On June 11, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in Idea Grove, sharing his advice on how to manage an organization’s reputation in a ‘post-truth, cancel culture world.’
Scott Baradell, CEO of the unified PR and marketing agency Idea Grove, states that in 2021 brands must be prepared to go on the offense by preparing for the foreseeable, thereby softening the blow to a brand’s reputation should a crisis occur.
In this article, professional communicators share their ideas for reputation management. Garcia’s advice: run a simulation.
“Simulations can be really valuable learning opportunities for leadership teams to assess their current ability to effectively address organizational risks, without the high stakes and consequences of an actual crisis,” he explained. “Simulations can also be custom-designed to target vulnerable areas of the organization (e.g. ability to respond to customer complaints on social media) so leadership can more quickly strengthen their response capacity to a specific risk or area of concern.”
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On February 9, 2021, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was interviewed by MarketScale about the decision for Boeing’s 737 MAX to return to service for commercial flights. Garcia was interviewed alongside Ludovic Chung-Sao, Founder of ZenSoundproof and former certification engineer for 737 Max engines, about the various aspects of the aircraft’s return to the sky years after the two tragic plane crashed that sent Boeing into a multiple-year long crisis.
During the interview, Garcia described how Boeing ended up in a crisis over the 737 MAX. “The foundational principle of maintaining trust in a crisis is to show you care quickly, and Boeing was singularly unable to show that it cared,” he explained. But he also noted another way in which Boeing fumbled in their crisis response was in the company’s insistence that the planes were safe, followed by ‘But don’t worry, we have a software fix coming.’ This mixed message was confusing, and led people to not trust Boeing’s reassurances. Part of Boeing’s challenges, as Garcia explained, was that Boeing was that the company didn’t appreciate the user experience of the pilots of the plan. The lesson: “In a crisis, you must not think like an engineer, but think like the user of your product or technology.”
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On January 15, 2021, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in an article in Luxury Daily on the crisis the Trump Organization now faces given the criticism and controversy around the president, particularly after the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The article describes how the Trump Organization’s brands have suffered as a result of the president’s political profile, with partners increasingly moving away from the brand and long-standing contracts being terminated.
“Successful recovery from a crisis depends on how quickly and effectively the expectations of the people who
matter to the organization are met,” said Garcia. “Because all of President Trump’s businesses, including his luxury business, include his name, it is difficult for business partners, customers and other audiences to distinguish the brand from the man. All of Trump’s eponymous businesses are synonymous with Trump the person. It’s virtually impossible at
this point to separate the two, which was by Trump’s design.”
“Those who still support Donald Trump would likely still support the brand should another family member step in,”
Garcia noted. “However, for people who do not support Donald Trump, they are almost certain to avoid any business with the Trump name or that is run by a family member, since the associations are so close.”
This crisis is particularly acute given the criticism of the president following the storming of the US Capitol and his second impeachment in his one-term in office. “Criminal charges brought against a business or its leader almost always present the potential for things to get worse, especially if the charges are of the magnitude and quantity that are likely to be brought against Trump,” Garcia noted. “However, criminal charges are not an immediate death sentence for a business.”
Garcia advice for those in relationship with the struggling brand: “For businesses and leaders that do not support Trump but are still in business with him, time is of the essence to dissolve that relationship. Businesses that are slow to cut ties may suffer backlash as the lack of urgency to sever the relationship could be perceived among those who matter as too little, too late.”
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New York, NY (July 30, 2020) – Last week, the fourth edition of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication was released, providing much needed guidance for those charged with managing reputation in today’s environment.
Reputation Management is a how-to guide for students and professionals, as well as CEOs and other business leaders. This book provides a field-tested guide to core challenges in managing all the ways organizations engage their stakeholders to protect, maintain, and enhance reputation. When the first edition was published in 2006 it was the first book to take on reputation management in a systematic way.
“In Reputation Management, my co-author John Doorley and I strive to educate our readers on how to bolster their organization’s reputation,” said Logos Consulting Group president and co-author, Helio Fred Garcia. “By combining core principles, expertise across disciplines, and real-life examples from the field, Reputation Management is an invaluable resource for those tasked with building, protecting, and managing reputation.”
The fourth edition of Reputation Management features refreshed chapters from previous editions, as well as new information vital for communication professionals today, such as social media management techniques and communication in the age of globalization. This edition also features contributions from 36 leaders in the field, including from The Arthur W. Page Society, the International Communications Consultancy Organization, the PR Council, CVS Health, Edelman and Ketchum.
This edition also features scholarship from several members of the Logos team. In addition to four refreshed chapters by Garcia, this edition also features a refreshed chapter on corporate responsibility by Anthony Ewing and a new sidebar on social media and crisis by Holly Helstrom. Logos Institute Press authors authors Jeff Grimshaw, Tanya Mann, Lynne Viscio, and Jennifer Landis also contributed a chapter on organizational communication.
Co-author John Doorley is the former head of corporate communications at Merck and is now an associate professor of strategic communication at Elon University. He created and taught the first undergraduate course in reputation management, at Rutgers University in 2003, and the first graduate course on reputation management, at New York University in 2007. He served as academic director of New York University M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication for seven years.
Co-author Helio Fred Garcia is an adjunct professor of management in the New York University Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, and an adjunct associate professor of management and communication at New York University’s School of Professional Studies, M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. He is also an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The fourth edition of Reputation Management is available on Amazon here.
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“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
~ George Washington Carver
So: You’re wearing a mask and keeping a socially responsible distance. You’re staying safe but taking long daily walks in the nearly empty streets of New York City to keep yourself healthy and sane. You peer into the dark, empty storefronts as you stroll along. You arrive at the place you always found familiar and comforting; it now looks abandoned and forbidding. There is no human to greet you, only a few words on a single page attached to the front door. Almost every door on every street has a similar sign.
As the days of shutdown have dragged on, I’ve become intrigued by these signs, snapping pictures of at least 100 of them. I’ve read the words again and again. They are breathtaking in their sameness, leading me to the question: How much difference can a few words on a simple sign possibly make?
Businesses reopening in the aftermath of the current crisis may soon find out.
Sometimes the message on the door is just one word – “Closed.” Not terribly helpful, is it? That feels more like the end of a relationship than a reassurance that you and your spot will be reunited in the future.
While heavily trafficked commercial chains may have a following who look for convenience alone, a cozy neighborhood haunt cannot exist without building an emotional bond – appreciation, affection, even love – with its customers. When that business closes indefinitely, or its hours are suddenly and severely curtailed, anxious customers need to see words of gratitude, emotion, and empathy: “We thank you.” “We appreciate you.” “We miss you.” “We understand what you are going through because we are going through it, too.”
Empathy should start right there at the front door.
Surprisingly, even in these difficult times, when those words of connectivity matter most, when customers expect to find love letters from deeply grateful owners, they find crisis boilerplate instead, often written in haste, dashed off as a formality and perhaps copied from a neighboring establishment. Even worse, sometimes, the desired words do not appear at all.
That strategically placed sheet of paper – occasionally drafted with the assistance of a lawyer or a communications professional – may be instructive but it’s not terribly personal. Or authentic. Or meaningful.
That kind of corporate jargon often makes me stop reading – I imagine you know the phrases: “our top priority,” “we are closely monitoring,” “we are committed to …” But owners use them because they know they need to communicate quickly with customers coming to the door, and they want the message to sound official. Professional communicators reading this will understand that the sign on the door is a kind of stand-by statement to let the entire world, including those critical customers, know what is going on in that moment and what they can expect while the crisis – and temporary closure – continues.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT – a statement of awareness that something has happened.
EMPATHY – an expression of empathy or sympathy to those who are hurting or inconvenienced – and in COVID-19 times, everyone is hurting and inconvenienced.
VALUES – a declaration of the business’ values – including how much that business values those customers.
APPROACH – a summary of the actions the business is taking in the wake of the crisis.
COMMITMENT – a statement that sets future expectations, i.e., “We will keep you up-to-date as we hear any important news and will let you know when we can reopen. We will be here for you online even while we are closed.”
In all fairness, I’m sure these independent owners also mean to communicate how much they love and miss their customers. But their words – crafted out of necessity and in great haste from a template – don’t quite resonate. They don’t quite say: We are closed, but we miss you and are still there for you.
Contrast those signs with recent updates that a certain coffee company has posted on Instagram – the digital front door for many contemporary consumers. Note the likes and comments.
So, for owners of shuttered businesses – small or large, mighty or nimble – here are two important questions you should ask yourself:
1. How can you communicate your message in conversational human language, rather than boilerplate jargon? You’re dealing with ordinary humans. Why not sound like one?
2. How can you include a message of gratitude at the very top of the page? Owners should express their sincere thanks to the customer who has arrived at the door in the first sentence or two. What would happen if the language of the sign started there? Only good things, I promise you.
Here are some signs that hit the mark beautifully. Which ones do you like best?
One last thought: many of the signs that I see on the doors have been left there unchanged for weeks.
Dear shop owners— It’s not too late to change that sign!
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“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
— Leon C. Megginson
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a crash course on adaptability.
Our ability to adapt is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit as millions sit inside their homes and wait for the storm to pass. Many have had to adapt to working from home and caring for or supervising children while managing logistics that were mandated almost overnight. Others have had no choice but to grapple with the harsh realities and risks of being an essential worker. Many are furloughed or unemployed, trying to figure out their next steps and future options in an uncertain world. And almost everyone was faced with steep and sudden learning curves, whether setting up a home office effectively or serving as teaching assistants for their children’s online learning.
Adaptability is essential for organizations. Companies and enterprises that have not adapted well, or adapted fast enough, have suffered serious consequences. Some have succumbed already, and others will not survive. Many companies that adapted quickly are still viable, but will need to re-invent and reconfigure to sustain that viability over the long term. However, organizations that have adapted in meaningful ways that demonstrate caring are doing more than just surviving.
In the midst of deep uncertainty, a number of companies have already responded to the COVID-19 challenge and distinguished themselves by shifting their services and product lines to meet the highest-priority needs of their consumers, employees, and communities. For example, alcohol distilleries and major beauty and health companies, Sporting apparel companies, such as Fanatics and Bauer Hockey, have been producing gowns, masks, and face shields. Walk-in food outlets like Panera Bread, and even specialty chains, such as Edible Arrangements, have shifted their operation models to grocery delivery services. And to meet the needs of home-bound exercisers, gym chains like Planet Fitness offer livestream workouts that anyone, member or nonmember, can access for free.
These are just a few examples of companies that recognized a need, both internally and externally, and used their ingenuity to adapt in unexpected and creative ways. As a result, these organizations are not only more likely to survive this immediate crisis, but will also bolster their reputations and increase their competitive advantage going forward.
Adaptability is a leadership discipline. The ability to be nimble and adapt effectively during a crisis is essential not only for survival, but for opportunity and growth. Failure to adapt when circumstances change will cost you and your organization greatly.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, leaders and organizations need to be on adaptation alert as circumstances change. And when the pandemic finally ends, organizations must be prepared to adapt yet again in a post-COVID-19 world, whatever that will look like.
In studying companies that have adapted both well and poorly during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve identified several questions that can serve as a Logos Best Practice rubric to help guide thinking about how to adapt effectively.
When confronted with changing circumstances, ask:
What is required for your organization to continue to operate? What level of revenue is required to cover costs? What tools or resources do you or your employees need to continue to function?
What is your mission? What is your organization’s goal? What are you designed to do? Does your mission need to evolve in the present moment?
What are your core values? What values are embedded in your mission, culture, and business model?
Whom do you serve? Who are the stakeholders that matter most to your organization? Are there new or different stakeholders you should be serving?
What are the urgent or important needs of your stakeholders? In this moment of crisis, what matters most to your stakeholders? What do your internal and external stakeholders need?
What do those who matter most expect from you? How do your stakeholders expect you to live your mission and values? How have their expectations changed amid the crisis?
What is your unique competitive advantage? What can your organization uniquely offer? How can you fulfill your mission in a way that provides an essential or important product or service during this crisis?
The answers to these questions will help you think about how to adapt in ways that not only support short-term survival, but also pave the way for long-term success.
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Reputation and online criticism: Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross highlighted a recent research report on her blog that looked at the subtleties of how brands should respond to online criticism. (Additional information about the study from the researchers at the University of Amsterdam appeared on strategy + business last month.) Dr. Gaines-Ross summarizes the findings by saying, “The short answer to the question of whether companies should repsond and manage damage control online is quite simple. They should, but carefully.”
Financial institutions and social media: The folks at Social@Ogilvy put together a helpful guide, “Financial Institutions and Social Media,” which provides information for financial institutions looking to engage in social media while being mindful of strict regulatory rules.
Law and social media policies: Based on recent National Labor Relations Board rulings, “if your company has not examined its social media policy in 2012, it is time for counsel and human resources to carefully reword the document’s language, in an effort to harmonize it with recent cases,” according to Professor Perry Binder on his blog Binder Law Training.
Reputation loss and crisis: Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross provides a useful analysis of a recent report, Reputation Review 2012, in her post “The High Cost of Reputation Loss.” The report looks at the dynamic between crisis and a company’s financial performance, and as Dr. Gaines-Ross summarizes, found, “Among 10 crisis-ridden companies in 2011, only News Corp found itself in positive terrain afterwards. In fact, what they found was that 7 of the top 10 lost more than one third of their value. Two companies lost nearly 90% of their value.” The report also looked at the effects of having a reputation recovery process in place, the CEO’s response, and clear and transparent communication on the overall recovery process after a major crisis.
Customer beliefs and communication: Shel Holtz’ review of research from The Futures Company and its report, “Global MONITOR 12/13,” should give all corporate communicators something to think about in today’s environment. As Holtz says, “An overwhelming 86 percent of consumers believe that companies put profits over the interests of their customers’ interests, according to a report on the study. That means any communication or marketing campaign faces a brick wall of skepticism.” Holtz outlines a few approaches for companies to work more effectively to align behavior and communication.
Employee law and social media policies: This helpful post, “How to Tell if Your Social Media Policy is Unlawful,” discusses some of the recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board and how those decisions might affect other companies’ social media policies. “In nearly three-quarters of the cases brought to the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that protects worker’s rights, the Board found 17 out of 23 policies governing the use of social media by employees to be unlawful.”
An alternate history of the social web: At The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal posted a thought-provoking piece about the power of what he calls “dark social” in “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong.” He describes “dark social” as platforms like email and instant messaging (which have been around much longer than the big social media platforms), and uses recent data to show that the majority of content sharing occurs through these more difficult to measure outlets versus big social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
A few useful research reports have been published in the last two weeks, in addition to the usual interesting commentary that caught our eye.
Pew Internet on “Digital Differences”: The Pew Research Center summarizes the findings by saying, “One-in-five [American] adults do not use the internet. The difference between that group and the majority of Americans who do go online remains strongly correlated with age, education, and household income, which are the strongest positive predictors of internet use.” The full report is here. This is helpful research to remember when thinking about communicating with audiences, and one question to ask in communication planning: who might your organization be missing and how can they be reached if not through online means?
Local News: Despite lower trust in media overall, most Americans still turn to local news sources. Pew’s recently released study on local news found that “72% of Americans follow local news closely,” and the report details additional media consumption habits of this group.
USC Annenberg Gap Study: USC Annenberg published its “Communication and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP VII)” study, on the “current state of the PR industry.” A helpful breakdown of key findings and what they mean for corporate communicators and agencies is also on PR Squared.
On Reputation: A thought-provoking article from the Economist on corporate reputation is worth reading, “What’s in a name? Why companies should worry less about their reputations.” Not surprisingly, many disagree, and Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross has a thoughtful response on her blog.
Corrections and Broadcast TV: David Carr of the New York Times commented on the curious disparity in how broadcast news handles corrections versus print news, in light of how NBC handled the correction to its use of an audio clip on the Today show that was “misleading, incendiary and dead-bang wrong.”
Pew State of the News Media: The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released the newest, 9th edition of its “State of the News Media” yearly report. Beyond the overview, Key Findings and Trends, there’s lots more detailed information in breakdown reports by platform/venue.
Dharun Ravi Trial: The former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was convicted of 15 charges related to the webcam spying of his roommate Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide in 2010. danah boyd has a thoughtful piece, “Reflecting on Dharun Ravi’s conviction,” looking at some of the implications of social media, privacy and bullying the case presented.
Mike Daisey and This American Life: We mentioned in an earlier blog post a recommendation to listen to Mike Daisey’s show excerpt about Apple’s manufacturing that aired earlier this year on This American Life. This weekend, This American Life retracted the show after discovering the show contained “numerous fabrications” and aired an hour-long piece about the retraction. On his blog, Mike Daisey said in a statement that he stands behind his work, and “What I do is not journalism.”
CEOs and Social Media: This survey from BRANDfog looked at the use of social media by CEOs and the impact that use had on trust and reputation: “2012 CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey.” The results: “The survey results demonstrate that executive engagement in social media raises the brand profile and instills confidence in a company’s leadership team. It builds greater trust, brand loyalty and purchase intent. Respondents overwhelmingly confirmed their belief that C-Suite executives who engage in social media are better equipped to lead a company, communicate values and shape a company’s reputation in today’s changing world. “