“I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation.”
– Joan Jett

Our hero

To quote the ever erudite Homer Simpson,  “Doh!”

A new study from The U.S. Reputation Pulse found that having a strong reputation in 2010 translate into a strong financial performance. Check out this excerpt from the organization’s news release on the report:

Having a strong reputation in 2010 yields more recommendation, more benefit of the doubt and more purchase behavior than ever before. In comparing the Top 10 to the Bottom 10 measured companies, the general public is:

– 300% more likely to verbally support or give the benefit of the doubt;
– 200% more likely to consider products; and
– 350% more likely to purchase products of highly regarded companies.

Should anyone still doubt the value of investing in an integrated public relations strategy, quite frankly they deserve to work alongside Homer at the nuclear power plant.

See more news releases in: Publishing & Information Services, Surveys, Polls and Research

Posted via web from Finding the Rhythm

Study Shows Quantifiable Drivers of Corporate Reputation and Links to Bottom Line Results

NEW YORK, April 20 /PRNewswire/ — Johnson & Johnson takes the top spot for the second consecutive year as the most reputable U.S. company on Reputation Institute’s 2010 U.S. Reputation Pulse. Kraft Foods, Kellogg, The Walt Disney Company, PepsiCo, and Sara Lee rounded out the top tier of U.S. companies in 2010, all with excellent reputations. AIG, the beleaguered financial services firm, continued to dwell at the bottom of the list, finishing 150th out of the 150 companies included in the survey. PepsiCo and Microsoft moved into the top 10 from last year along with newcomers to the study Kellogg, Dean Foods, and Sara Lee. The Reputation Pulse measures the corporate reputations of the largest U.S. companies based on consumers’ trust, esteem, admiration, and good feeling about a company while also gauging perceptions across seven rational dimensions of reputation.

Strong Reputations Lead to Lucrative Bottom-Line Results

According to the U.S. Reputation Pulse findings, Corporate Reputation has an increased impact on business results — a company’s reputation score has a positive and direct link to consumer attitudes and behaviors. Having a strong reputation in 2010 yields more recommendation, more benefit of the doubt and more purchase behavior than ever before. In comparing the Top 10 to the Bottom 10 measured companies, the general public is:

  • 300% more likely to verbally support or give the benefit of the doubt;
  • 200% more likely to consider products; and
  • 350% more likely to purchase products of highly regarded companies.

“In today’s tough economic climate, corporate reputation is critical to sustaining and growing business,” said Anthony Johndrow, Partner & Managing Director, Reputation Institute North America. “This year’s results illustrate a direct correlation between how well a company manages its reputation and how likely consumers are to recommend or reject the company. A good reputation is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a bottom-line business imperative.”

It Pays to Communicate

Respondents who indicate they have bought a company’s products or utilized a customer support service tend to rate those companies higher, indicating that direct experience has the greatest impact on corporate reputation. Third party messages, from the media, online or other people, tend to have a negative effect. Reputation Institute’s findings show that respondents who were reached by companies’ corporate actions and/or communications initiatives scored them 3 points above the U.S. mean.

In fact, a consumer who has encountered a company’s marketing, branding, public relations or social responsibility efforts on average rates the company higher regardless of their reputation ranking—even companies with weak reputations can gain from telling their side of the story.

How to Tell Your Corporate Story

The Reputation Pulse study proves that excellent reputations are built across seven dimensions: Products/Services, Innovation, Governance, Workplace, Citizenship, Leadership and Performance. In the U.S., statistical analysis shows that each dimension accounts for over 12 percent of reputation.

Johndrow sums up the key insight from this reputation driver analysis: “We all know that people care and talk more than ever about the companies behind the products and services they use and they are talking about them. Join this conversation and tell your corporate story to create the support needed in tough times. Corporations can create deeper connections than products can alone, essentially deploying who they are as a company to drive business results.”

Drivers differ by industry, country and stakeholder group. In 2010, across all U.S. companies, Products/Services, followed by Governance, then Citizenship are the most influential dimensions.

Additional Highlights from 2010

  • 10 companies (Chubb, McDonald’s, Archer Daniels Midland, SunTrust Banks, ExxonMobil, AutoNation, Humana, Marathon Oil, CITGO and Staples) increased their reputation scores by seven points or more from 2009
  • U.S. consumers feel the most respected and reputable industries, as measured by the reputations of the biggest companies are: 1) Food Manufacturing, 2) Consumer Products, 3) Transportation & Logistics, 3) Computers, 4) Industrial Products, and 5) General Retail.
  • With mergers, bankruptcies and bail-outs, financial industries suffered the most with the greatest negative individual company changes in reputation. Paradoxically, utilities and communications companies improved as a whole.

Global Reputation Pulse – U.S. Top 25




Johnson & Johnson

Global Pulse Score



Kraft Foods Inc.






The Walt Disney Company






Sara Lee












Dean Foods



General Mills






Publix Super Markets Inc.









Eastman Kodak









HJ Heinz















The Coca-Cola Company





Accessing the Global Reputation Pulse 2010 Findings

For more information about the U.S. Reputation Pulse findings go to www.ReputationInstitute.com to view a video of Reputation Institute Partner & Managing Director Anthony Johndrow discussing key conclusions from the 2010 results and download a PDF of the top line report which includes the full 150 U.S. ranking.

About the Global Reputation Pulse 2010 Study

The Global Reputation Pulse 2010 was conducted online in January and February 2010. A Pulse score is a measure of corporate reputation calculated by averaging perceptions of four indicators — trust, esteem, admiration, and good feeling — obtained from a representative sample of at least 100 local respondents who were familiar with the company. Scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 100, Pulse scores that differ by more than +/-0.5 are significantly different at the 95% confidence level. The U.S. mean for all 150 companies included in the study was 67.38. Top line reports on the 2010 Global Reputation Pulse findings can be downloaded at www.ReputationInstitute.com.

About Reputation Institute

Reputation Institute is the world’s leading reputation consulting firm. As a pioneer in the field of brand and reputation management, Reputation Institute helps companies unlock the power of reputation. With a presence in 30 countries, Reputation Institute is dedicated to advancing knowledge about reputation and shares best practices and current research through client engagement, memberships, seminars, conferences, and publications such as Corporate Reputation Review. Reputation Institute’s 2010 Global Reputation Pulse is the largest study of corporate reputations in the world, identifying what drives reputation and covering more than 1,500 companies from 32 countries annually. Reputation Institute provides specific reputation insight from more than 15 different stakeholder groups and 24 industries, allowing clients to create tangible value from their intangible assets.

Visit www.ReputationInstitute.com to learn how you can unlock the power of your reputation.


Adam Shoer, Reputation Institute

(212) 495-3855 x307, ashoer@reputationinstitute.com

SOURCE Reputation Institute

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“When the whip comes down.”
– The Rolling Stones

"Whoa, Nellie!"

Question:  In 2010, how many buggy whip manufacturers were there in the Fortune 500 list?  How about the Fortune 1000 list?  Heck, I’ll spot you another 1,000 and bet my Beatles collection you can’t find one there either.  Why?  Because buggy whip manufacturers knew that things like Twitter and Facebook were just silly fads that would soon wear out their welcome.  And besides, those new companies were only for teenagers and other such unrefined persons.
Okay, that might not be exactly what they said, but the end result was the same.  Those captains of industry refused to recognize or respond to the massive shifts in consumers’ needs, desires and behaviors that swirled around them.  For whatever reason – whether they were blind, scared and just too set in their ways – they refused to believe that Hank Ford’s Tin Lizzy might just catch on with folks.

Oh and one more thing.  Split Enz, a 1980s band out of New Zealand that later morphed into Crowded House, once sang: “History never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep.”  I wonder what the buggy whip titans 100 years ago told themselves at bedtime.

We may shake our heads in wonder at their naivete today, but might we – or our clients – be guilty of the same thing?  I vote yes.  We need only look as far as our laptops and iPhones for confirmation.

Quite frankly, any company that serves consumers and doesn’t believe it needs to monitor and provide customer service through channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and others deserves what it gets.  In 2008, such a perspective may have been understandable.  In 2010 with the very public and very painful lessons we’ve seen, such a perspective is unbelievable (and unfair to its employees, shareholders and customers).  Attached below is a great post I came across in Business Week that explains this better than I ever could.  Take three minutes and give this a spin; it will be time well-spent, I can assure you.

Defeating the Dark Side of Social Networking

Companies can’t rein in the conversations happening on social networks and blogs, but they can respond to their most vocal customers

By Joseph Hughes and Chris Boudreaux

For all of its blessings, social media Web sites are vexing lots of companies. The instantaneous sharing of information and opinions about products on Twitter, blogs, and other sites is compelling companies to try to influence these conversations through technology and new ways of thinking.

Businesses don’t really need to worry any longer about losing control of what consumers are saying about them on the Web; that control is pretty much gone. Many companies are being victimized by social media rather than capitalizing on it because they’re too slow and ill-equipped to react to negative comments that can damage their brands. For example, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) in 2008 had to apologize for an online ad for its painkiller Motrin after a backlash of comments from mothers in the blogosphere who objected to the advertisement’s tone.

To be sure, companies can generate sales leads and gain market share by promoting themselves through tweets and blogs. Dell’s (DELL) IdeaStorm site, which lets consumers suggest enhancements and fixes to products, is one prominent example. Nearly half of Internet users say they value information from other consumers more than information supplied by companies, according to Forrester Research (FORR).

Companies Slow to Respond

For the most part, though, companies are too slow to respond to the online flood of information being published about them by consumers. Since it’s easier than ever for customers to tell each other when service is bad, responding quickly is critical. Repeat buying is usually driven by positive customer service, not price, Accenture’s (ACN) research shows.

But many organizations can take weeks or months to react to negative conversations, leaving far too much time for damage to set in. Even worse, some companies don’t respond at all.

Let’s look at some examples of vendors that have taken the initiative in sorting, analyzing, and responding to the data pouring in through social media. These companies are taking steps to combine the sort of free-form information flowing in from blogs, e-mails, and tweets with data stored in traditional database software, in order to make judgments about where customers’ concerns lie.

Software maker Attivio is developing the ability to analyze both those kinds of data to help companies detect the social media buzz about them. Then its software helps companies feed that information into their customer management systems to react to those findings. Clarabridge, a maker of “text mining” software, makes tools that combine linguistic rules with machine learning techniques to help companies categorize customer comments and sentiments so they can react to them.

Note: This post originally appeared on Forge Ahead, the blog from Forge Communications.

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“It’s a matter of trust.”
– Billy Joel

He'll be back

I really, really like this post from @mashable (Greg Ferenstein) about how to build trust in the world of social media.   As the article accurately points out, the rules — while certainly related to the non-digital world — are somewhat different in the Web 2.0 world (gosh, is anybody still using that term?).  The videos from Gov. Schwarzeneggar (thanking Twitterers) and Domino’s CEO (apologizing for the YouTube fiasco) are perfect examples of the article’s main thrust regarding authenticity, credibility and effectiveness.Ferenstein draws on the work of Professor Judy Olson, an expert in the psychology of trust, and applies lessons from that research to today’s digital conversation landscape.  Read this section of his article with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in mind and see what bubbles to the surface:

People are willing to pass judgment, with or without good information. Where examples of one’s competence or reputation are lacking, people will construct whole profiles of another’s personality from what little information is available.

And, as Ferenstein points out, the keys to credibility in today’s communication environment are not far from our grasp:

Few, if any, educational institutes teach the art of proper digital communication. Most of us have simply made up an impromptu strategy and crossed our fingers in the hopes that disaster doesn’t strike. With a bit of help from our friends in the fields of psychology and information technology, we can apply the age-old intuitions of face-to-face conversation to whatever advances in technology come our way. [emphasis added]

When public relations is practiced correctly, it is an amalgam of communication theory, marketing, business, economics, psychology, political science, sociology, literature, history, science and a host of other disciplines.  Well-read practitioners who are students of human behavior and psychology hold the keys to the social media kingdom in their hands if they give themselves permission to let go of biases and stereotypes.

For anyone in the public relations business — especially the crisis communications field — this article is a must-read and one that is worth pondering.

Posted via web originally from Finding the Rhythm

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“It’s a small world, after all.”
– Robert and Richard Sherman

We knew it all along

In business, “Thinking Big” is an imperative.  We celebrate “big thinkers” and avoid “small minds” like last year’s fruitcake.  But the “size = quality” equation doesn’t always work in public relations where it’s often more effective – cost-wise and results-wise – to narrow one’s focus.

From newspapers, magazines and newsletters to blogs, e-zines, Twitter and satellite radio, the potential ways to reach stakeholders are multiplying almost as fast as the spam choking your Inbox.  But as the number of channel choices goes up, the effectiveness of any single channel goes down – and fast.

Fact is, the days of a monolithic culture are gone.  Don’t believe it?  Ask a 10-year-old to identify any two of the following:  the Fonz, Uncle Miltie, Johnny Carson or Walter Cronkite.  Without a case of DVDs or TV Land, the chance of that kid knowing these towering icons is less than K-Fed’s chance of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  While still influential, mass media channels are growing less powerful as singular communications tools every day.

To connect with stakeholders today, think small.  In a fragmented world brimming with communications clutter, eschew shotguns scattering data (and money…) in favor of rifles that hit targets with laser-like precision.  Need to reach medical specialists?  Skip the national news release and order a generous helping of targeted journal articles with a side order of professional association newsletters.  Need to talk with neighbors?  Hold a coffee klatch instead of a news conference.  Want to get input from teens on a new product?  Implement a mobile market research program and leave the Facebook posts, e-mail blasts and magazine contests to the dustbin of history.

Choose the right tool for the job.  Remember:  a bigger hammer does not make a better house.

“Just give me some truth,
All I want is the truth.”
– John Lennon

layoffsIn this most difficult and unsettling (to put it mildly . . .) economic time, announcements of job cuts have become all too common.  Whether called a layoff, RIF, headcount reduction, strategic restructuring or “utilization reassessment” (a personal favorite), the bottom line is the same.  It’s bad news, and no one likes to deliver it.  And most companies don’t like to have it delivered for them either.  But the bottom line is the bottom line, and companies that refuse to adapt to changes in their environment can end up as vague memories.

Often caught in the middle of these maelstroms are public relations professionals whose job it is to speak on behalf of their companies or clients.  In years past, public relations professionals have been dinged – sometimes rightfully so – for engaging in corporate-speak, back-pedaling or the ever-popular “spin control” when announcing staff cuts.  Honesty and authenticity have become all too rare.

How refreshing it was then to see this comment from the senior vice president of corporate communications for a Fortune 100 company (and a client of mine):  “The message for the last several months has been that ‘We don’t foresee any mass layoffs,'” he said in an interview Friday. “Maybe that wasn’t a good way to say it.  “Our point has been that mass layoffs were not going happen at [this company] like at some others that have cut thousands of jobs. But there are no guarantees that positions will not be eliminated and employees not be impacted.”

Talk about honesty.  Talk about humility.  Talk about straight-talk.  Talk about a BGO. That’s what all employees – and all of us, for that matter – want and deserve.

And that’s what smart public relations professionals make sure their organizations deliver.

“I can’t live if living is without you.”
– Harry Nilsson

Obama's tether to the outside world

Obama's tether to the outside world

Seeing this story in The New York Times about President-elect Obama’s desire (read: urgent need) to keep hold of his treasured Blackberry reminded me of that old joke about the differences among marketing, advertising and public relations.

You’re a woman and you see a handsome guy at a party.  You go up to him and say, “I’m fantastic in bed.”  That’s Marketing.

You’re at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy.  One of your friends goes up to him and pointing at you says, “She’s fantastic in bed.”  That’s Advertising.

You’re at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, “I hear you’re fantastic in bed.”  That’s Public Relations.

When the President-elect tells the world he can’t live without your product, That’s Priceless Public Relations.

1.22.09 Update:  Yet more priceless public relations and brand boost.  Obama wins argument.

The Tar Heel State's seal

The Tar Heel State's seal

“You talk about a dream,
Try to make it real.”
— Bruce Springsteen

While Latin is rarely taught in schools these days, every North Carolina student today and for the past 100 years is familiar with three Latin words:  “esse quam videri.”  Or “to be rather than to seem.”  That’s our state motto, and it’s everywhere from the floor of the State House to government agencies’ Web sites.

That adage popped back in my mind this morning as I read news reports on President-elect Obama’s appointment of Nancy Killefer to the newly created White House post of Chief Performance Officer.  As CPO, Ms. Killefer will work with federal agencies to set performance standards and hold agency managers accountable for progress.

In Obama’s words, “Change and reform can’t just be election-year slogans. They must become fundamental principles of government.”  Hailing the post as “one of the most important” appointments he will make, Obama said Killefar is charged with restoring fiscal order and reforming government.

Talk about a challenge.  Geez . . .

Killefar brings some serious street cred to the post.  She currently serves as a senior director for McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading management consulting firms.  Killefar also served as an assistant secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration.

By establishing an executive-level position with responsibility for improving the overall effectiveness of our government and appointing someone with hands-on experience, Obama took an important step in helping build public confidence in his leadership style and judgment.

Whether Killefar can succeed is up for debate.  But whether Obama’s announcement was a smart public relations move is pretty darned clear.  It demonstrated two core principles of any effective public relations program, whether it be for a non-profit association, multi-national corporation or the U.S. government:  accountability begins – and ends – in the CEO’s office, and actions speak louder than words.  Note Obama’s comment about “election-year slogans” and “fundamental principles” – i.e., rather than just talking about doing something, the Obama Administration is taking concrete action.  To be rather than to seem.  Talk about a BGO.

And they say Latin is a dead language.

“Here’s a little somethin’ I would like to relate.
Any fish bite, you’ve got good bait.
I’m a-goin’ a-fishin’, yes, I’m a-goin’ a-fishin’,
I’m a-goin’ a-fishin’ too”
– Lovin’ Spoonful

Sea kittens at play

Those crazy kids over at PETA are at it again with a brand new — and pretty darned clever — promotional campaign.  Launched this week, “Save the Sea Kittens” is designed to persuade people — or more accurately young kids who then will nag/persuade their parents (something akin to groceries putting Cap’n Crunch on the bottom shelves in the cereal aisle — to stop catching, buying, cooking and/or eating fish.

Like renaming abortion as “Pro Choice” or “Baby Killing,” PETA uses as bait an innovative moniker to grab attention and invite us to learn more about this “new” species.  Once hooked (sorry, it’s just too easy — sorta like shooting fish, err, sea kittens in a barrel . . .), we — and our young children — are primed to fish around for more information.  And note that the artwork matches the storyline.  No nasty hammerhead sharks biting surfers’ legs off here.  Rather, we’re treated to a Nemo-like world filled with cute fish sporting big puppy dog — or more accurately, kitten — eyes.

All in all, a very well-conceived and well-executed PR program that will likely gain widespread attention for PETA and its platform.  And honestly, what else can one ask of a PR campaign?

On the downside, though, I’m now having a serious jones for a plate of sushi . . .

“Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.”
– Paul Simon

What $31,000 can buy you these days

What $31,000 can buy you these days

If anyone ever doubts the cost-effectiveness of a well-executed strategic public relations program, just refer them to this piece from The Washington Post. From attending local funerals and interviews with Alaskan radio stations to the number two spot on the Republican ticket – in less than a year.   For $31,000.

Like her or not, Sarah Palin’s story is a flat-out amazing illustration of the power of personality and public relations.

But is this song so different?
Am I doing it all again?
It may have been done before.
But then music’s an open door.

– Pete Townshend

Lancelot and Mata are here to save the day

Lancelot and Mata are here to save the day

Some folks in the office this past Friday were YouTubing it with an episode of “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp.” In this installment, our hero, Lancelot, and his bikini-baring associate, Mata Hairi foiled the evil plans of the monocle-wearing villain Baron von Butcher yet again by breaking up international smuggling ring. Our fearless heroes, Lance and Mata, surfed to safety afterwards as Butcher wiped out in the waves and ended up dazed and confused on a piece of driftwood laying on the beach.

Wanting to share this “rediscovered gem” with my 15-year-old daughter, I invited her to watch the episode with me this morning. We inevitably clicked on some of the related links, and I soon was chagrined to find myself reliving my childhood with “The Banana Splits” and “H.R. Puffenstuff.”

As I tried to explain to my very-puzzled daughter that “Lancelot Link” was a take-off for kids on “Get Smart,” which was a take-off for American TV viewers on James Bond movies, and that “The Banana Splits” was a take-off for kids on “The Monkees,” which was a take-off on The Beatles (Richard Lester’s direction of “A Hard Day’s Night,” to be specific, which was a take-off on The Marx Brothers . . .), I was struck by the number of take-offs, adaptations and otherwise direct and indirect copies of shows, ideas and programs we see, hear and read every day.

Like Jung’s archetypes, there are storylines, characters, fables, melodies and the like that catch human fancy. Good vs. evil, a flawed hero, love gone awry, the I-IV-V progression of blues – all of these have been with us in one form or fashion for millennia.

And the same is true in other disciplines. Take technology, for instance. Is Facebook all that different from the first telephones that allowed friends from great distances to keep in touch more effectively and immediately? Is an iPod all that distinct from a transistor radio (or a gramophone, for that matter) that put the power of musical choice in people’s hands?

Following this line of thinking, so too are public relations and marketing strategies not all that different from one another. That is, there’s really not much new under the sun. JFK used television to promote his vision and persona to the masses; Obama uses text messaging to announce his pick for vice president. In the Nineteenth Century, companies used vivid stories and advertisements in newspapers to entice settlers to the West; today, companies attract buyers for new products and services via tweets and blogs.

Hence the reason public relations (and marketing, for that matter) is as much a science as an art. There are underlying psychological, social and communication constructs that help define and direct human thought and action. While we’re not all simply black boxes devoid of independent decision-making abilities nor Pavlovian hounds waiting on the next biscuit, we are, to some degree, cloth woven from a common thread with enough similarity in attitude and behavior to make possible (and profitable) educated predictions about how we as individuals and groups will respond to communication stimuli.

Simply put, all other things being equal there are certain communication strategies and tactics that ought to – and very often do – work. A well-crafted community relations program built on time-tested, fundamental public relations principles ought to help a company build and foster relationships with external stakeholders. An honest, open and proactive investor relations program that provides accurate, timely and pertinent data to current and potential investors should help a public company build value within the financial community.

It’s up to communications professionals to study history, psychology, political science, sociology, theology and the full realm of the humanities to learn those a priori principles and understand how to put them to work for our companies and clients.