MakovskyWednesday, September 2, 2015
It all starts at the top. The CEO sets the tone. He or she must answer the questions: Will our company be completely open and transparent? Who are our audiences? How do we reach them? How will we measure the results?
Being open and transparent in both good times and bad enhances corporate reputation which, as research suggests, leads to an increase in market value as well as customer and employee loyalty.
The CEO remains the key driver of corporate reputation. Highly visible and well-regarded CEOs not only shape the directions of their companies but of their industries as well. Think Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway, Tim Cook of Apple, and Bob Iger of Disney.
Beyond shareholders, companies have a number of constituencies, each with differing informational needs. These include employees, venture partners, suppliers, governmental and regulatory agencies and so on. These groups will interact with each other, sharing opinions and ideas. And, reaching varied audiences requires a multi-channeled approach – both new and traditional media vehicles.
Let’s look at some approaches:
Defend your position. In the wake of a highly derogatory article appearing in The New York Times attacking his company’s work environment, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos wasted no time in responding to defend his company and allay the concerns of its employees. He issued a memo to the company’s employees which reads:
The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.
The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.
Make a mistake? Own it. Apple found itself in a bit of controversy over royalties paid to artists during the trial period for its music streaming service when pop star Taylor Swift published a blog post explaining why she pulled her album “1989” from the streaming service, underlining that she wants to stand up for small artists who will not get paid for three months. In an about face, Apple tweeted: “We want artists to be paid for their work…Taylor’s tweet today solidified the issue for us and we decided to make a change.”
Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes, actions do speak louder than words. Consider the case of Sysco, a major food services company. Recently, Trian Partners took a large stake in the company. Rather than confront the activist investor, which could have led to a bruising, costly and time-consuming proxy battle, the company opted to add Trian’s Nelson Peltz and Josh Frank to its board of directors. In a statement, the company said: “We are firmly committed to enhancing value for all Sysco shareholders and always welcome constructive input toward driving long-term shareholder value. Nelson and Josh will bring our Board an informed perspective based on their significant experience in the food products industry. We have engaged in constructive dialogue with Nelson and Josh and look forward to benefiting from their insights and contributions.”