CEO Fears

I always wonder what makes CEOs scared. Who wouldn't? The impression they give is that they are always up to the task. This research from Vantage Hill Partners just appeared in HBR's weekly bulletin and describes what CEOs are most afraid of. It is based on interviews with 116 CEOs and other executives and provides some fascinating insights. Roger Jones who wrote the piece and is CEO of Vantage Hill completed 27 in-depth interviews and writes that the most frequently mentioned fears were "losing their reputation, underachieving, and dying, both literally and in their career, and how it inspires a fixation on status, appearing youthful, and making money." On the same day I read this I was on my way to work and read about Dennis Kozlowski, former CEO of Tyco, who was convicted and served time in prison for "looting the company." In the interview with Kozlowski who symbolized the Celebrity CEO era and who is now free, he admits "I was piggy. But I'm not that person anymore." His big luxury today is having a fresh avocado whenever he pleases. That's a big change from his days of "Deal-A-Day Dennis." The fixation on money does feed into the downside of CEOs and leads to big problems. 

However, stay tuned. We are coming out with some new research on CEO reputation and it's anything but celebrity these days.

Thought My Title was Cool TIL...

I love to tell people my title because it is fairly unusual -- chief reputation strategist. At least it was nearly 10 years ago when I was hired at Weber Shandwick. Today I was reading an article about the rebranding of Hillary Clinton which is definitely worth a read and it described how she had hired consumer marketing specialists to help shape her reputation for the presidential election in 2016.  There are references to how a variety of brands have had to reinvent themselves over time such as JCPenney, Coca-Cola and Budweiser. 

But back to my opener about titles and a new one that just came across in the above article -- chief purposologist. The owner of this title is Haley Rushing at the Purpose Institute. Here is how she describes what she does: "As Chief Purposologist, Haley leads a team of people who act as organizational therapists, anthropologists and investigators dogged in their pursuit of uncovering the purpose at the heart of an organization."  When it comes to Hillary, Rushing's partner and co-founder Roy Spence says that they are looking for that one word that describes Hillary's promise. The big question in rebranding or reinventing Hillary for the campaign is What is her promise to the world? "With Mercedes, it’s quality. With Volvo, it’s safety. With Coca-Cola, it’s refreshment. If you can get her promise down to one word, that’s the key.” President Obama had Hope and also Change. A few words. Once Hillary and her branding wizards figure out that one word that will sum it all up, they should be on their way. Maybe it is not so complicated and the one word is Hillary!

Instead of Purposologist, why not Promisologist? 


My reputation as a passenger

I was on my way home late from work the other night when my Uber driver and I struck up a nice conversation. I was so pleased to find myself in a warm car when the temperature was so frigid and he was in the mood to tell me about how Uber rates its passengers. When my ride ended, he showed me that he was giving me the highest rating on a scale from 1 to 5.  I was surprised because he and I had some difficulties at the start figuring out exactly which corner I was on and his GPS had him circling around the block for two or three minutes.  I figured that this wrinkle had to be my fault and would sink my rating. As I recently read, "Customer reviews are a new form of credit report, one that measures comportment instead of finances." I like the idea that how I comport myself as a passenger matters to my reputation because it makes us all more mindful about the men or women behind the wheel in the service business. Being mindful can go far in reminding us that there are other people in this world besides colleagues, clients, family and friends. Usually I sit in the back seat reading my New York Times or Wall Street Journal trying to catch up on the day and regain my equilibrium from a day in the office. Now that I understand that I am also being rated, I need to chill out, listen to some music and have a meaningful conversation with a stranger who might teach me a thing or two. I think it is only fair that reputation-rating goes both ways. 

Reputation, for Better or Worse

The Harris RQ (Reputation Quotient) was just released. It is an annual poll among nearly 28,000 Americans and focuses on those companies with the most visible reputations, for better or for worse. There is the usual ranking of most reputable companies down to the least reputable that we have all become accustomed to. This year they also surveyed a group of Opinion Elites who the researchers felt are likely to influence other stakeholders and perhaps carry more weight. Interestingly, the companies voted the best by the consuming public are not all that dissimilar to what the Opinion Elites voted in for their top 10. The degree of consensus is quite remarkable and leads me to think that the reputation know-how of consumers today is fairly deep. As we have found in our own research, the consumer is intent on investing their hard-earned money primarily in companies they trust, respect and know will have their backs. 

In the press release from Harris Interactive, Carol Gstalder, Reputation and Public Relations Practice Leader for the Harris Poll, confirms our thinking, “The American public strongly believes reputation matters and acts on that belief. This year’s results show that more than half of the public actively seeks out information about companies they hear about or do business with, and 36% say they’ve decided against doing business with a company because of something they learned about its conduct. Companies need to evaluate and understand the increasing expectations consumers have when it comes to corporate reputation, specifically what they think, say and do, as well as how best to engage with them.”

Reputation matters to all stakeholders nowadays and has become a barometer for what people are buying, recommending and sharing with friends and family.