20 Ways to Build & Protect Reputation during COVID-19

March 14, 2020

20 Ways to Build & Protect Reputation during COVID-19 As we face the localized impact of COVID-19’s global public health crisis, it is vital that leaders recognize that these are times that can either build up or tear down your and your brand’s reputation. It’s your choice and will be dictated by whether a proactive or reactive strategy is implemented. For some leaders, this may be the first major crisis you have faced in your executive post.  For others, this may be another notch on your crisis management belt.  Regardless of what camp you are in, I can assure you from my more than two decades of crisis management work, that every crisis is its own beast – and must be planned for and addressed in that manner. I have helped many organizations and leaders find reputational opportunity in the face of adversity – and to be clear, that does not mean being opportunistic and taking advantage of people! What I mean is that these are times when leaders have the opportunity to draw closer to their customers and employees.  There are opportunities to become more than a service provider, an association organization, or an entertainment destination.  These are times when you can become more than the product or service you deliver or provide.  You can become a resource of comfort, understanding, healing, inspiration, and solutions, that will deliver huge reputational dividends both during and after a crisis. Many of you have already begun to implement customer and employee Social Distancing protocols.  For those that do not have internal systems in place, it’s easy for this to become a follow-the-leader scenario. But remember, your organization is not a follow-the-leader brand, is it?  Of course not. Below is a 20-point crisis resource for you and your team to review and use.  I’d urge you to consider how you can implement this in your own way to build, protect, and strengthen your reputation and, ultimately, your business. I broke this resource into two key buckets as the majority of crisis work falls within these two areas of work – communication and customer service – and encompass a large percentage of key audiences to address. Communication Never speculate during a crisis situation to your employees or customers; it is acceptable, when questioned, to say that you/your team are gathering information to ensure it is accurate. Then, you must deliver on this as soon as you can. Media training for one, designated representative must be done to ensure that key messages are effectively delivered and best represent the brand and its values. Those messages could include your company’s safety protocols, customer service channels, working with local health authorities, etc. Regular internal employee communication is absolutely critical to snuff out rumors. Remember that speculation breeds in the absence of information.  Senior leadership should set up and use internal communications channels and alert your employees that leadership will be providing updates, perhaps daily or weekly. Social Media is a vital channel for communication and should be used to deliver updates for customers or other key stakeholders. Ensure that you have a senior executive reviewing all corporate […]

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3 Keys to Avoid Change Fatigue

July 3, 2019

3 Keys to Avoid Change Fatigue How many times do we hear that people WANT change, but don’t WANT TO change? I’m a believer in that, however, I believe that leadership and Change Fatigue has a lot to do with the latter! A study on change management featured in Forbes article illustrated that 70% of organizational change fails! Change is thrown around so much these days that it can cause more harm than good – for individuals and organizations. Change Fatigue can happen when people have experienced poor change managers and management – “Here we go again! What makes them think it will be different this time?”, is a refrain I’ve heard in hallways over the years (both as an employee and change agent). People have to belief that the promise of the new is worth the abandonment of the old. What can prevent Change Fatigue is change WITH leadership serving up healthy portions of vision, planning, and communication! It takes all three if you are leading change and only providing 1/3 or 2/3 of that equation (in any combination) will lead to team frustration, dissent, ambiguity, anxiety, and disenfranchisement, to name a few areas of concern! For many people change can be paralyzing. Change can leave them wondering about their value and worth within the team or organization. “Am I going to work myself out of a job?” “I’ve been known for this skill on the team, but will it still be needed? Will I still be needed?” Vision: Where are we going? Why are we going there? How will this benefit our organization, and me?? These are just a few of the questions that must be addressed, built out, and clearly defined if people are going to put forth the effort and invest the time required to bring this vision to life! Planning: How will we make this vision a reality? What is my role? What are the benchmarks that tell us we are heading in the right direction? Planning brings to light the tools and processes that will be required to bring the vision to life! Communication: The consistent cadence of updates, reminders and encouragement during challenging times of change is vital when we often don’t see the immediate results. Communication becomes a glue that will help bind teams and individuals together – or, if there is not enough well-thought-out communication, can erode trust and enthusiasm. I once read that if people on your team can’t do a good impression of you, then you aren’t communicating enough! The responsibility of change rests on the shoulders of leadership. So, if you are considering change within your organization or team, embarking on change, or in the middle of change, make sure that you are hitting the vision, planning, and communication targets to drive the change you are looking for and drive out Change Fatigue! What are your experiences with Change Fatigue?

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Jussie Smollett – Empire Crumbling Around Trust & Reputation

February 24, 2019

As more explosive news reports roll out about actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged fabrication of his racial and homophobic attack in Chicago, people are left with questions such as, “Where is the truth?” “What is the truth?” “Why did he possibly do this?” Questions that are now in the hands of the Chicago court system. I’ve been asked lately how I would go about rehabbing Jussie’s reputation as this epic story of trust and reputation unfolds.  My answer is simple, “Nothing.  This is not the time to be focusing on rehabbing his reputation.” Jussie is in the crucible right now.  This is the period of time when his actions and words are vital.  How he acts, what he says, how he reacts during the court hearings will determine how he emerges and how rehabbing his reputation could be managed. As many are quick to judge and the court of public opinion sways, we should focus on one of the key issues here – trust.   If what the police allege is true, that Smollett orchestrated this attack to increase his public awareness in an effort to negotiate a raise, then this will become an epic story of betrayal of trust! “There are three things you can’t hide from – the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Confucius We are living in an age where only 30% of Americans believe that people are trustworthy. So, while the lawyers in Chicago build their cases, let’s look closer to home and reflect on how we are building or busting trust in our daily interactions! We are all responsible for trust in every interaction we have. Here are three actionable ways that we, as leaders or individuals, can build and strengthen trust today. 1. Pursue Understanding, Not Responding – How often do we listen to others and focus on what we are going to say instead of truly listening to understand their perspective and how you got to the current state? Asking more questions will allow you to better understand the situation and collaborate on action-oriented solutions. 2. Own Your Mistakes – As leaders we set the tone and expectations for our teams. It’s too easy for us to say that we are “running fast” and “have a full plate” and therefore rationalize our mistakes to others.  What example does that set for those you are leading? Remember, what they see is what they expect and, ultimately, what you get.  3. Keep Your Commitments – Following through on your commitments is critical.  Commitments are promises and whether you keep them or break them, they become an underpinning component of trust. If you find that you can’t keep your commitments, then you need stop saying, “yes” so much! Perhaps you need to delegate more? Perhaps you need to better manage your time? Keeping your commitments will always build trust! Yes, we are human and make mistakes.  So, these are also great strategies for rebuilding trust! Only you can change your situation! I’ll keep sharing reputation management insights and strategies as the Jussie Smollett case unfolds.  In the meantime, put these three strategies into play and see […]

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Was Anyone Spotting for John Skipper?

March 24, 2018

I feel for John Skipper, former ESPN chief.  It’s hard not to, in some capacity, when you see someone’s life work unplugged and unravelled.  But here is where my mind goes after reading his fall-from-grace story – he was not alone. I grew up watching ESPN and I know a lot of what I came to love about the ESPN brand and sports was a direct result of John’s efforts and passion. As a professional, I also had the privilege of working with ESPN on numerous occasions with NASCAR, NHRA, B.A.S.S., and other sports properties.  I can tell you that the people who worked there reflected John’s attitude and vision – they were first-class people. Now, I also believe that we make and must stand by our choices.  And, like John, we are not alone. In racing, we have spotters.  These people have an elevated perspective of the race track and tell drivers what is happening in their blind spots and how to navigate through wrecks happening ahead of or around them.  There is a remarkably high level of trust between drivers and their spotters to ensure their safety and ultimately their success – as a team. I don’t know who John’s spotters were in his years of cocaine addiction, or if they tried to help and he ignored them.  But I can’t believe he was alone. Can we learn from this? Yes. Who are your spotters? Who are the small group of people in your life that are looking out for you?  The ones to tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.  We may not like what they have to say, but if they are trusted, then we know from where their words are coming – and we need to listen. So, who are they? Can you rattle off their names right now?  Do they even know that you consider them your spotters? Who are you a spotter for in your life? We are all in this journey together and need each other to have our backs when we are operating in our blind spots. Career stage does not matter.  Life stage does not matter either.  We all need spotters and they need to know that we need them to shoot straight with us and that we will listen! John, I have no doubt you will rebound from this and be stronger than before!

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“Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs!”

October 28, 2017

“Why didn’t I see that coming?” “How’d that happen?” “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” I was driving the other day and while stopped at a red light I looked over at the car next to me and saw a mother in the driver’s seat showing flash cards to her teenage son. As the mom continued to show him the flash cards, he continued to stare out the passenger seat window at the sky.  She began to shake them at him.  Fed up and visibly frustrated, she threw the cards in the back of the car by the time the light turned green!  Clearly this had been going on for a while and clearly she was angry that the boy was ignoring what she was trying to show him. What struck me about this scene was that this happens to us every day.  People try to show us something, tell us something, make us aware of something – and how often do we not listen? The reality is that we more than often hear what we want to hear, or worse yet, aren’t present when the person tells us something that might just help us avert disaster – whether that is to our career, our finances, a relationship or our reputations. I’m not suggesting we take every bit of advice from every person with whom we encounter.  However, I do suggest that we identify the core people in our lives whose insight and feedback matter to us.  These are the people who will risk telling us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear because they truly care about us. These are the people who will show us the flash cards while we are, perhaps, looking out the passenger seat window.  They may even shake them to get our attention. Ok, so here’s your sign … will you be that teenager and eventually have the flash cards thrown to the back of the car? Or, will you stop, be present and see and listen to what signs are being shown to you? As with most things in life, the choice is yours! For some additional thoughts on the power of being present, click here to read one of my favorite stories about my experience with Lenny Kravitz!      

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3 Steps Adidas Must Take in Wake of College Bribery Scandal

October 5, 2017

Adidas is the latest example of the risk that all brands are subject to because reputations rest upon the shoulders of those employees wearing its logo. Jim Gatto, head of marketing for Adidas’ basketball division, is one of 10 people who are at the center of an FBI investigation centered on a high school athlete/college sports bribery scandal that is rocking the college sports industry. Business Insider writer, Dennis Green, put it very well in his Sept. 27 article on the topic, “Part of the reason for Adidas’ newfound success is its evolved reputation. It has courted fashion trendsetters and lifestyle gurus to help turn it into a “cool” brand. If the scandal grows, it’s not hard to see how that reputation could vanish.”   It takes both time and consistent effort to build, shape and protect a reputation. As Warren Buffett once said, “it takes 20 years to build a strong reputation and five minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Beyond the damaged public perception and tarnished image, Adidas also suffered a direct financial foul after the scandal hit headlines and saw its U.S. stock value dropped by 3% in one day. This type of reputation scenario as well as the financial and public fallout happens every day at varying levels to large and small organizations. While the court of public opinion has yet to deliver its verdict, below are three steps that Adidas – and any company – must take in the wake of a public scandal to not lose its business stride and come out stronger in public perception! 3 Steps Adidas must take in the wake of college basketball bribery scandal Commit to Action & Communicate – You can’t control where the investigation goes or what life it takes on as this scandal unravels.  However, Adidas can control how it processes the information it learns through its own internal investigation, the development of its action plan, and then how it is shared to its stakeholders, employees, and customers to demonstrate its commitment to doing the right thing. Demonstrate Transparency – What did you learn through the investigation? It might be tough to look at and even scarier to share, but understand that in this age of instant information, it will eventually come out.  It’s always best to ‘own’ the message versus it come from a third-party source.  The actions of an individual certainly don’t always reflect that of the organization.  This is the time to acknowledge breakdowns in the system and emphasize that this is not how business is done at Adidas. Outline Change – This is the proverbial ‘Tylenol moment’ and the stamp in time that will either propel a brand forward or anchor it down after the crisis. In every crisis there is opportunity to use a negative situation to create positive industry-wide change.  This is exactly what Tylenol did back in 1982 after seven people died of cyanide poisoning due to Tylenol bottle tampering.  Tylenol went on to create revolutionary bottle safety measures that helped re-establish the brand as an industry leader committed to safety.  Bribery is not new […]

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3 Steps to Increase Reputation Influence During Times of Uncertainty

September 20, 2017

In the HBO Game of Thrones series a manipulative character named Petyr Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, said, “Chaos isn’t a pit.  Chaos is a ladder.”  Our current world, nation, states, and communities have their share of uncertainty, some may call chaos.  But how we approach and frame up this uncertainty can actually increase our reputation influence. Now, Littlefinger looked at life and chaos through the lens of how can I climb this ladder for my benefit, even at the expense of others?  For this he ultimately met his fate on his knees with a knife at his throat. What can we learn from Littlefinger’s mindset and approach to uncertainty?  It’s simple – in times of uncertainty take your focus off of you.  There are ways for you to benefit from this that not only helps your reputation, but more importantly helps others.   That is the frame through which we should look –how can I help others during this time of uncertainty? Below are three steps that you can personalize and strategically use to benefit your family, friends, business, community, team, colleagues, customers and, yes, your reputation.  I want to stress – let’s learn from Littlefinger – this should not be done with a manipulative mindset.  People will see through that and you will end up doing more harm than good to your reputation (as well as your business and those around you!). Three Steps for building reputation influence during times of uncertainty: Understand the Impact of the Situation -Uncertainty happens on Main Street as well as Wall Street, so your focus may not be on a national or global scale.  Some of the most positive personal demonstrations of support and kindness have started at the grassroots level.  Being in touch with local or regional issues and understanding the impact is the most critical step in this process.  Start by answering some simple questions to gauge the scope, impact and your personal connection to the uncertainty. What could the impact of (insert uncertainty) be to my business industry? To my city? In my community? Within my neighborhood? Why does this matter to me? My customers? My community? My friends? Become a Conduit of Information – The old adage that ‘knowledge is power’ is quite valid in times of uncertainty.  This is the first step in providing value to those around you.  Resources and conduits of information in times of uncertainty are highly regarded.  This could be as simple as writing an email to a core group of people or posting hyperlinks with key and reputable sources on your social media channels where people can get informed.  Yes, you will need to ensure these are credible sources.  Simply put, you send out credible information, it increases your credibility.  Conversely, if you send people resources that are sketchy – well, you get the point and how it reflects upon you!  Do your homework! Share Channels of Action – Now that you’ve identified the areas of potential impact and you found sourced information, can you provide avenues for people to engage and act?  This could be as simple as coordinating a conference call to discuss an uncertainty […]

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Mom Was Right, You Do Have A Halo!

December 3, 2016

Mom was right, you do have a halo ::  To be clear, this is not a post talking about a religious halo or your spiritual aura – although, that is more than likely what your mom was referring to!!  But for now, what I’m talking about is the halo that your reputation has created around you and the impact it can have on not only your current state, but more importantly your future opportunities. Why do halos matter, especially now? Simple. Halos work off of the power of association.  Make no mistake, association has power and value.  Social Media channels have created a never-before-seen level of transparency making it incredibly easy for people and brands to better understand with whom they are interested in associating. I’ve seen the power of this first-hand throughout my career in motorsports.  Our world is all about the association between drivers, teams and brands.  For many years, my sole focus was on how to build positive association between drivers and their sponsors through public relations and marketing programs – building platforms to drive association and connection with fans.  The foundation for these types of partnerships is rooted in authentically aligning brand and values attributes with the athlete, which establishes credibility in the eyes of consumers. The power of association … → 84% of employees would consider leaving their current job if offered a job by a company with an excellent reputation → 69% of job seekers would not take a job with a company that has a bad reputation – even if unemployed → 100% of your referrals are based on reputation → 100% of your employees are your reputation ambassadors We often see the halo effect at work when it comes to brand and brand ambassador relationships.  If an ambassador acts in a manner that would negatively impact the brand, because of their association, you’ll generally see the brand quickly and publicly distance or disassociate itself because of the unfavorable publicity halo and adverse business impact it would create.  Can you think of any examples of this??  Does Subway and Jared Fogle come to mind? How about Tiger Woods and Gatorade? Do you remember Michael Phelps and Kellogg after the images of Phelps using a bong were released?  Does the name Ryan Lochte ring a bell? Then there is Kate Moss and H&M when she was publicly exposed for using cocaine.  H&M was quick to sever the relationship and issued a short statement related to what kind of person should represent their brand – “If someone is going to be the face of H&M. It is important they be healthy, wholesome and sound.” In the case of Subway, it’s disassociation with Fogle was quick, to the point and delivered via Social Media channels – “We no longer have a relationship with Jared and have no further comment.” One of the most iconic examples of corporate partners racing away from an ambassador is Lance Armstrong. Shortly after his admission of doping, bullying and lying, his corporate partners dropped the once legend of bike racing. The power of the halo is a two-way street, whether it’s an individual, corporation, franchise or a university. […]

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2 Critical Actions that Saved Belmont University’s Reputation

September 26, 2016

2 Critical Actions that Saved Belmont University’s Reputation:  When leaders or brands find themselves in the middle of a crisis there are two critical elements to remember in order to protect a reputation – time and decisive action. I’ve worked through my share of crisis situations over the past two decades – ranging from race car driver deaths to sponsor/brand crisis – and employed two vital components for successfully managing through those reputation challenges. Belmont University nailed both of them when the school was pulled into a social conversation by one of its students who posted a racially charged post on Snapchat. Click on the link below to read more from the New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/belmont-boots-student-called-protesting-eagles-n-word-article-1.2799746 Below are 2 critical actions that saved Belmont University’s reputation. Time is not on your side Time is not on your side when assessing and beginning to manage a crisis situation. The Belmont University communications team quickly acknowledged, via the university’s Facebook page, that the administration was aware of the social post. Belmont University’s Facebook statement at 11:43 AM: “This morning, we were made aware of a racist social media post by a freshman student at Belmont. We reject comments rooted in racism or bigotry. This is not free speech – this is hate speech. The University is investigating and will take immediate action. As a Christian institution, it is our goal to build a diverse and inclusive community where all members feel accepted, safe and valued.” Acknowledgment, especially in today’s socially connected world, is a critical step in the timeline of reputation management. In fact, the expectation is that a brand or leader will respond through Social Media channels in a matter of hours. A response that takes too long can be considered to be avoidance or disinterest by the leader, organization or brand. Decisive Action is Necessary Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” While the crisis-management clock is ticking, the social-media monster is still feeding – people are watching social timelines for updates, posting comments and armchair quarterbacking what should be done. While it is beneficial to monitor what is being said, those comments should never guide your actions and next steps. The best way to chart the path towards action is to ‘check in’ with your values. Does your action plan align with your values? If so, move forward. Now. If not and you choose to proceed, then you are opening yourself (or company) up to additional scrutiny and reputation damage beyond the initial issue. It’s time to put your plan into action once you have evaluated and selected a values-based decision. Now that your decision has been made, you must see it through. Anything less is indecisive and will undermine your efforts. Belmont University’s Facebook Update at 1:22 PM (less than 2 hours later): “After investigating a racist social media post that surfaced earlier today, we can report that the person involved is no longer a student at Belmont. […]

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3 Critical Reputation Crisis Steps For Every Leader

September 9, 2016

3 Critical Reputation Crisis Steps For Every Leader: With today’s Social Media connectivity and people’s ability to voice their opinions or vent their angst, reputation attacks are no longer a question of ‘if’ rather it’s become a question of ‘when’. Of course, these attacks on our greatest personal asset are no longer limited to brands, celebrities, politicians and high-profile executives – we are all vulnerable. But fear not, as reputation issues don’t have to be issues if you know how to approach the situation. While there are multi-step, ultra-disciplined plans for handling reputation attacks, it’s vital to boil down the first few initial steps.  I’ve outlined three critical ones below. These do take some serious introspective work.  Your goals are to gain perspective, get over the hurt and anger and then identify the source of the attack to gauge the validity of the charges. Here are the 3 critical reputation crisis steps for every leader: Have you honestly identified the root cause of the issue? – Typically a reputation issue comes up due to a decision that led to an action or behavior. This takes getting very honest with yourself because if you are in denial about your decisions and actions, you’ll never truly address the issue or whatever this issue is. If left alone and unaddressed, you will repeatedly behave in the same manner and your reputation issues will end up being like one of those whack-a-mole games we see at carnivals – instead of the mole popping up again and again in different places, the behavior that first initiated your issue will just keep popping up again and again – I’m sure you can think of people you know like that!   How quickly do you move past your emotions to get to a plan – emotions are natural – it’s human nature to be upset when your reputation comes under attack – why me? How’d this happen? That person is out to get me! Those are all fair thoughts, but if we stew on those, we lose precious time.  I’ve learned over my 20+ years in communications and crisis management that time is the one resource you will never get back and you never seem to have enough of – move past the emotion and get working on your plan.   Is what is being said about you true and is the source credible? Identifying the source will enable you to validate the credibility of the accusations. There are times when you need to stand up and times when you need to remain focused on ‘staying the course.’ As a leader, you must be mindful of how much energy is spent on refuting the accusations versus continuing to let your consistent actions speak for yourself.   Leaders and entrepreneurs need to keep these reputation crisis steps close at hand in order to quickly and effectively stave off an attack. There is a saying in racing that sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.  While time is of the essence, how you deploy your time in crisis situations will dictate your recovery speed and success. Yes, […]

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