Posts Tagged ‘Zillow’
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.
As I posted a few weeks ago, I followed how hotels and government organizations dealt with the Mumbai terrorist crisis in late November. When I saw a full page ad from the Taj in this week’s WSJ, I returned to the Taj Hotel website to see if I could get a screen shot of the compelling advertisement. The ad was a picture of the beautiful wedding cake turret at the top of the Taj with a quote “I have held my ground as human history has unfolded in its timeless procession of laughter and tears, courage and cowardice, good and evil. I will prevail.” I am now very glad that I revisited the web site as it was well worth the return. The Taj Mumbai hotel site (owned by Tata) is a best practice of how Web sites should communicate after tragic events befall them. Unfortunately there is now a growing genre of these types of online sites. The Taj site has many different headers underneath a picture of the beautiful Taj before the attacks – Home, Previous Updates, Media Reports, Messages, Condolences, Reservations, Our People, The Hotel, Guest Baggage Retrieval, Ideas & Help, Contact Us.
- Under “Our People,” you find the pictures of those Taj men and women who lost their lives. They display the picture, their age and a profile about each one. Reminds me of the 9-11 profiles that filled the pages of the NYTimes for weeks and were nearly impossible to ignore.
- Under “Ideas & Help,” you can let the Taj know if you have any suggestions for restoring the hotel.
- The “Media Reports” catalogues all the news on how the Taj is rebuilding and commemorating the lives of those who died.
- The “Condolences” section is exactly what you would expect. Expressions of sympathy from people from around the world who once stayed at the hotel, dreamed of staying at the hotel or who just want to extend their sympathy. They are amazing to read and the heartfelt loss and warmth jumps off the page.
- If you were a guest during these tragic moments, there is information under “Guest Baggage Retrieval” on getting your personal belongings back as swiftly as possible. The tone is just right.
You can feel the care taken in the words chosen, the simple, elegant and muted colors and the determination to reopen the Tower on December 21. From reading the messages to the Taj, you can tell that the Taj’s reputation was glorious. One after another comment talked about the fine times travelers had there. Their reputation restoration will most definitely succeed.
I now have screen shots of the site in case I get asked for a best practice of communications during these most challenging of times. I only wish I will never be asked for them.
The Financial Times recently had two great articles that were totally meant for me. They are related to reputation and I was very encouraged. Amazing what I find exciting. First, I learned that 17 companies are working with the Ethisphere Institute to commit to key principles to rebuild trust in corporate behavior. The principles that these well-known companies (GE, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, Dell, Accenture) are signing on for include legal compliance, transparency, avoiding conflict of interests and accountability. The voluntary initiative is called the Business Ethics Leadership Alliance and their mission is to reinforce the standards of ethics and fortify confidence in business worldwide. part of the agreement, the companies have to submit to regular independent audits. Ethisphere’s own reputation has grown rapidly in recent years and getting on their list of the most ethical companies is quite a feat. Their standards are quite rigorous. I think this is a step in the right direction for building corporate credibility in corporate America and good to see that there is agreement that reputations are repairable. Second, I learned that Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch top executives are rejecting bonuses this year. That too is a wise move. What fascinated me, however, was the following edit from Morgan Stanley which was reported in the FT: “Morgan Stanley also became the first large US bank to announce that employees would be forced to pay back some of their bonuses if they caused significant losses, or reputational harm, to the company.” Reputational harm deserves more than returning a bonus…in some cases it should mean cause for losing a job. Bonuses are easily redeemable, reputation is not.
It is not every day that someone gets kudos for resuscitating a company reputation so I thought it is worth noting. The Economist praised CEO Lee Scott for “reviving” Wal-Mart’s reputation. Lee Scott just announced that he is retiring at the end of January 2009. And in these bleak times, not everyone can say that they are leaving on a “high.” According to the article, Wal-Mart’s sales are expected to increase by 8% in a year that no one will soon forget. Scott has had to deal with more publicly humiliating challenges than most CEOs – law suits by female employees, discrimination charges, low wages and treatment of employees, bad benefit packages, etc. Then lo and behold, Lee Scott took it all on, listened to his critics, changed direction and succeeded. I could not agree more with The Economist’spoint of view. And I have to say that I also feel somewhat vindicated because over the past 18 months I have told skeptical reporters that Scott was on the right trail and making the right moves. Everytime he stumbled, he picked himself up and kept his eye on the prize for Wal-Mart. One CEO once said that reputation recovery is the “strategy of small gestures” and this is the path taken by Scott for Wal-Mart. All his actions have added up incrementally to getting the giant retailer back onto the road of restoring the company’s reputation. His sustainability platform for the company have been commendable and if executed properly will make a tremedous difference to the environment. As the Economist said, “Wal-Mart’s performance and reputation have never been better, and there is little for him to gain by staying on. The culture is transformed; the strategy is in place; his reputation glows.”
The best part was the title for the article – From Bad to Great – a takeoff on Jim Collin’s Good to Great blockbuster book. Good for them and good for us in the reputation space to see that reputations can be regenerated.
I have written before about the Maple Leaf food crisis in Canada last August. In short, Maple Leaf is the largest meat company in Canada and its packaged meat in its Toronto plant was tied to 20 deaths from listeriosis. The CEO of this 100+ year old company, Michael McCain, closed the plant, recalled its products (estimated at $30 million) and communicated communicated communicated. His message to customers was that the buck stopped with him and he was fully accountable. He was on the evening news, YouTube and accessible to journalists. McCain took action and he said all the right things. The CEO let the company values of doing the right thing guide him through the crisis. One of his statements should be noted: “Going through the crisis, there are two advisers I’ve paid no attention to. The first are the lawyers and the second are the accountants. It’s not about money or legal liability—this is about our being accountable for providing consumers with safe food.” Talk about straight talk. He said he felt bad saying that about legal and accounting but it was the truth. Often times CEOs have to work out their comments with their legal teams and it conflicts with PR who reminds CEOs to think first about their employees and customers. Maple Leaf has instituted new sanitizing regulations, employee training, a food safety advisory council and the hiring of a chief food safety officer. Maple Leaf is working closely with the government and peer companies to make food safety the top priority for the industry. All in all, a textbook crisis management case study for those of us interested in them. The well-respected The Globe and Mail had a great roundup of the event and rehabilitation recently.
This week my colleague Daniela in Toronto sent me an interesting addendum to the crisis I thought it worth sharing. Now that it is several months later, CEO McCain offered to answer questions from readers to The Globe and Mail . A few Q&As for my blog are posted below:
- Heidi Croot from Canada writes: Your response to this crisis has been lauded as textbook perfect. You’ve certainly won my admiration and support for the way you’ve navigated things. What two or three pieces of advice would you share with executive teams of other companies facing a crisis, to persuade them to take your approach vs. the more popular closed kimono approach.
- Michael McCain writes: Thanks for your kind words, Heidi, although we have made it quite clear that we aren’t allowing ourselves any luxury or opportunity for “back patting” in such a terrible situation. We have just tried to handle it in the most responsible way we knew how, by putting consumers’ interest and public health first. As for advice, that’s hard to give, as every situation is different. In our case, we only knew what came natural to our culture and DNA…. First, be open and transparent. Second, accept accountability and don’t waiver on that. And third, take action to fix a tragic wrong. In our culture, we try to behave that way every day. It serves us best, in times of challenge.
- Shannon Hill from Guelph Canada writes: In light of the recent listeriosis outbreak, what changes are being made to the testing procedures, and what new plans have been or are going to be implemented in order to assure that this will not happen again?
- Michael McCain writes: Hey Shannon, this may be the most important question of all. What’s changed? Well, a lot, is the summary answer…..here are the major things, but remember Shannon, food safety means reducing the risk to its absolute lowest possible level, while it is impossible to eradicate listeria from our food supply. First, we have more than doubled our testing events in our plants, and we have substantially enhanced the nature of the testing to dramatically improve the probability of finding a problem. Second, we review those results and findings with substantially more rigour. Each and every day, our teams of experts – including microbiologists – review the reports from that day to analyse the results of the testing. Third, we have increased the amount of sanitization, including the dissassembly procedures for equipment like the slicers that were at the root of this situation. We sanitize this equipment for 6-8 hours per day! And, we have changed the approach to how this sanitization occurs in the plant. Fourth, we recognize that this is a long term commitment. Food safety gets better and better each and every year. There is new technology, and new approaches every year. To make sure we stay on top of this – in the front all the time – we have hired a new Chief Food Safety Officer (A Phd/Microbiologist). The person we have hired is possibly one of the best in the world in this field. His job is to lead this effort for Maple Leaf, to keep us at the front of this and amongst the best in the world – and he will report directly to me. Lastly, we are developing a future looking food safety covenant for all 23,000 people on our team to endorse and commit to, recognizing the responsibility we all share – regardless of the very low risk – for providing safe, nutritious food. We have food safety first at this company! Thanks for asking your question. Michael
Could not help but notice the reactions of leaders in my search of how countries, politicians, hotels and so forth were being impacted by the tragic events in Mumbai. I went to the web sites of US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Browne, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Nicolas Sarkozy, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Zardari. Not all have dedicated sites so I would then wander over to the government sites. No doubt these leaders were extremely busy as this crisis unfolded over days. However , Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (naturally), British Prime Minister Gordon Browne and President Elect Barrack Obama were the only leaders that mentioned the crisis on their respective home pages and blog (Obama has a blog). A few of the dedicated government sites mentioned the events but not many. As mentioned in a previous post, Indian Prime Minister Singh had a stirring message. I was surprised that Sarkozy did not have a dedicated site but maybe I could not find it on Google. Medevev has a dedicated area on the government site but there was no mention of the tragedy. There was nothing yesterday (27th) or today (28th) from Pakistan’s Mr. Zardari. Maybe there is some protocol that I am missing but dedicated web sites make sense in today’s unpredictable and fast-moving world.
Just reviewed how some web sites in India are managing the terrorist crisis online. The two hotels where explosions occurred and hostages were taken – the Taj and Oberi – both had statements on their home page websites deploring the terrorisms and providing phone numbers for people to call. The Taj reported that “We will rebuild every inch that has been damaged in this attack and bring back the Taj to its full glory. 7.30 am IST, November 27, 2008.” The prime minister of India, Dr. Singh, has information on his web site with a text release of his comments and condolences for the top security officer. The broadcast I saw on cnn.com was not on their web site. All of the other sites have relevant information such as the Consulate General of the U.S. in Mumbai letting American citizens know they can get lost passports without delay [“U.S. citizens who have immediate travel plans and have lost or damaged passports can come directly to the Consulate to obtain an emergency replacement passport.”]. The Mumbai police also has emergency telephone numbers to call. One of India’s major airlines had no information on their home page about the crisis. I had read that Fortune 500 Unilever had officers at the Taj but they have information on their global home page and a statement that “Unilever Management Team at Mumbai safe. We wish to confirm that the Unilever Group CEO Mr. Patrick Cescau, the Unilever CEO-elect Paul Polman and the HUL Management team including HUL Chairman, Mr. Harish Manwani and HUL CEO Mr Nitin Paranjpe, who were at the Taj Hotel (Mumbai) yesterday, had left the hotel last night itself and they are all safe and accounted for. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by these unfortunate events.” Reputations can be damaged during a crisis such as this if information, limited as it may be, is not forthcoming. During the September 11th attacks in New York, I monitored how companies used the Internet to provide information and one conclusion was that companies learned a vital lesson in crisis management at the time. Many companies learned how to use the Internet to crisis manage online for the first time. Most company web sites were not used effectively to provide news and information to those concerned. Alas, times have changed.
My sincere wishes for a speedy end to a horrific situation.
Interesting tidbit. It would be hard to ignore the influence of CSR or CR (depending on which term you like to use) on corporate reputation. The two go hand-in-hand today and will continue to regardless of the economic slowdown. Companies cannot afford abandon their responsibilities to communities and the environment while they wait for share prices to sort themselves out. However, we can all expect a tightening of the funds that have supported CR (my preferred term) programs as 2008 ends and 2009 appears (not soon enough!). While having a discussion about CR in the office on Monday, I recalled a fact we had uncovered and probably used in a presentation over the past year. We looked at whether there has been an increase in the term “greenwash” or “greenwashing” over the past several years. I do not recall the term being widely used years ago. One of my first recalls of its usage or something close to it was in a speech by BP’s former chairman and CEO Lord John Browne. At one point, I can safely say that I had read every single speech of his since I found his “thought leadership” compelling. He often made a statement about BP’s global climate change initiatives not being spin or “pr” and he used some sort of “green” term.
Back to the interesting tidbit. In the quick research we did at Weber Shandwick, we learned that the term “greenwashing” increased 993% since year 2000 in the global top-tier media. Whereas “greenwashing” appeared less than 50 times in the global media in 2000, it has soared ever since. It’s that viral influence working again….
Noticed two very interesting things in Seoul, South Korea this week while visiting. They both impressed me and enhanced Korea’s reputation in my mind. First, as I was going through immigration to have my passport reviewed, I noticed the little counter where people sometimes have to fill out their landing cards because they forgot to do it on the plane or filled it out in pencil. One usually sees pens set aside in this area for people to fill out their personal information. In the Inchon airport in Seoul, they had several pairs of reading glasses at the counter available for people who might have troubled eyesight. Since it is usually older people who need these seeing aids, it made me think about what a kind and thoughtful gesture this is. In New York where I live, any glasses left unattended at JFK Airport would probably disappear in moments. The other reputation-booster that I noticed was when I was in a taxi on my way to dinner with my colleagues. For some reason, I am used to being in the back seat (I take too many taxis or sat in the back for too many years when my kids were younger) and the headrest in the passenger seat always blocked my view. Sitting in a car’s backseat requires you to look sideways to take in the landscape or cityscape. Forget about looking straight ahead. In Seoul, the taxi driver clicked a button and the headrest snapped downwards so I had a perfect view of what was in front of me. As I sat there I could not believe my good fortune. I had an unobstructed view of dynamic and highly visual Seoul. Why don’t American cars do this with their cars? Anyone who has spent time in the backseat (usually women and children) knows how annoying it is not to be able to look straight ahead without the headrest blocking your view. I usually console myself with the idea that the headrest is there for safety’s sake so why complain. But when I heard that click and saw the headrest collapse, I thought that someone somewhere in Korea listened to someone who spends a lot of time sitting in the backseat. Good for Korea.
On my second trip to Beijing this year, I come away again with admiration and awe at brand China. In fact, in a speech I gave at a conference, I commented on the rise of brand China and the ascendency of brand Obama. The two are intertwined in my mind and both passed extraordinary milestones with flying colors (the Olympics and the presidential election, respectively). Both changed perceptions and enhanced reputations of multitudes of people. And each is still at the beginning of their superpower status. As a reputation watcher, I can envision the many steps and stumbles ahead as their reputations build, deepen and get damaged over the years. Reputation damage is inevitable as leaders rise to power. However, failure is what leads to success.
One morning before a meeting I went to the Temple of Heaven, a large park where older people gather early in the day to meet and greet. All I could think of was the movie Cocoon where a group of elderly people were rejuvenated by aliens. There were hundreds of older people in small groups singing, dancing, exercising, playing cards, flying kites, fencing, singing, and on and on. What surprised me was how much fun everyone was having and could only wish that New Yorkers like myself would take the time to work at getting to this higher state of being. No one was in a rush to anywhere. No one cut me off because they had a more important place to go. No one looked each other up and down to judge their trappings. After seeing so many young people in Beijing on the streets, in meetings and in restaurants and shops, I had a deeper appreciation for brand China’s respect for elders. These elders were happy fellows and I look forward to visiting once again when I return to get a fix. It was a sight to behold.