Where I Left Off

May 16, 2010

Where I Left Off

 My journeys in Europe continued all week although I am now safely home and enjoying the first warm weather of the past two weeks. One thing that struck me in retrospect was that there was no market that did not talk about recession-weariness. Everyone mentioned how tough times had been with the global recession and might be getting worse as Greece faced its debt crisis, the EU bails out several members and the Euro was dropping. My presentation on The New Normal was perfectly timed.

  • In Amsterdam I learned that some companies were rising to the challenge of the recession. Dutch airline Martinair had offered a similar program to Hyundai Assurance in the US where people who booked transatlantic flights could cancel their flight without cancellation fees if someone lost their job. It is called Boek Gerust Verzeking or worry-free booking insurance.  As well, the CEO of KLM, Peter Hartman, was applauded for going on YouTube to sympathize and apologize about the flight cancellations caused by the volcanic ash a few weeks earlier. A perfect example of CEOs resetting their reputations.  In addition, several people in our panel discussion mentioned the book The Truth about Ikea when we discussed this new  “tell all” and “see thru” world that has emerged. I also learned about an online site where you can “couch surf” or find a couch to crash on in another city so you can save some money. Smart alternative to paying for a hotel if your finances are strained. The Dutch also have a group buying site —  ichoosr.com — and their CEO had joined our panel to discuss the site’s success in this new age of austerity or what we were calling the New Normal.
  • In Paris, at our luncheon discussion, one of the guests mentioned that they were moving their communications and marketing back to print since they were not convinced that the ROI online was working as well as they would have liked. Also had my first experience in Paris being interviewed in-person by bloggers. Turned out to be quite a lot of fun. This fits into my prediction that face-to-face communications will be back as a new channel for communicating.
  • London was fascinating because I arrived the evening when the new coalition government was announced. The first day of the “new politics” or “plural politics” was brisk and spring –like, the perfect day for a new beginning. In our breakfast seminar, it was hard not to discuss what the new governance model in Great Britain meant but one idea I had was that the future would undoubtedly include more coalitions in business partnering over the next few years. Additionally, I thought that the outcome of the election was indicative of the new normal in that there were no winners and losers (except Gordon Brown) but something in-between. Not black or white, but just grey all the time.
  • I could have sworn that Heathrow airport in London is scented. I could not believe my nose! There was a great scent in the air and although I can not find an article on why it smelled so therapeutic (aromatherapy), I think it might just be the air from the spa facilities inside. It is a great idea if it is true.
  • Madrid had just heard their Prime Minister Zapatero talking about civil service workers’ salaries being frozen, pensions cut and other budget-minded recourses when I arrived. Like other cities, people instinctively knew that frugality was back with a vengeance. I had read in the paper before I arrived  that Zapatero had said it was the toughest speech he ever gave. I considered that quite humble although I doubt most Spaniards felt the same way upon hearing the news. In the world of reputation, leaders get all the credit when things go right and all the blame (and then some) when things go wrong. An interesting experience during my media interviews was that each journalist asked me what I thought the future of journalism was.  I think this happened everywhere I went when journalists took the floor. The reputation of journalism is sure taking a hit in this new digital world. I recall in Brussels how a journalist said that online was killing them off one by one. Is a global phenomenon and one I have a lot of sympathy for.

Now that I am back on solid ground for a few days and not spending my days and nights in airports and hotels, I can more easily get back to posting more regularly about reputation matters.  However, reputation is everywhere. Danny Rogers, the editor of PRWeek in London wisely pointed to the frequent mentions of the word “reputation” in media coverage. It was not always like that.  It is unavoidable these days.

I had a great time with my colleagues at Weber Shandwick and meeting clients and journalists, bloggers,  among others. Mind-expanding is good for the soul.

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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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