You have to love him. Was just reading from Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit and came across Warren Buffett’s latest description on great reputations. He obviously has the insanity in Washington D.C. over the debt in mind.
A great reputation is like virginity – ‘it can be preserved but it can’t be restored.’ Once you default, it’s hard to go back.
It has been a crazy few weeks — traveling to Berlin, San Francisco and Istanbul. But I am back in the USA. So here are a few observations about things I’ve read and learned that I wanted to share:
1. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu just issued a new report on reputation risk. Reputation risk was the top strategic risk among 300 global C-suite executives surveyed. The survey found 40% of respondents listed reputation as their top risk concern today, with their business model second at 32% and economic trends/competition third at 27%. In 2010, reputation risk was at 26% so we can see that it has moved to the very top of the C-suite agenda. Henry Ristuccia, global leader of governance, risk and compliance at Deloitte had this to say (love this quote): “Reputation risk is going to always be the meta of all risks…how you manage the underlying factors that could affect the organization’s reputation or brand…how resilient are the people, the culture?” The meta of all risks!
2. In Istanbul, I spoke about Reputation Warfare, the theme of my Harvard Business Review article. The occasion was the 2nd International Reputation Management Conference at Kadir Has University. It was very impressive because there are not many reputation management conferences in this world (Reputation Institute holds one annually) and here I was in Istanbul. Very forward-looking of the university. The summer protests in Turkey at Gezi Park was an interesting backdrop to my discussion on using social media as an opportunity to defend one’s reputation in addition to the risk. Additionally, there was discussion about how the protests had affected the reputation of the country. Tourism took a hit in July but from the looks of it, it was pretty healthy this week. I am going to keep a watch out for how Turkey repairs its reputation and what types of reputation recovery strategies are employed. All very interesting and doable. I also experienced some of the Turkish hospitality that they are so well-known for.
3. Just this past week, I read two articles on how Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are repairing their reputations. All in one week. Clearly this is a topic that has grown exponentially and particularly in the financial sector. The Economist article on Goldman Sachs was fascinating because it described the scenario setting that is being used to train vice presidents to better understand their responsibilities to the firm when faced with ambiguous and complex challenges to doing business today. The case study is preceded by a film that is described this way: “…an emotive documentary on the history of Goldman Sachs, filled with interviews of luminaries and former executives, each hammering home the virtues that supposedly make the firm distinctive—teamwork, personal accountability and the legendary exhortation by Gus Levy, a former leader of the firm, to be ‘long-term greedy’, by which he meant it should forgo short-term profits if they came at the expense of client relationships.” I mentioned in a previous post how Goldman Sachs is super-engaging in training which included their CEO from the start. In addition, incentives have been revampedd and tied more to collaboration and teamwork. The WSJ article on JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon focuses on how he is converying “business as usual” as he faces an imminent federal lawsuit, another revealing reputation recovery strategy. He has been touring midsize cities such as Cleveland, Oklahoma City and St. Louis meeting with local businesses and community leaders that are supported by JPMorgan’s philantrophy. According to the article, Dimon’s message are fine-tuned, upbeat and focused on the customer.
“While no one has found the formula that will bring old media into a profitable future, I’m guessing that Bezos understands an old truism: brands matter. The wonder and magic of institutions like the Post or The New Republic is their history—their stories track the American story. In many cases, they have made that very history through their reporting. No owner can brush aside these powerful legacies, regardless of his or her start-up bona fides. In fact, brands matter more now than when Don Graham’s grandfather bought the Post nearly a hundred years ago, particularly when they have established themselves so securely as the Post has.”
Had a terrific visit to Weber Shandwick Toronto this week. My colleagues hosted a breakfast to discuss the new rules of engagement for employee engagement and reputation and I shared the platform with my colleague Kate. We met some terrific clients and had some very good questions afterwards, always a plus. Reputation and employee engagement are very much intertwined which made the two angles so easily compatible. We also met with some clients and had meaningful discussions about leadership, character and reputation. Afterwards I headed up to Muskoka for a conference among hydro distributors to talk about safeguarding reputation. Terrific conference put on by The MEARIE Group and to prepare, I learned alot about the challenges facing electricity distributors in Ontario. Of course, it was hard not to mention how Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto was negatively impacting the city’s reputation. On the day of the conference, the Mayor of Montreal resigned after being arrested.
At the breakfast meeting, I learned something that I aim to keep for posterity. Most probably, I will add it to our compendium on how to recover from a crisis. We have a master deck on how companies recover and build even better reputations and for me, it’s my team’s Bible. We catalogue all the recovery strategies we can because it always comes in helpful for the next client. But sometimes people have a way of saying something that just lights up your brain waves because it is so insightful and speaks so directly to a company’s character. This Canadian company had a crisis some years ago and one year later to the day, they ran full page ads reminding people of what happened and what they had done since the fateful event. The head of comms said to us while we were chatting at the breakfast that they ran the ad because…” ”We will be the first to remember, not the first to forget.” The company wholeheartedly owned the crisis and was not going to forget. Sage advice.
I can hardly keep up with all the reputation-related info that crosses my mind these days. Of course, I think everything is related to reputation in one way or another so it is hard to imagine a day without reputation overload. And now it is Saturday afternoon and I should be outside but I wanted to get some thoughts out on my blog. So here are just a few random thoughts and reputation revelations that happened this week:
1. I did a brief introduction to a panel this week for CECP (formerly known as the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy). It was their 2013 CECP Summit: Ahead Together and they launched a new branding and strategic engagement model. We discussed these changes with Margaret Coady, Executive Director and Daryl Brewster, their new CEO. Like all of us, they are changing with the times as “engagement” becomes critically important to the sustainability of an organization. In addition, emerging trends in Corporate Philantrophy were presented and everyone was excited to hear if giving had changed over the past year. What interested me was learning that giving has actually increased since the economic downturn. Median total giving spiked in 2012 to $35.30 million, approaching pre-recession levels. I was also particularly interested in their finding that companies have re-prioritized certain program areas and education has become the most popular program area. The reason given is that educational giving is tied to creating a solid pipeline for employment. This can only be a good thing.
2. It was good to also have a conversation with Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup and now founder and CEO of Conant Leadership. We met about 10 years ago when we talked about CEO reputation and I recalled how intensely interested and up-t0-date he was onall things leadership. A true student of leadership. It was nice to see him since I still have the handwritten personal thank you note he wrote me after that meeting. Very memorable.
3. strategy + business had an article this week on Captains in Disruption.This off shoot article is related to their wonderful annual CEO transition survey they do every year. I will be reading that next. This year they took on the topic of whether CEOs are prepared for crises and truly disruptive events. I liked this statement from Clayton Christensen of Harvard who was explaining why top executives do not have access they need to make predictions about the future and where they will be courting disaster. He said, ““Data is heavy. It wants to go down, not up, in an organization. Information about problems thus sinks to the bottom, out of the eyesight and earshot of the senior managers.” So true. Problems when they reach top management are whispers although they begin as shouts at the bottom. Here is Booz & Co.’s advice in the article on planning for disruption:
1. The CEO is the single most critical player in crafting and carrying out a response.
2. It is critical to begin breaking down human inertia.
3. CEOs must make cogent decisions about the team of top executives.
4. It is important to choose a small team of top decision makers to lead the response.
Enjoy the day.
How much do I love this quote….A lot. It was in an article on Davos. Amen.
“If leadership has a secret sauce, it may well be humility. A humble boss understands that there are things he doesn’t know. He listens: not only to the other bigwigs in Davos, but also to the kind of people who don’t get invited, such as his customers.”