Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Can We Learn From The Latest Edelman Trust Barometer?

There’s bad news and good news in this week’s 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, reported by Richard Edelman.

Among the most unpleasant findings, Edelman says, in the 23 countries surveyed, the United States has moved into what he calls the “Distrusters” group among businesses. In fact, the Survey found business, for the most part, is “as or more” trusted than government in 19 of the 23 nations studied, with the exception of U.S. business and business in Russia and the United Kingdom.

And in the "Truster" category for government, the largest drop in trust in governments was reported in the United States and Germany. Trust in the media was also measured in the 23-countries and Richard Edelman wrote “the most depressing findings for media” was in the U.S. where only 27% of the public trusted the American media.

When it comes to trust in industries, banking and financial services are the least trusted industries of 16 reviewed each year by Edelman. Banking reputations plunged in the U.S. by nearly 50% in the past three years to a low of 25%.

The annual Edelman Survey found there are four major factors that determine corporate reputation. They include “high quality products and services,” being a “company I can trust,” being a company that “treats employees well,” and one that has “transparent business practices.”

One other area covered in the annual survey rated “credible” spokespersons for companies.

The reputation of American CEO’s was up in 2010, higher than it has been in nine years, but still only about one-third think an American CEO is believable.

Respondents were asked who they were most likely to believe as spokesperson for an organization and they rated Academic experts number one, company technical experts next, then financial analysts and Chief Executive Officers fourth.

Edelman‘s findings had one confusing and contradictory report – in a crisis, the “number one trusted source is the CEO, followed by an Outside Expert, followed by a Technical Expert from the company.” Go figure!

One of the most encouraging findings supports our strong belief that “banked good will” is invaluable to any organization facing trouble. The Edelman report concluded that an organization going into a crisis with a reputation of distrust only needs a couple of negative news stories to convince the public you’re no good.

The same study found that if you approach a crisis with a reputation of being a “trusted” company, it only takes a couple of positive stories to turn the tide in your favor.

Our conclusion continues to stress the importance of doing the right things for the right reasons, and treating your employees, partners, vendors, share-holders and customers the way you would want to be treated. Those are all ways to create and “bank” goodwill and goodwill can be a company life-saver when something goes wrong you could not prevent.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Would You Do If Your CEO Took Unexpected Medical Leave?

Will Steve Jobs return to Apple? ( is speculating he may not return to the job he says he loves, or at least not quickly.

In his e-mail to his staff a few days ago, he wrote, "I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can." Henry Blodget of opines that "those are not the words of someone taking a short leave who is confident he will be back at the company soon (or ever).

When he took a medical leave before, he made it clear he was returning in "June" and he was looking forward to "seeing all of you this summer."

In any company, the sudden permanent or even temporary loss of a key executive can have devastating impact on the brand, and in the case of a publicly traded company, a serious hit on stock value.

If you do not have a crisis plan for the loss of your owner, founder, president, CEO or other significant leader, please reconsider. If you don't think its important, watch Apple very carefully over the next few months, and then decide if you still don't need a plan for the loss or incapacity of a key company leader.

It is rare when the Institute for Crisis Management helps an organization develop a crisis plan that there is no section on what to do and say when something unexpected happens to the top person or persons in the organzation. That's just as important in healthcare, higher education or major non-profits as it is in the corporate world.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Watch and Learn from Bank of America

No matter what kind of business or organization you are part of, I strongly urge you to pay attention to what Bank of America is doing to prepare for possible revelations of damaging company information.

Julian Assange, the person behind WikiLeaks, threatened to release the contents of a hard-drive of a Bank of America executive months ago and more recently he sent shock waves through the banking industry with a threat to release confidential bank documents the first of this new year.

The New York Times is reporting that Bank of America has activated a special “counter espionage” and crisis management team in anticipation it will be the target of the next WikeLeaks attack.

The day after Assange made his most recent threat against an unnamed bank, Bank of America stock fell 3-percent.

The Times says their sources confirmed the company’s team of lawyers, security and computer experts, public relations staff and other experts have been reviewing thousands of documents looking for anything that might be used against the company, tracking every computer and hard drive looking for any that are or have been unaccounted for, for any length of time.

The best theory suggests if WikeLeaks has acquired any Bank of America documents, they were part of a federal investigation a year ago when the Bank turned over sensitive material to the Securities and Exchange Commission, federal investigators and the New York State Attorney General’s office.

Assange says he has documents that will lead to top level resignations. The SEC, federal investigators and the New York Attorney General all said they found no evidence of that kind of wrong-doing in the documents turned over to them.

The lesson here, for you and your business, is to know what is in your files – hard copy and digital files – and if there is evidence of internal problems, fix them, and be prepared to respond if and when they are made public by a disgruntled employee or some government agency.

Never assume that your organization’s secrets will always remain secret.

And don’t wait to be surprised and unprepared to respond when they are made public.