Just about all the pictures from the panel discusion and tour of Google have been uploaded to Flickr. Feel free to stop by, look for yourself and colleagues, and tag them so that everyone else can see how much fun we had!
Kimberly Maul and Jaimy Lee at PRWeek attended the panel discussion on “The Great Reputation Crisis.” You can see their full coverage here.
I had the chance to chat with Harvey about social media and his take on its impacti on how companies communicate with consumers. First and foremost, Harvey is a social media fan and believes communications professionals need to be creative and innovative to reach their consumers.
But, he cautions companies to really understand the power of social media before you start to use any of the channels. “Too few people recognize social media is a conversation…your audience will interact with your news in real time,” he offered.
As PR professionals, we are used to putting out information and working individually with reporters to get a story out to people. Social media turns all of that thinking on its head. We’re conditioned to be fair and balanced in reporting company milestones, whereas social media demands a bias and perspective from companies.
Reputation was the word of the day this afternoon during the Iprex09 luncheon. Eight communications experts gathered to share stories and insights about how they’ve managed challenges to their company’s reptuation. With great candor we learned about chaos an inaccurate quote can cause (Kodak/Barbara Pierce) to the power business relationships and networks have on your reputation (MasterCard/Harvey Greisman).
Everyone has a war story or two about how they’ve handled reputation management. Interestingly, everyone had a different perspective on what makes up reputation–a mix of ethics, governance, philanthropy and believability. But, truth be told, those words are all a tad untouchable.
Just ask Ray Kerins, Corp Comm lead at Pfizer, who shared a parent’s description of reputation. Seems his son got into a smidge of trouble on the school bus. Ray sat him down for a chat, explaining how he’s expected to behave, why what he did was wrong and the like.
But, he wasn’t sure his point was getting through. So, he asked his son what people think about his friend Joey? His son replied, “Joey’s a troublemaker, everyone knows that.” Ray asked do you want Joey’s reputation? And his son asked what’s a reputation? Ray explained, “mess up once, maybe twice, and people tend to forgive you, but keep messing up and suddenly you have a reputation for being bad.” Ray’s son couldn’t tell you what goes into a reputation, but he can certainly point out someone who’s doing it all wrong.
Companies just like people can find examples of those we strive to emulate and those we wish to ignore. But, regardless of your definition or approach, probably the best approach is simple “Handle With Care.”
Barbara Pierce from Eastman Kodak went straight for the audience to illustrate managing a reputation issue. She asked “How many of you know Kodak?” All did. “How many use a film camera?” Very few raised their hands. Kodak is navigating the current downturn after a shift from film to digital.
Barbara mentioned a powerful use of social media in managing reputation and news.
At a Feb. 4 investor meeting, Kodak said that it was taking a look at four businesses. Specifically, it said that Image Sensor Solutions and Kodak Gallery, Electrophotographic Printing, and OLED were “businesses in which Kodak has a unique market position, but which require additional investment in order to achieve their full potential.” The company said it would “reposition these businesses by pursuing alliances or other business model changes to reduce risk and enhance revenue and margins.”
Reuters reported the matter accurately, while The Wall Street Journal’s first report incorrectly said that the company was seeking buyers for the four units. The WSJ’s error was repeated on Twitter and several other online sources.
Kodak responded on Twitter and taped a CEO video that went upon YouTube. It pressed all of the news to sales channel. The WSJ corrected the story two days later, but it took this aggressive use of social media to address the error and internal waves it created, particularly among the sales force.
The panel discussion is now getting into a strident back and forth. Moderator John Byrne, executive editor at BusinessWeek, interviewed author Jim Collins about corporate evolution. Jim mentioned that the final stage in some companies’ lives was “the silent creep of impending doom.” For some of these companies the silent creep was preceded by five other stages,  hurbris born of success;  undisciplined pursuit of more;  a denial of risk and peril;  grasping for salvation; and  capitulation to irrelevance or death. John actually has some very in-depth material on Jim Collins’ soon to be released book, “How the Mighty Fall.” This material includes a cover story excerpt of the book, a podcast and a video interview.
Tough to manage a reputation there.
Ray Kernis of Pfizer piped in about how his company has addressed its reputation with an act of good faith. Yesterday, Pfizer announced that if you become unemployed and have been taking a Pfizer drug for three months, you can get it for free for a year from the company. There’s an affidavit that you have to sign but that’s the gist of it. He also mentioned that the idea of this free offer came from the company’s employees, not management.
Ray described Pfizer as being a $50bln start up company that’s trying to move up the ranks of reputation perception. He illustrated the challenge with a simple question, “We make life-saving drugs. How can our reputation be so low? It is and that’s what we have to address.” He also noted that the company is in the midst of a $68 bln acquisition (Wyeth) and that nothing was off the table in terms of using communications to build reputation.
Addressing reputation is easier than when he joined: formerly he had four layers of management to reach CEO when he joined two years ago. Now there’s just one.
Having been a user of Pfizer drugs, John then turned to MasterCard, the card company he holds.
Harvey Greisman described some difficulties in being in the credit card industry. Specifically, he mentioned that card companies like MasterCard don’t set rates or write the fine print. But studies show that consumers hold them responsible for the issuers’ terms.
Credit card rates have been a financial lightning rod and Harvey mentioned that MasterCard supported the cardholders bill of rights that President Obama was proposing. At the same time, he mentioned that MasterCard hoped that government would keep things that creditors need when they lend, like risk-based pricing, as part of the equation. Once the legislation is passed, he hopes that consumers will gain greater trust in credit cards.
He said that governance and ethics reign supreme in the way MasterCard views its reputation.
Moving from his drug and credit card companies, John called on Gary Sheffer of GE, who talked about how tough a year it’s been for a company that’s half financial. His definition of tough: an article with a headline, “GE: It’s Worse than you Think.” No, it’s not, Gary said. We made $18 billion last year and GE continues to develop and sell new products.
GE CEO Jeff Immelt says this is an economic reset. Gary said that the current environment is a communications reset too. For GE, that means a global reset in its communications around the world. It means that communications is a much more strategic function in this environment than before.
We got into some thorny issues. Now we need to hear your responses to the thoughts of these communication leaders.
Photo Credit: Zacharyparadis
Ken Makovsky has welcomed our IPREX executives from 30 U.S. cities and 15 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Gulf Coast countries. He’s also thanked our co-sponsor John Doorley and his guests from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Our panel today “The Great Reputation Crisis: And How To Respond” will moderated by John Byrne, executive editor of BusinessWeek. John wears many hats at BusinessWeek. As the executive editor, he’s in charge of day-to-day operations. A champion of new media, he hosts the Debate Room podcast and blogs for Recession in America.
Ken introduced our panel of seven experts, each of whom has global communications responsibilities at their organization. They are:
- Michael McDougall from Bausch & Lomb
- Barbara Pierce from Eastman Kodak
- Gary Scheffer from General Electric
- Harvey Greisman from Mastercard Worldwide
- Ray Kernis from Pfizer
- Stephen Dishart from Swiss Re . . . . . and
- Carl Folta from Viacom
Bob DePhillippo from Prudential couldn’t join us today. Last night, his company found out that it would become the recipient of TARP funds. He’s managing that situation.
As a starting point, Ken suggested that the crisis has devalued reputation in at least four ways:
- First, the reputation of free-market capitalism is severely tarnished. Among some there’s even a perception that American capitalism has failed.
- Second, there’s a devaluation of ethics. It’s reflected in more than one Ponzi scheme, the perception of excessive executive compensation, and lax regulation.
- These two feed in to a devaluation of leadership competence. Only a few years ago, many CEOs were seen as celebrities. Now many are seen as part of entitled system and their ability to lead is questioned.
- Finally, the culmination of all this has been an attack on basic trust and confidence in the business community. Just recently, a leading UK-based market research firm called rebuilding trust a key global trend in 2009. This even extends to a mistrust of so-called specialty media being the handmaiden of the interests they cover.
What are your thoughts on the degree to which we are in a reputation crisis?
Karen Toulon, New York Bureau Chief for Bloomberg news, shared insights on news gathering in today’s global community:
- Reporters are no longer defined by where they are stationed but by what they cover; speed is critical to providing immediate coverage, the workday for Bloomberg is 24 / 7 and crosses all date lines.
- Bloomberg is unique in combining print, radio, TV and other mediums to address multiple needs
John McCorry, Executive Editor in the Americas Bloomberg News, remarked that social media practices are not new for organizations like Bloomberg. In the future, social media networks will play a role in the news gathering process, although this impact is undetermined.
Marty Schenker, Executive Editor of Top News for Bloomberg, remarked on the impact of blogs to the news gathering process. Blogs are now considerred to be an important source of intelligence on the beginnings of stories. The role of blogs continues to evolve.
Bloomberg executives went onto note activity on the Bloomberg platform indicates that investors seeking intelligence on current risk management are increasingly tracking information on individuals and company leadership. And they forecasted that news delivery in the future will feature more classification and data tagging. News will become more searchable and readers will be able to remove unwanted noise.
More from IPREX and Bloomberg, as it happens.
–Mike Goodwin, Makovsky + Company
Photo Credit to Mujitra
Caught up with John Scheibel CEO of integrated communications firm Scheibel Halaska based in Milwaukee. His firm focuses on privately held firms in the midmarket. Most of his clients are B2B. (Word to the wise – If you’re ever visiting Milwaukee, John urges you to wait until the summer. Though I hear the cheese is good year round.)
At IPREX this year, John is looking forward to exploring the diversity of subjects that will be discussed and is excited about the quality of speakers. He specifically mentioned the panel discussion being held with heads of PR from some major companies and which Executive Editor of BusinessWeek, John Byrne, will be moderating.
John thinks the “terrible economic situation we’re in” is the most pressing multinational issue currently on the table. Getting back to “common sense financial practices” is a big challenge he sees moving forward.