Tag

Reputation management

What Is Reputation Management, Anyway?

By Communications, Public Relations

Public relations firms have begun to adopt a descriptor that I think more accurately describes what some of us do; reputation management. The term originated with the internet and Marijean Jaggerssearch engine results and has been used by companies promising to rid your company of all those nasty negative posts and comments that damage your brand’s reputation. As used here, and by Jaggers Communications, it is the practice of applying smart communications to tell the story of your business in a way that, yes, affects search results when one goes looking for information about your brand, but also the longer-term effect of educating, changing perceptions and establishing who you are, what you do, and what you do well.

I refer to my firm as a reputation management firm. I find that it’s far easier a concept for people to understand than public relations ever was. I remember comparing notes with others in public relations for years on the question, “does your family understand what it is that you do?” Our families often didn’t!

I think that lack of understanding has dissipated somewhat. I think there is more of a general, global understanding of social media and its impact; of the need for companies to have a communications strategy in place, and to be sharing the news of their business frequently and consistently.

What do you think? Has reputation management replaced public relations in the communications business?

Nine Tenths of Crisis Communications is Stifling the Rumor Mill

By Communications, Crisis Communications

It seems the majority of the Charlottesville community is in violent agreement about the mishandling of the resignation of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan. I am continuing to focus on the communications gaffes; above all, the assumption that the Board of Visitors could “control” the message by releasing the news on a Sunday morning. As the lack of information perpetuates, now three days past the announcement, speculation abounds.

When releasing sensitive information to the public, it’s important to be clear, specific and as transparent as possible. The Board of Visitors’ failure to do this and satisfactorily provide the explanation of how the dismissal/resignation occurred and why has only served to fuel the collective imagination of the community. And boy do our imaginations run wild.

How much better it would have been, if the messages had been delivered in an organized, clear and cohesive manner. How much less damage control would University staff have to do, if clarity were employed, if planning of message delivery had been managed and a group effort was evident.

I’m not addressing here the obvious issue of the resignation not making a lot of sense . . . but rather the failure to appropriately communicate it to the world.

If you’re trying to avoid the extra work of putting out rumor fires, be up front with your information in the first place.

Find Your Brand’s Cheerleaders

By Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Media, Social Media

Bye Bye BirdieI’ve been having some really interesting meetings today and my head is spinning with contradicting thoughts. Most of them have to do with the nature of “marketing” as we know it, and I’ll admit I find myself wondering if I can ever advocate for it again.

Most of my colleagues would react with something like “what, are you TRYING to get fired?”

But before we go too far, what I mean is that I doubt I can ever really advocate for it the way it used to be, when it was all top-down messaging from marketing departments flush with quantitative research telling them what to say and how to say it. Words like “convince,” and “convert” seem somehow antiquated, as if the era of command and control is just over.

“Dude, what is WRONG with you?” my friends will ask.

What’s wrong with me is that in this era of social software and ubiquitous mobility, a period of ever-present content and messaging has meshed almost completely with daily life. The inexorable move towards technology and digital footprints among even the youngest and poorest demographics means that content sharing is like talking. Hell, it’s REPLACED talking at my house. Some people are even convinced it’s maybe, sort of OK for computers to start doing the messaging without much input from humans at all!

I’ll pass, thanks.

So what’s my point? I firmly believe that in order for commerce enablers to continue to succeed, they are going to have to get human again. They are going to have to use all their smarts, tools, and capabilities to find groups of people who share their values already, who have personal reasons for wanting to consume or advocate for their offerings. They have to seek out and find their cheerleaders, their true fans, and deliver more than those folks expect on a regular basis. They are going to have to enchant them, because there are too many inputs all day long for anyone to give a brand a second thought unless they do.

Sure, the era of Big Data is just beginning. But to what end? My opinion is that it has to be to find those cheerleaders and make them happy, because the era of big marketing to folks who don’t share your values is on the way out, if it’s not already gone.

Discuss.

How UVa Handled the Announcement of President Teresa Sullivan’s Resignation

By Communications, Crisis Communications

On Sunday, June 10, the University of Virginia released the news that Teresa Sullivan, a president with just two years’ tenure, had been asked to resign. I talked at length with Coy Barefoot on WINA Newsradio 1070, Charlottesville: Right Now on the topic of how the news has been handled.

The challenge with releasing news such as this is that no matter what it’s going to be a shock. There are going to be questions that are either unanswerable or not available for discussion, based on legally binding arrangements among the affected parties. The decision to hold the press conference on a Sunday morning was smart; missing the Sunday paper news cycle and letting the community wrap their collective minds around the information before the opening of business on Monday sidestepped a lot of immediacy in the need to be reactive. Of course, a sudden dismissal of this kind can rock the reputation of a university and of a community that depends so heavily on a university as its major employer, and UVa should be mindful and careful to monitor its online reputation as discussion of Sullivan’s dismissal ensues.

In crisis communications, we urge clients to share news with transparency and reassurance, and the University has focused their messaging on the future: what steps the University is taking to recruit and place a new president. While explanations for the action are somewhat vague and unsatisfying to the community, it’s likely that very few details beyond what we know now will be revealed.

What do you think about how the University has handled the news?

From C’ville Weekly:

“Around 11:30am Sunday, students and faculty received an e-mail from UVA Rector Helen Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington announcing that Sullivan would resign on August 15. Sullivan, who was quoted in the e-mail, said she and the Board had “a philosophical difference in opinion,” but didn’t elaborate.

At an emergency meeting with vice presidents and deans later the same day, Dragas briefly discussed the budgetary hardships faced by the Board and implied a difference of priorities between members and President Sullivan.

“We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions in resource allocation,” Dragas wrote in a memo summarizing the meeting that was posted on UVAToday. She said the compensation of UVA’s employees is continuing to decline, and the challenge of filling vacated spots is “truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.”

The Board still has personal respect for Sullivan, she wrote, but indicated it wants a leader who is more bold and proactive on tackling difficult decisions.

“We are living in a time of rapidly accelerating change in both academia as well as in health care,” Dragas said at a press conference on Sunday.

“That environment, we believe, calls for a different approach to leadership.”

Read more:

The Washington Post 

C’ville Weekly

The Huffington Post

 

Dad’s CRM was named Shirley

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Marketing

Growing up, I remember going into the office with my dad just about every Saturday morning. My grandfather started a kitchen and bath company back in the 60s, and it was a family business with my dad as Vice President of Sales. The office smelled like burnt coffee, printer ink and cigarette smoke. I’d tag along with my dad and draw pictures for the secretaries while he read through his messages and checked on construction schedules. File cabinets lined the back wall of each office, and the sounds of those metal drawers slamming, printers chugging along and faxes coming in created a background drone that I will forever associate with “business.”

After I graduated college and started my first real job, I remember asking my dad how he stayed in touch with all those suburban developers, construction crews, potential clients. “Whatd’you mean, hun?” he asked.

“How do you remember who to stay in touch with? And how often? What their upcoming projects are and when they start?” I asked, feeling overwhelmed by the volume of clients I was learning to manage.

The thing is, he just knew. He’d been working with the same clients for 20 years. The relationships he had with those guys were developed on the golf course and over dinners spanning dozens of projects. Plus, his secretary handled all the files. I think her name was Shirley. She’d talked to clients’ secretaries, and they set up lunches when it made sense. All those metal filing cabinets were filled with the details of every client and project since the company began, and those secretaries’ existence depended on knowing what was happening and when.

When I told him about the first Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) I was working with, you can imagine his reaction. “Hmm, I guess that’s a good idea”.

I think the idea of a program telling you who to call just didn’t jive with a guy who knew his clients’ kids personally. Plus, collecting everyone’s sales numbers and projections to report at the end of each month was part of his job. How weird for it to be done automatically? I think it seemed a bit like a robot replacing his secretary. I can’t really argue with that. Over the years, I’ve used a few: ACT, Recruitmax, ZOHO. They are what you make of them. For me, it’s a nice reminder to have a conversation with someone. I follow clients on LinkedIn and Twitter to hear how they’re doing.

But oh! business before computers and smart phones and the internet, when secretaries greeted you with coffee and your schedule for the day. Have we lost something? How do you manage your clients? How do you keep in touch without sounding like a robot?