Posts Tagged ‘CEO’
When I travel to speak in different countries , I spend a good deal of time investigating the reputation of the country I am traveling to and any recent reputational problems they are experiencing. I always want to know what the biggest business scandal, best example of a reputation recovery and what were the most widely covered social media assaults on a business. I usually get asked to comment on these types of questions one way or another during a media interview or in a Q&A session and I like to be prepared.
On my last trip, I was all prepared to talk about Turkey’s issues with the protests in Gezi Park. But everywhere I turned, I was also asked what I thought about the reputation of the United States in light of the government shutdown? Did I think its reputation was being harmed? I have to say that I was somewhat startled by the question because I am always so focused on the country that I am visiting that I forget that it goes both ways. But this time, I realized without any doubt that the reputation of America was being seriously damaged abroad by the incivility and absurdity of the standoff. It felt awful.
This week, we saw something I have posted about before….how companies are increasingly becoming involved in political issues, sometimes against their own will. And this week we saw first hand another form of Starbucks Diplomacy. The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, posted a note on his company website deploring the shutdown — “Please join me in pleading for civility and a respectful, honest discourse among politicians to bring a solution to the current stalemate.” And today, another note about Americans coming together for the collective good and signing a petition demanding that Congress put an end to the shutdown. Since I really want to get our reputation back on track, I’m all for this.
I was delighted to learn yesterday that The Holmes Report included me in its list of 25 Top PR Innovators. This new listing, the In2 Innovator 25, calls attention to the importance of innovation and ideas in the public relations field. The 25 of us were honored for breaking boundaries, challenging the industry and pushing PR onto the wider stage that it so deserves. Not bad.
One of the questions Holmes asked in a mini-survey of the Innovators was “Who most influences a brand’s PR/marketing innovations?” The top influences were CMO, receiving 10 votes, and CEO, which received 6 votes. I answered CEO. In my world, the CEO sets the guardrails for and shapes the corporate culture that allows ideas and experimentation to ferment and that also allows fear of failure to fade away. Without such a culture, imagination and risk-taking would never have enough air to breath so as to grow and flourish.
During my career I have benefited from just such an expanse of breathing space. My former agency CEO Chris Komisarjevsky encouraged me to ideate when I began one of my first research projects on CEO reputation. Today at Weber Shandwick, I have had the full support and encouragement of our CEO, Andy Polansky. Without Andy’s support, without the amazingly collaborative culture that he has fostered, I would have found it nearly impossible to think divergently and follow my instincts. I am fortunate and grateful that my boss and my colleagues have created an accepting, nurturing environment for ideas. My thanks to you all.
I was eager to read JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s Letter to Shareholders this year. Considering the London Whale episode of the past year, I thought his Letter would be revealing. He clearly did not skirt the issue. I cut and paste some quotes below which are direct, apologetic and conciliatory. Also, I used the picture from the Letter to Shareholders here because it was surprising in that it almost looked like a man running for office but mostly because it is something that we advise clients which is to make better use of photos of their CEOs and execs with people (preferably employees) and not alone in some corner office isolated and solitary. You can’t know what is going on in your company by spending too much time in the office. It derails CEOs all the time.
What I like was how he presented his lessons learned for his reputation recovery plan. They are bulleted below as follows and include a favorite piece of advice of mine — problems don’t age well:
- Fight Complaceny
- Overcome conflict avoidance
- Risk Management 101: Controls must match risk
- Trust and verify
- Problems don’t age well
- Continue to share what you know when you know it
- Mistakes have consequences
- Never lose sight of the main mission: serving clients
On Responsibility: “I also want our shareholders to know that I take personal responsibility for what happened. I deeply apologize to you, our shareholders, and to others, including our regulators, who were affected by this mistake.”
On Complacency: “Complacency sets in when you start assuming that tomorrow will look more or less like today – and when you stop looking at yourself and your colleagues with a tough, honest, critical eye. Avoiding complacency means inviting others to question your logic and decisions in a disciplined way. Even when – and especially when – things have been going well for a long time, rigorous reviews must always take place.”
On the Aftermath: “There are a few things, however, that occurred this past year that we are not proud of. The “London Whale” episode not only cost us money — it was extremely embarrassing, opened us up to severe criticism, damaged our reputation and resulted in litigation and investigations that are still ongoing.”
On Reputation Committees: “That’s why we have a risk committee framework within the firm with extremely detailed reporting and many other checks and balances (like reputation committees, underwriting committees and others) to make sure we have a disciplined process in place to question our own thinking so we can spot mistakes before they do real damage.”
On my travels, I met with the CEO of Ocean Park (disclosure: a client) in Hong Kong. Ocean Park is a theme park that promises to connect people with nature and provide memorable experiences for all. Although I had several memorable experiences seeing my first Panda and getting a personal behind the scenes tour of how Pandas are taken care of, I also had an unplanned memorable experience that had simply to do with people. After my presentation on Social CEOs to the executive team, Ocean Park’s CEO Tom Merhrmann joined us outside as we started our tour. Tom is a very social CEO as you can see in his discussion of the Halloween bash with Marketing Magazine or impersonating Elvis, let alone his presence on Facebook and LinkedIn.
When we were outside the meeting room, we quickly ran into two Ocean Park visitors who were enjoying the park. Within seconds, I saw Tom offering to take their picture with one of the girl’s cameras. I had no doubt that the visitors had no idea who he was but were only glad to have their picture taken together to create their own memories of the day. It was nice to see that how observant he was of his customers’ concerns. A few seconds later, I turned around to see him picking up some litter that had fallen to the ground. Between watching a CEO connecting with customers and picking up a speck of garbage to keep a park pristine as it could be, he reminded me that being socially-media savvy is just one element of leadership.
Love this third leadership lesson from the CEO of JetBlue, Dave Barger. Ain’t it the truth!
“Third: brand matters. I thought I was supposed to build an airline when I joined JetBlue. Not at all; it was more important to build a brand. Brand is your reputation, who you are and what you value. If you don’t establish this, your customers won’t find you to be relevant.”
I missed the news about Lenovo’s CEO Yang Yuanquing last week. I was on vacation and working hard at relaxing. It’s nearly a full time job for me and I can’t say that I am very good at it. But I tried and that is what counts. This morning in my Google Alerts, I saw this article about how Lenovo’s CEO distributed his yearly bonus to nearly 10,000 junior employees at the PC company. According to the report on CNN, recipients included receptionists, call center assistants and front line employees on the factory floor. The bonus total amounted to $3 million and was titled a “Yuanqing special reward.”
By sharing what was presumably a good year for the company, this gift to employees is one way to build CEO reputation. Normally, at least in the U.S., we would hear about CEOs who took $1 in pay when times were tough. And there were several CEOs who did this but not many. Although the Lenovo CEO earned about $14 million for the year, $3 million is no small change. Particularly so if it amounts to approximately one month’s pay for the average Lenovo employee receiving it.
No doubt that this is a generous offer from the 1% to the 99% of this company. Yuanquing’s reputation will now have a halo firmly attached to his good name.
A recent study just came out saying that CEOs think that marketers are losing sight of their jobs. In the survey from Fournaise Marketing Group, 70% of the CEOs surveyed said that marketers and communicators are disconnected from business results and are living “too much in their creative and social media bubble.” There did not appear to be a separation between marketing and communicators so I imagine that CEOs consider them one and the same. Although CEOs consider the marketing metrics of the day (Likes and Twitter followers) interesting, they do not consider them critical to advancing the business. The metrics CEOs were most interested in were market share, sell-in, sell-out and linking communications spending to gross profit and other tangible returns. As the CEO of Fournaise says, “They will have to transform themselves into true business-driven ROI marketers or forever remain in what 65% of CEOs told us they call ‘marketing la-la land.’” Quite the indictment.
This report on CEOs was in direct contrast to what we learned in our survey with Spencer Stuart on what is on the minds of CCOs (chief communications officers) around the world who believe that their senior management wants them to improve reputation and get their social media operations up to par. This made me wonder whether CEOs do not fully understand the impact that social media can have on their businesses and therefore consider it less than mission-critical today. Or whether marketing communications professionals were missing the boat altogether and picking up on the wrong signals. Like most things, I tend to think it is somewhere in-between. CEOs need to understand how the ground under their feet is shifting when any individual can harm a company’s reputation and bottom line and marketing communicators need not only beef up their business acumen but better explain the ROI on social media. The two studies provide a study in contrast, to say the least.
Found some interesting comments regarding being a social CEO. This came from a blog post from Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, the online source for information on homes for sale, etc. He was pondering what it meant to be a social CEO….
This caused me to ponder what it means to be a social CEO. Yes, it means that I participate in social media on Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest , Zillow Advice and of course on my two blogs. But it goes beyond that. It’s a state of mind. Being a social CEO means that I’m always accessible – to my employees, our advertisers, our business partners, and our users.
And in response to what happens when Zillow became a publicly-held company:
I was worried that when Zillow became publicly traded in July 2011, we might have to reduce our socialness. But I’ve worked hard to maintain a social culture even while being public. And it has been less difficult than I expected. True, there are plenty of topics that are off limits – financial results, forward-looking statements, and the like are all no-nos. But I’m always permitted to talk publicly about the company and our strategy, and to engage in discussion and debate about Zillow and the industry. I think CEOs that choose not to participate in social media by pleading “we’re a public company” are being cop-outs. If they don’t want to use social media, that’s fine. But don’t blame the lawyers.
The point is that being a social CEO is a state of mind.
In an interview with the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt opines on the future of search. He makes an interesting predicition in the wide-ranging interview. Schmidt says: “…apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.”
This notion of name-change raises interesting questions about reputation if we can disown our youthful indiscretions and misguided ways from the past. If reputation can be altered or amended at the magic age of 18 or 21, how authentic can reputation really be? I wonder if the younger people he is talking about are now more careful about their actions, relationships and words because they know deep down that we are all indexed somewhere. To give younger people a digital eraser as they enter adulthood might just keep them (not all) from properly shaping their moral character and understanding that there are consequences to what they do.
Of course, I would very much like to think that everyone gets one free pass sometime in life and could opt to wipe out one past error or misstep but I think that given the choice, it would be agony to pick just one! Also, there seems to be an entire business devoted to burying those misdeeds so not sure changing one’s name is necessary.
Author and columnist Thomas Friedman wrote today: “In this kind of world, leadership at every level of government and business matters more than ever. We have no margin of error anymore, no time for politics as usual or suboptimal legislation.” Leadership matters is one of the cornerstones of great company reputations. There is no getting around it. The destiny of the CEO is inextricably linked to the company’s reputation. If you have ever worked with a CEO who was not the right fit for the company and who worried about themselves more than the company, you know the damage that the wrong CEO can do. It is almost better to work for a so-so or good, not great, CEO than the wrong one.
Also in today’s New York Times’ business section is some advice from the CEO of The Calvert Group, Barbara Krumsiek . She was asked for her best advice to executives starting out. She said to ask each executive on your leadership team the following question, “Tell me about your job, but now tell me about what you think you do here that is not in that job description that you think is really critical.” Good starting out question but I actually like the second question better, “Tell me one thing that’s going on at Calvert that you think I don’t know that you think I should know.”
The best advice for CEO newcomers is that there is no such thing as a stupid question. One CEO told me that. You get about 3 or 4 months to ask those “stupid” questions.
Getting back to the importance of leadership, we don’t need Thomas Friedman or even me to relay this important news about what drives the global economy and business today — good leaders. Every day we get examples of the impact of good and bad leadership. Unfortunately there are so many examples of bad leadership decisions that we forget to notice the daily good deeds of many company CEOs. Is too bad. The margin of error might actually be wider than we think.