Reputation Ups and Downs

December 05, 2009

Reputation Ups and Downs

Quite the week on many counts. For one, I was quoted in the WSJ on the Tiger Woods crisis. The best part about being quoted besides seeing what the writer ends up taking from your conversation and how it fits into the piece is the time spent on thinking about the question you are likely to be asked. I would say that most times, I can never tell what will be quoted after a 20 minute conversation. I knew that the writer would have to start out wiht the crisis lesson 101 that everyone has been talking about which is to get out in front of the news. So I did not feel required to say that. Anyhow, we covered many topics and she quoted me about sometimes ignoring your counsellors and following what your core values say are important (that of the company).  The question was what lessons does the Tiger Woods crisis provide for companies?  And there are plenty. My friend Joy Sever, another reputation expert, sent me this excerpt in our late night exchange on the topic from Bill Moyers’ interview with author Jeanette Winterson about heroes. Thought it was worth repeating here.

BILL MOYERS: What intrigues me about the Greek gods, Romans too, is that they do great deeds. But also they get drunk, and as you say, they womanize, they lie, they negotiate with the Gods of the underworld. It’s true, isn’t it, that if you find the hero in mythology, you also discover the monster?

JEANETTE WINTERSON: Always, yes. The thing is double faced. It’s as though these people are hinged in the center, and that the good and the bad have folded back, touching each other in each person. But you know, that’s what so strikingly true, isn’t it, about the human condition? That we’re not one or the other, or very rarely. Often, the people who do achieve great things, are also people who have fatal flaws. All heroes have fatal flaws as well as reprehensible conduct. … when you read the hero myths, the things that brings them down are always very trivial. It’s always the thing in themselves that they can’t control. And there is also a truth about the hero, that they can never be killed, or destroyed by anything simply from the outside. They have somewhere to collude in their own death or destruction.

Then I got an email mid-week from Del Jones at USA Today on second generation CEOs. He was writing about the Comcast acquisition of GE’s NBC Universal and the prospects for CEO Brian Roberts. I’ve always had a special interest in family businesses because it seems that my entire extended family was involved in one for ever and a day. It’s what got me so interested in business in the first place. So when asked about my thoughts on Roberts, I remembered the saying that I heard from my dad which was that the first generation starts a business, the second generation runs it, and the third generation ruins it. That’s the quote he used in the article .  In retrospect, it was the right thing for me to say although at the time I was not so sure.

In both articles this week, I was the closer. I wonder what that means.

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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.

  • Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Posted at 01:08h, 06 December Reply

    Thanks as always to Dr. Gaines-Ross for stating so clearly and concisely what I preach to my PR students at Curry College in both my Intro to PR and Crisis Communication Management classes.I had three classes (2 Intro to PR, 1 Intro to Mass Comm) write papers outlining their approach to the “Tigergate” incident and their rationale for doing so. Nearly all (a few are still figuring out how this thing called “PR” works) said “Get the information out there” and, interestingly, “Start working on repairing the brand.” This last part somewhat surprised me; these young people somehow instinctively knew that some serious damage has been done and they, as PR professionals, would play an important role in getting things back to normal.

    Sadly, there seem to be more and more instances where public figures have lost their moral compass and are blissfully heading toward disaster. Good lesson material for students; bad examples for the public.

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