A Reputation Full Week

June 22, 2012

A Reputation Full Week

A few things from my week worth sharing. Some more important than others but certainly worth my musing about when it comes to reputational issues.


RED CURLY HAIR. I have been fascinated by the new movie Brave and what I have read about how they fashioned the red curly hair of the first female leading protagonist for Pixar named Merida. “Merida’s explosion of fiery ringlets started as a series of springs on a computer. The Pixar team created many kinds of springs, including short, long, fat, thin, stretched, compressed, bouncy and stiff. In order to give Merida’s hair volume, the springs were entered on the computer screen in layers. The layers varied the length, size and flexibility of each curl. We used 1,500 hand-placed, sculpted individual curls. There is this weird paradox where a ‘spring’ of hair needs to remain stiff in order to hold its curl, but it also has to remain soft in its movement.” Since I have red curly hair that does moves this way, I found it fascinating how challenging they found it to do when I see it live every day. It is a miracle of physics and hair-raising proportions (Merida has more than 1500 individually sculpted, curly red strands that generate about 111700 total hairs!) And also, I have a niece named Merida. My sister visited Mexico many years ago and decided that she loved the name. Apparently the Pixar people had the same experience because I read that it is a name found in both Spain and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Merida will be the new Ariel. Red curly hair is going to break through and have a reputation of its own.


COMMUNICATING ETHICS. I attended a conference this week on best practices in ethics communications. The conference was sponsored by Ethisphere and others. Several companies presented how they have built a culture of integrity and ethical conduct and communicated it successfully. What was most telling was how much work and persistence went into building ethics-minded cultures. Presentations came from AFLAC, GE, AECOM, Realogy, Fluor and a few others. Every company had the usual communications vehicles to show such as posters, contests, wallet fold outs, web sites, internal awards, Q&As, banners, videos, newsletters, logos, screensavers, full weeks dedicated to compliance, and so forth but you could tell that ethics was baked deep within each company and there was zero tolerance for misbehavior or wrong-doing.  Moreover, these companies were willing to tackle the hard questions that get raised when ethics is discussed and confronted. Once a company goes down this road, there is no looking back.  Interestingly, AECOM spoke about a global advisory board which included business and political leaders that they posed questions to and asked for feedback. They found it useful when confronting the challenges of different cultures around the world.  Another great example of a truly imprinted ethics program came from the Panama Canal Authority.  Their program was stellar. GE representatives also spoke about their in-depth initiative which they refer to as The Spirit (Ethics) & The Letter (Compliance) and the importance of tone at the top. Amen.  For all the best practices presented, the CEOs were directly involved and critical to success, particularly because budgets have to be set aside for these kinds of initiatives. GE also spoke about the “need to get caught doing some good things,” having the courage to follow through and recognizing that there are no half measures. Fluor’s efforts were compellingly presented because they are a “quiet” company that made a big public commitment when they helped found the Partnership Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) in 2004 at the World Economic Forum.


STORYTELLING. Just to close the week, I was reading an article in The Economist on my way home last night about how Japanese companies could do a better job of storytelling and marketing their companies. It talked about the cultural bias where making things is considered more virtuous than selling them. It closed with an interesting quote that sums it all up. “In Japan, people say: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down—an engineer’s view. In the West: the squeaky wheel gets oiled—a salesman’s mantra. In a crowded global marketplace, even the best-engineered wheels need to squeak.” Food for thought.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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