The six steps you need to rebuild your reputation | eNews from OWC

Last month, we discussed reputation and business risks in today’s amplified and weaponized social media world. Here’s six key steps you need to take should you experience a reputational hit:

  • Be first, be fast and be sorry. Companies and executives establish trust and confidence from stakeholders when they address issues immediately. ‘Scandals’ are born from trying to hide information. To get ahead of an issue, set the record straight quickly, schedule conference calls with the investment community including analysts. Have a call sheet with top clients and phone them directly. Since social media moves constantly and within seconds, check all channels, know the right hashtags and post your side of the story.
  • Prioritize the audiences. There is a common misconception that if you’re a public company, your first duty is to your investors and the analyst community. But there are some situations where it may be more important that your employees don’t walk out the door because when they leave, you’re really out of business. Where’s your biggest danger? Get there first, then move on to the next leak in the system.
  • Drive knowledge-based actions. If you don’t have one, get a monitoring and tracking system for company news, social media channels and any other touchpoints you have with customers, investors and employees. You and your team need to have visibility into the reporting and be empowered to act and use the pre-drafted and approved holding statements, which are no doubt in your crisis communications plan, right?
  • Build a reservoir of goodwill. More than three-quarters of business executives (76%) feel an organization’s role as an ethical company and good corporate citizen has a very strong impact on the brand’s reputation. Positive news about new customers, executives, initiatives, offices and community outreach programs creates friends and generates goodwill with customers, business partners and media. Some of the simple things, such as reporting your good news with press releases can be overlooked in the heat of the moment. Paying to have them posted on wire services like Business Wire and PR Newswire (approximately $800 to $1,000, depending on word count) is well worth the money in SEO and online visibility. Also, post on social and pay to boost posts.
  • Activate third-party explainers. Whether it is research analysts and industry influencers or an employee, a second opinion on an issue can provide credibility. In fact, employees are the first line of defense for a brand. They’re an important advocate. Weekly or monthly Q&A sessions with all employees can dispel rumors and create buy-in for all external touchpoints. We have clients who have “Ask the Founders” meetings where questions from employees are drawn anonymously – nothing is off limits. True transparency is a strong reputation management tool.
  • Put a face on the brand. Nothing can tell the story like a well-trained spokesperson. Typically, the company CEO is the spokesperson. They need to speak honestly, openly and authentically with no room for interpretation. Clear, concise and compelling messaging can be converted into Op-Ed articles and byline stories in business and trade outlets that may also result in media interviews.

We can’t hide from a crisis in 21st-century communications. A change in your company’s market value is just a tweet, online petition or viral photo away. The story will be told, written or broadcast with or without our cooperation. But, nearly three-quarters (73%) of business executives are not as ready as they could be to react to an unexpected crisis even though more than 25% of a company’s market value is derived from its reputation.

Stay ahead of future crises by doing a thorough reputation risk assessment to see what threats your company is facing. Only 50 percent of companies have a ready-to-go crisis plan. Don’t let that be your company.

November 1st, 2018|Categories: eNewsletter|Tags: , , , , , |

How to Manage Your Reputation in a Weaponized Communication Culture | eNews from OWC

As 2019 approaches, “business as usual” is over. Social media has been weaponized to amplify anyone who opposes your actions or opinions. The status quo is under assault from every side. And it’s worth considering that every successful business is the status quo, by definition. Our very success now guarantees we’ll be watched, tested, probed and challenged.

That’s good, since we intend to win. But it means reputation management and crisis communication planning is not just smart, but critical to a company’s very existence. We need to be prepared to respond to issues from customers, shareholders, investors, employees and the media that would otherwise take us by surprise.

The new awareness is beyond dispute. According to consulting firm Mercer, “boards are now holding executives to higher standards, looking not just at how they treat people but also how they talk to and about them.” The Wall Street Journal reported that a group of venture capitalists is pushing a standard clawback clause proposal. The clause would make it easier for big investors to extract fines from companies embattled by controversy.

A company’s reputation is its bottom line. If your company’s reputation takes a hit on social media, your very existence as a company is in mortal peril.

Hundreds of individuals and companies have been destroyed or damaged due to negative brand reputation. Over 700 high-profile executives and employees across fields and industries have been called out by the #MeToo movement in the past year. By June, 190 of those accused were fired or left their jobs. Another 122 have been put on leave, suspended or are facing investigations since December 2016.

A study from Stanford showed that the fallout from bad behavior displayed by chief executives was long-lasting. The study looked at 38 incidents, which generated an average of 250 news stories each with media attention lasting almost five years. Shares suffered and, in a third of cases, firms faced further damage, including loss of major clients, federal investigations, shareholder lawsuits or proxy battles.

Our clients are on the front line of these battles and are well prepared to answer questions about their values and how they live by them because they’ve thought through their vulnerabilities and addressed weaknesses.

We use the following reputation risk management assessment tool to identify areas of vulnerabilities and help companies develop a C-Suite level response plan that is ready to communicate to every stakeholder.

We are our reputations, in business and in life. Good risk management lets us sleep well, and not wake up to bad news.

OWC’s Tracy Williams talks to Variety about Hollywood’s zero tolerance policy

Times have changed, writes Variety’s Gene Maddaus. In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, dozens of men have been ousted for allegations of sexual misconduct. It was a long time coming, but when it came, it was sudden. Now the same urgency and zero-tolerance mentality are being applied to offensive statements as well as deeds.

“The studios haven’t behaved well. They have been bad actors,” said Tracy Williams, CEO of Olmstead Williams Communications. “Suddenly there’s a spotlight put on them, and they realize they need to button up. Every company is moving quickly. Heads are flying; look at all the people getting fired.”

Read the full article: Is Hollywood’s New Zero-Tolerance Policy a Reaction to the Trump Era? (Variety)

July 24th, 2018|Categories: OWC News|Tags: , , , , , |

5 Crisis Management Tips We Can Learn from Zuckerberg | eNews from OWC

There’s no question that over the last decade Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has grown from a flip-flop wearing startup bro into a full-blown tech tycoon and astute businessman to be reckoned with. There is, however, a debate on how well he’s handled the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle. While Zuckerberg’s initial absence and radio-silence approach is ill-advised during a crisis, it’s clear he spent his time out of the spotlight when the fiasco first broke getting some much-needed media training. There were several ways he handled the congressional hearing surprisingly well, and a few where he faltered. Here’s what we can learn from the latest PR disaster taking the world by storm:

Be transparent … quickly and of your own volition.
Before attending the congressional hearing, Zuckerberg was relatively absent from the conversation, allowing a news vacuum to open and anyone with a theory to fill the void. Don’t let others create fake news to explain your story. Get in front of controversy by being as transparent as possible, disclosing all the facts as quickly as possible and making yourself available for questions from the media. Answering “no comment” is an unacceptable response. Get the facts out and get them out fast.

Control the narrative, not the reporters.
Don’t threaten to sue The New York Times and the Guardian for publishing the facts. This is a sure-fire way to turn your most important potential allies against you. Covering the news is a reporter’s job, but the way they frame a story is a choice – and your interactions with them influence that choice. Are you making their job easier or more difficult? Are you dodging their questions or creating an open line of communication?

Guide the interview and stick to your messages.
One thing Zuckerberg did particularly well during the hearing was control the interview. He stuck to his talking points and stayed on message employing a few strategic tactics, like:

  • Building a bridge. If a reporter starts to wander into areas you don’t want to talk about, answer the reporter’s inquiry briefly, then build a bridge back to your key points. When Zuckerberg was pushed on certain sensitive topics, such as defining what Facebook is, he took control of the conversation by bridging to a topic he felt was relevant and supported his messaging.
  • Rephrasing tricky questions. It’s important not to let anyone put words in your mouth, but don’t argue. To avoid getting stuck in a semantics war, restructure loaded questions to guide back to your talking points and where you feel comfortable with phrases like “I think what you’re asking is …” A great example of this is when Zuckerberg addressed regulation questions with a question of his own: “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation? Not whether there should be or not.”
  • Flagging key points. Emphasize that the statement you are about to make is one the reporter should remember. Zuckerberg did a great job of illustrating this tactic when responding to Sen. Leahy’s question on Facebook’s role in violence in Myanmar saying “Yes, we’re working on this and there are three specific things we are doing…” He then proceeded to list the three actionable tactics, along with the reasons behind them, succinctly in only 36 seconds.

Be prepared.
This is another area where Zuckerberg shined. He arrived calm and collected with soundbite messages prepared and his key objectives defined. He even brought a now-notorious binder of notes to help him answer tough questions about hot-button issues should he get stuck. Preparation goes a long way to helping you feel more in control and at ease.

Say ‘sorry.’
It’s important to humanize your brand by being sincere and apologetic. Apologizing doesn’t have to be synonymous with admitting fault; it’s about expressing concern that the crisis occurred. Express concern for any victims and their families. If a mistake was made, apologize. There’s a common saying: “People buy people, not products.” It means that people choose to do business with people they feel connected to, like and, above all, trust. Zuckerberg has spent 14 years as the face of Facebook, yet when the news broke, he was missing from the conversation and so was his public apology.

While crises are inevitable, we can choose how we respond when they do happen. Let Zuckerberg’s reaction to the recent troubles Facebook is facing be a lesson to you. Remember: don’t delay, apologize, be transparent and be accountable.

April 20th, 2018|Categories: eNewsletter|Tags: , , , , , , |