“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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Are You Involved or Are You Committed?

September 7, 2017

I was eating a bacon and egg breakfast the other morning and was reminded of a conversation I had with NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson several years ago around the question of involvement versus commitment. At the time, I was running the PR campaign for NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary where I had the great fortune and opportunity to meet and work with some of the legends of the sport, including Junior.  During one encounter with the former moonshiner, whose life story was put on the big screen in the 1973 movie The Last American Hero, we were talking about what it took to be successful in this sport. He smiled and said in his low voice and Southern drawl, “Well, let me ask you a question. Are you involved or are you committed?” I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, so I naively asked him, “involved or committed in what way?” Junior went on to explain his point.  “You see, success comes down to being committed not involved,” he said.  “It’s like a bacon and egg breakfast – it took two animals to make that meal and one was committed and one was involved. “Now, that hog gave you everything it had – everything – while that chicken gave you something it could make plenty more of. It wasn’t that big of a deal.” I never looked at a bacon and egg breakfast the same after that chat. So, I’ll ask you the same question as you look at your business growth or perhaps how you are leading your team or organization – are you involved or are you committed? Better yet, do you know if your team is just involved or are they fully committed?  Are they committed to your company’s goals, culture and priorities? That is a vital question to consider when a study by Gallup found that more than 70% of employees feel disengaged at the office.  What’s worse is that an Allegis Group Services study found that more than 84% percent of employees would leave their current place of employment for a company with a better reputation (Aug. 2012).  Can it get worse? Yup! A study by Glassdoor Data Labs found that less than 50% of employees would even recommend their employer to a friend (Dec. 2015)! Your team will become a reflection of you.  So, when it comes to leadership and the type of team and business you are building, do you want an office full of chickens? Nope … bring on the hogs!

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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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3 Unique Reputation Perspectives from Seth Godin

October 5, 2016

  If you haven’t heard of Seth Godin and you have even the slightest interest in leadership development, please do yourself a favor and go to his website and explore – you can thank me later. For those of you who absolutely are familiar with Seth and his work, then you know the value of his insights, messages and self-actualization themes. He is, without doubt, one of the greatest resources for leaders and entrepreneurs striving for success. In a recent blog post titled ‘Three things to keep in mind about your reputation,’ he gives 3 unique reputation perspectives. Salient points that capture the power (and personal responsibility) of establishing and nurturing one of your greatest assets for success in both your career and life. Below are his three points from the post, followed by my related thoughts. 3 unique reputation perspectives from Seth Godin: 1. Your reputation has as much impact on your life as what you actually do. 2. Early assumptions about you are sticky and are difficult to change. 3. The single best way to maintain your reputation is to do things you’re proud of. Gaming goes only so far. What I love about Seth’s perspective is that it crisply captures 3 essential aspects of building and maintaining your personal reputation. Let’s break it down: 1. Your reputation has as much impact on your life as what you actually do. I read this as the ability your reputation has to impact your life beyond the work that you actually do or the things you create. Your reputation impacts the referrals that come your way (or pass you by), the people who seek you out (or seek someone else) or the doors of opportunity that open (or close). Yes, it is important to keep doing good things, good works, good turns daily. Those actions, consistently over time, will continue to reinforce your reputation for what you do. Consider that 65% of new business comes from referrals – a key indicator of people seeking you out just as much for who you are, as for what you do. I don’t know of any entrepreneurs, business leaders or executives who don’t see referrals as a significant component of their sales matrix. 2. Early assumptions about you are sticky and are difficult to change. Have you ever heard the phrase, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? The first impression is a vital time stamp in reputation development. However, Seth uses a key word ‘assumptions’ that makes his thought different. People may have preconceived biases or assumptions about you before you even say a word or shake a hand. This may have come from someone else’s comments about you, perhaps the company at which you work, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, maybe even the university you attended (or didn’t attend). People rarely enter into a relationship without some initial bias or assumption. That’s ok. Resist the urge to try and prove people’s assumptions wrong. If that is your approach, then you might as well just spend your time playing the carnival game ‘whack-a-mole’. The game […]

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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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10 Eye-Opening Reputation Statistics For Every Leader and Entrepreneur

September 19, 2016

10 Eye-Opening Reputation Statistics for Every Leader and Entrepreneur Winning in the Reputation Economy requires leaders, entrepreneurs and any individual looking for success to be vigilant in growing, protecting and leveraging one of their greatest assets – their reputations! Every day we see, hear or read about people who are not paying attention to how their actions and decisions are negatively impacting their business, careers and organizations. A critical key is understanding the ways in which our reputations are tied to every aspect of our lives – and the positive, as well as negative, impact it will have over our ability to succeed. Shakespeare even knew the power of reputations – “Defend your reputation, or say farewell to your good life forever.”   My intent in sharing these 10 eye-opening reputation statistics for every leader and entrepreneur is to deliver a catalyst for how you can proactively develop, protect and evolve your reputation to help you achieve your goals. Here they are: 10 eye-opening reputation statistics for every leader and entrepreneur 60% of a company’s market value is tied to its reputation 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 70% of U.S. recruiters and hiring managers have rejected candidates based on information found online 50% of a company’s reputation is tied to the CEO’s reputation 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations; 14% trust advertising 84% of marketers believe that building trust will be the primary focus for marketing efforts in the future (do you trust people with bad reputations?) 58% of executives believe that reputation management should be addressed, but only 15% actually do anything about it 4 out of 5 consumers changed their minds about a recommended purchase solely on negative information they found online 33% decrease in shareholder value of an organization within one year of a crisis situation becoming public Because I am a big believer in over-delivering, here are two additional statistics that need to be on your radar and developed every day! 100% of your referrals are based on reputation 100% of your employees are your reputation ambassadors As a leader, entrepreneur or anyone looking to succeed, here are 6 key takeaways as you digest the data above! 1. Cultivating your customer relationships will not only drive greater life-time value (which according to studies is 10x the value of their initial purchase), but will also increase your referral pipeline 2. It’s not just your behavior (good or bad), but your employees behavior that becomes the reputation of your organization 3. Trust is one of the core components of a strong reputation and is a business accelerator in the Reputation Economy 4. Your reputation (and that of your company) is a market differentiator in attracting and retaining top talent 5. What you post on Social Media channels will be reviewed and can just as easily shut a door to opportunity as it can open one 6. You must know the online conversation/comments […]

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5 Must-Know Reputation Perspectives for Every Entrepreneur

September 14, 2016

5 Must-Know Reputation Perspectives for Every Entrepreneur Entrepreneurs know that their success is determined by several factors. Of course, it all starts with the idea or product that will be brought to market. However, even the best idea or product will languish without an entrepreneur with a high level of confidence, organization, discipline and passion. But, what’s missing from that launch list? Developing and maintaining a strong reputation! Every entrepreneur must make reputation growth and management part of their daily habits. Reputation development should also be seen as a sustainability pillar in their short-term and long-term business plans. Failure is a strong possibility if it isn’t. Social media platforms are a vital link for entrepreneurs to attract and retain venture capital, talent, lead generation and referrals. Entrepreneurs are using this global touchpoint to build their brand as well as identify assets and resources. But remember that social media is not a one-way street! Those who might be interested in associating with that entrepreneur are also using social media resources to check on their credibility, social feedback and the experiences of others before deciding whether or not to place bets on them. Let’s not forget that people still use the analog version of reputation research by just asking and tapping into their personal networks to get real-time feedback. An entrepreneur may have a great product, but if they develop a reputation for missing deadlines, being a poor leader, treating vendors with disrespect, mismanagement of capital, then even the best products will have a short lifecycle – with such a competitive marketplace who wants (or needs) to work with people like that? Below are 5 must-know reputation perspectives for every entrepreneur to better protect and grow one of their greatest entrepreneurial assets. People associate themselves with another person based on two things – When trying to decide on whether or not to associate ourselves with another person, we often rely on two factors. The first is our previous experience with that person. We quickly go into our mental hard drive to retrieve experiences and determine whether those were positive or negative. If we have no previous engagement with that person, then we tend to rely on what others have to say. That is when we’ll tap into our personal or professional networks to gain perspective based on others’ experiences with that individual and the reputation that has been created. Simply stated, these are called referrals!! Both approaches are rooted in historical experiences that strongly reflect upon ones reputation. Reputations surround our identities and drive trust/connectivity – Whether we know it or not, like it or not or embrace it or not, our reputations surround who we are and are solidifying factors to our identities. Always remember that our reputations speak for us when we are not there to speak for ourselves. Just as our reputations are aligned with our identities, so does our reputation drive trust and allow us to connect with those who can help us. This often happens on a daily basis, if you think about it. Think back to a moment when you asked a friend or colleague to […]

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