three years afterwards. Clearly, being on a rich list in China brings the bad with the good and puts reputations in jeopardy. The Economist title was “To Get Rich Is Not Always Glorious.” An apt headline.
The Power of Reputation. Chris Komisarjevsky’s new book, The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset that Will Make or Break Your Career, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how to steer their reputation into a career worth having.
Chris provides practical, easy-to-apply advice, techniques, tips and best practices on how to build that reputation you always wished you had but maybe never planned with very much care. He covers all the many elements that make up an enduring personal and professional reputation (they are the same, you know) such as values, character, behavior, trust and communications.
I regard myself as an insider when it comes to Chris’ new book. Chris was CEO of Burson-Marsteller when he hired me and throughout my time there, encouraged me to build the bank of reputation research we launched as a firm. He also served as a role model for how CEOs should lead their organizations and build a best place to work.
There are so many great examples that I remember from his leadership and I got to experience up-close how the character of the person at the top sets the tone for the entire organization. There is no denying the inextricable link between the two. Perhaps for that reason, I was particularly drawn to the chapter on Values. Chris provides a list of values that can guide your career path. It seems that everyone should be given that list as an exercise when they start a new job so they can be regularly reminded to follow it. The Power of Reputation also provides terrific real-life examples and anecdotes from a wide variety of CEOs who have been faced with reputational issues and had to decide what was most important to the organization and its members.
Overall, if you are looking to better understand what you stand for, what your company should stand for, and how to build trust and an enduring career, this is a great book to read.
I was glad to find these facts about online reputation management companies this week. I’ve often wondered about the market for them as they have boomed in recent years. An estimate for spending on online reputation is provided by BIA/Kelsey — $1.6 billion for 2011 and an expectation of $5 billion by 2015. This is for small and medium-sized businesses. My sense is that this is the market because one or two negative customer mentions or reviews can really wipe dollars off that precious bottom line. Fixing your online reputation is not easy. If it were, everyone would have a pristine reputation. In fact, it takes years for a reputation to build or recover — just think about BP and how painful that recovery has been although they are slowly making progress. Even when hiring an online reputation management company, it takes at least a year to see change from what I have been told. And that might be optimistic. In fact, I went to check out an uncomplimentary mention about an executive I know that first appeared at least four years ago. It was still there although it had a few more positive mentions ahead of it. But four years is a long time to correct something online. This executive did not hire an online reputation management and just took her chances.
A quote that surfaced in the article where I found this spending estimate caught my attention, “If the Internet is the Wild West, then online reputation management is Dodge City.” Whoah.
Is it me or is there an article every single day about how to manage your online reputation, particularly if you are a job seeker. I know that I get Google Alerts as to when anything surfaces on online reputation but I don’t think I can read any more. For instance, today I got another one and I took a deep sigh. How many times do people have to read that they should do a Google or Bing search of their name to see how they are being talked about online? How many times do people have to read about buying their name on a domain site or be positive online and off? Oh well. I think I figured out the answer. “A lot.” Obviously people do not follow these simple rules because otherwise there wouldn’t be a demand for this information. And from my experience with job seekers, many people do not think twice about how often employers check out candidates online (I think that 70% of employers check online).
So I get it. But I can still ask the question. I guess it is just me.
Chris Perry (@cperry248) who is our digital communications president, wrote this really good post on Forbes about social CEOs. I am taking the liberty of repeating his 5 must-dos for CEOs wanting to get social or even considering it.
I would probably add one more and that is to find yourself a buddy who can read your Tweets as a sounding board when you first get started. I think that that second opinions can save oneself from having a red face and worth the try until you feel comfortable enough to try it alone. And maybe it’s worth having a buddy just as good practice when it comes to Tweeting or even Facebook. They might not be good golfing buddies but hey, this is a new age. Take his advice. It is seriously good.
Here they are…..straight from Chris.
Realize you shine bright in social mediums.
Social media participation is a public appearance where everything is on the record. Assume that comments will be picked up by the press as well as examined closely by your customers, staff and others watching your company. Speak and act accordingly.
Recognize your role as Chief Narrator.
Social platforms like Twitter aren’t a sounding board for a CEOs innermost thoughts; they’re an extension of other modes of communication you use as the lead executive of your organization. There’s great opportunity to share thoughts on your company or industry issues that get amplified through networks that reach employees, investors, customers and the press. As with existing communications efforts have a plan in place as you engage.
Anticipate social remarks being a part of a permanent public record.
Avoid posting or tweeting on topics that you would never discuss aloud in a public forum. Badmouthing competitors, going too deep into personal affairs or speaking about divisive issues is not the way to go. Don’t be gun-shy when engaging online, but anticipate that what you say will generate the same reaction as if it were published in the press.
Don’t court controversy if you can’t take the heat.
Opinions on relevant industry issues and current events that affect your business are fine. But steer clear of statements that might be controversial – unless you want to be at the center of the storm. Off the cuff remarks can have a massive ripple effect to be managed your staff, PR team and others tied to the issue after the fact. Pause for a moment in private before you go public.
Despite the inherent risks embrace your humanity.
Words of caution don’t mean you can’t let your personality shine through. In fact, this is one of the best ways CEOs can engage on a deeper, more human level with stakeholders. Personal insights into what it’s like to lead an organization show authenticity. Just remember that there are limits to what’s appropriate to share.
Any leader looking to engage through social media can harness the power, or suffer from the peril, of the medium. While it provides a forum for new interaction, new communications policies have similarities to traditional media guidelines.
Keeping that in mind will help you participate in ways that adds value, not headaches, to your organization.
The other day I received this note in my email inbox. It is a handsome note from CEO Millard (Mickey) Drexler at J.Crew thanking me for my purchases over the past year. The text is below. It is beautifully designed. But I wanted to point it out because it certainly is a nice touch to add to J. Crew’s reputation….thanking customers. I am not a big customer. The note to all customers shows a lot of class and humanity. Here’s the text if you have trouble reading the pix.
We know there are a lot of choices when it comes to where
you shop, so on behalf of the entire team, I want to personally
thank you for being a J.Crew customer. As we head into 2012,
our most important mission continues to be providing you with
the very best in design, quality and service. We look forward
to seeing you in the new year.
If there is anything we can ever do better, please don’t hesitate
to let us know: email@example.com.
WISHING YOU A VERY HAPPY HOLIDAY.
The new year is fast coming up. I put together my thoughts on reputation trends to expect in 2012. It is on the HuffingtonPost site. Take a look and let me know what you think. Happy pre-Xmas day.