Getting ahead in the reputation game

Reputation Management Concept on the Cogwheels.Reputation and the importance of a good reputation is well understood; for businesses reputation is a vital and valuable commercial asset, albeit intangible. But how do organisations actively protect their reputation and manage the risks to it being damaged?

That is a harder question to answer. The 2014 Forbes Insights Survey found that 39 per cent of companies surveyed rated the maturity of their reputation risk programmes as “average” or “below average,” and only 19 per cent gave themselves an “A” grade for their capabilities at managing reputation risk. Clearly there is still much to be done – but what? In this blog, I offer some ideas for consideration and debate.

Influencers of corporate reputation 

External perceptions of quality, transparency and trust are key influencers of corporate reputation, as found by research published in the Edelman Trust Barometer (an annual survey of more than 5,000 informed publics in 23 countries), the Fortune 500 listing of the world’s most admired companies and the Reputation Institute. But herein lie the first two problems for reputation risk management.  Reputation is an intangible asset and its gift is in the hands of your stakeholders; both factors make it harder to gauge. Continue reading

Launch of BS 65000, The new British Standard for Organisational Resilience

The GuildhallThe new British Standard, Guidance on Organisational Resilience (BS 65000: 2014) was launched on 27th November at the Guildhall in the City of London. The venue was an apt choice for the launch of a resilience Standard; built in the 15th century, the Guildhall is one of the older secular buildings in London not only surviving both the Great Fire and the blitz but also remaining relevant today as the high-tech home of the City of London Corporation and the setting for many banquets, receptions and corporate events.  This history of the Guildhall struck me as having parallels with the essence of organisational resilience described by Chairman of the BS 65000 committee, Dr Robert MacFarlane from the UK Cabinet Office. He emphasised that resilience is a dynamic concept requiring organisations not only to be able to continue with their business operations during a sudden change or disruption but also to adapt over time to keep pace with changes in their wider context in order to survive and prosper. It seems the Guildhall has managed this. Continue reading

GM Recall: History Need Not Repeat Itself

toyotaGMlogoAs the US Department of Justice (DoJ) concludes a 4-year, billion dollar investigation into Toyota, Mary Barra, recently appointed CEO of General Motors (GM), has stepped into the firing line.

While Toyota is set to pay out a staggering $1.2Bn fine to the DoJ for covering-up fatal mechanical defects that caused their cars to ‘unintentionally accelerate’, GM recently announced a recall of 2.6 million cars with defects linked to 13 deaths. Their own cover-up began back in 2001.

The original intention of this post was a comparison of GM’s crisis leadership with that of Toyota’s during their damaging 2009 recall. However, with Toyota facing the largest criminal penalty ever levied against a car manufacturer, substantial recalls being announced almost daily (over 11 million vehicles so far this year) and GM being fined the maximum daily amount by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it has become clear that this is a much larger issue for the automotive industry as a whole.

Continue reading

Crisis Management Planning 101: Learning from Asiana’s Mistakes

By Isobel Nicholas

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines was roundly criticised in the aftermath of its response to the crash of Flight 214 on Sunday 6th July 2013 at San Francisco airport, inflicting severe damage to its reputation.  The criticism largely stems from its silence in the hours after the crash and the lack of information made available to support victims of the crash and their families as they struggled to find out what had happened and whether their loved ones were involved.

Here we review what happened and look at what lessons in crisis management planning and crisis communications can be learned. Continue reading

Key themes from the inaugural Crisis Management Conference

By Dominic Cockram

CMC2013 - Final

The inaugural Crisis Management Conference was held last week to a sell out audience in London. Over 150 delegates sat down in the splendid surrounding of the Institute of Civil Engineers, just off Parliament Square in Westminster, to listen to a full day’s programme of speakers from the Cabinet Office, Unilever, BBC, CIPR, Goldman Sachs, Bank of England and University of Portsmouth.

The conference was conducted under Chatham House rules to allow for greater freedom in the presentations and discussion, but I have noted the key themes to come out of the day and share them here, for wider consideration.

  •  Capability Building  Crisis management isn’t just about the response.  It is a capability that has to be built and encompasses prevention (horizon scanning), preparation (planning, training and, above all, rehearsal), response (adaptability and flexibility) and review.
  • People  People with the right knowledge, skills and experience are central to an effective crisis management capability, but you have to ensure they are ready by training.
  • Prosperity  There is a positive correlation between crisis management, resilience and prosperity of an organisation.
  • Learning  Identifying lessons is only beneficial if they are put into practise so lessons identified become lessons learned.
  • Values  An organisation’s values should guide its response to a crisis as much as they guide day-to-day business.
  • Reputation  Building your reputation capital before a crisis is as important as communicating well during a crisis.

At the end of the conference sessions, an open forum was held with members of the BS11200 Crisis Management Standards committee, to encourage discourse from the floor about the British Standard in development.  A fascinating range of questions and opinions were shared and the panel left with more clarity as to what people wish to see in the Standard.

A more detailed report has been produced on the themes and lessons that came out of the day which can be found on the Conference page here.

The conference has established that there is strong interest in sharing knowledge about crisis management and encouraging debate and we are already planning another event for Spring 2014.

Finally,thanks must go to all the team here at Steelhenge for making it such a well organised day!


To see the full programme and to register for the Crisis Management Conference 2014 please click here!

Brandjacking: A history of the latest corporate crisis

BurgerKing_hackBy Rosanna Moseley

This week, Twitter hacking has been the corporate crisis of the moment. It started with Burger King on Monday, when their official Twitter handle @BurgerKing was hijacked and adorned with McDonalds’ branding, and claims that ‘the whopper flopped’ and had been bought by their arch-rival and a string of offensive tweets followed. On Tuesday, Jeep was taken over Continue reading

Public vs Private: Are the stakes higher for commercial organisations in a crisis?

By Katie Collison

Recent events and corporate crises have got me thinking – are the immediate impacts and long-term consequences the same for both public and private sector organisations?

The Financial Crisis – a case in point

Blame for the 2008 financial crisis has been apportioned to both the private sector banks, and also their public-sector regulators (namely the FSA) for failing to ‘limit the impact of the misjudgments made by the financial institutions’.

So how do the impacts and consequences compare Continue reading

Lights on at Goldman: When good business continuity triggers criticism

By Dominic Cockram

Last week, while Hurricane Sandy continued to cause devastation across America’s east coast and floods in New York City had yet to subside, images of the Goldman Sachs building lit up against a dark skyline (see above) was shared across social media. While this beacon of light was testament to their rock-solid business continuity planning and preparation, many saw it as a symbol of corporate greed and all that is wrong with modern America.

Here are a choice few reactions from the Twittersphere:

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Leading through a Crisis: did Obama pass Crisis Management 101?

By Dr Claudia van den Heuvel

The old cliché is true: in every crisis lies an opportunity, and never more so than for those who display great leadership in difficult times – successful leaders emerge stronger, more trusted and with enhanced reputations. So what makes a successful leader? And did Obama display these crucial qualities when faced with the devastation wrecked by Superstorm Sandy?

Confident Leadership: springing into action

Within a crisis, people look to a leader to be confident, in charge, directive and establish a sense of control. Leaders must be seen to be making immediate, authoritative and directive action to establish that control.

Continue reading

Toyotal Recall – One Company’s Approach to Two Different Crises

By Dominic Cockram

Yesterday, Toyota announced a recall due to a fault with the window switches in 7.4 million cars – roughly the same number as their total sales for the last financial year. Has the car maker learnt some crisis management lessons from the ‘unintended acceleration’ recall crisis it faced in 2009? As crisis management experts, we take a look at both recalls and see how Toyota has fared so far.

In 2009, Toyota’s reputation took a beating when it was forced to issue a 12-million vehicle recall for problem accelerators that ostensibly caused cars to speed-up suddenly for no apparent cause.  It later materialised that there was no electronic-based cause for ‘unintended acceleration’ in Toyota vehicles, but a prolonged media frenzy, a $16.4 million civil penalty for their mis-handling of the crisis, and a halt to sale and production on certain models had already damaged Toyota’s brand perception and bottom line.

The scale of last week’s announcement provides a unique opportunity to examine one company’s response to two similar events.

 The 2009 Recall: A Media Firestorm Continue reading