Posts Tagged ‘brand’

Brand Repair

November 26, 2014


Some organizations have reputation troubles. It’s likely they earned them.

A tarnished brand is something we’ve all seen and don’t want. An advising peer recently shares this case: “We are hand-cuffed in a very important assignment. The client organization is full of ego, fear, dysfunction and paralysis. Regrettably, standard, constructive practices that could inform our tasks were suspended – all because of reputation worries. The senior management knows their brand is in a tattered state.”

A tragic management response is in play: close ranks, worry, more clauses in the standard contract, gag orders, commands, declarations, defense, denial and other control tactics. These choices build fear, disables staff and sends distress signals. It jacks up anxiety. Moreover, these actions can become a negative loop that cause more injuries (inside and out).

A viable alternative ? Carefully identify the wrong values, attitudes and behavior that created the reputation challenges because they inform what must be different going forward. Then, step away from the “war” and demonstrate some vulnerability. Act swiftly and consistently to promote great experiences.

Try this brand ambassador recipe:

(1) Listen. Calmly and patiently hear what the aggrieved party says and what it means.

(2) Apologize. Indicate authentic concern for a failure or inadequate experience.

(3)  Fix it. Take action to remedy the mis-step. While this isn’t always possible, if it is, do it, promptly.

Make these actions automatic for everyone in your organization. From top to bottom, staff should know these three steps. Soon, the volume of good and great recent experiences will replace the stain of history. Concurrently, take big inside actions to attend culture, and make plans along with specific communications that support internal process and structural improvements.

Learning how your organization is understood by others requires gathering both random and routine feedback. This knowledge can serve organization effectiveness. Reputation is earned from the experiences people have inside and outside your building by phone, email, in meetings and other routine interactions. Part of building great brand as well as organization performance is this paradox: take off the armor to build strength.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See:

Fresh Air and Trust

May 13, 2012

If there were public ratings of your trustworthiness…How would you do? Does it matter?

“Trust is like fresh air; we only notice it when it becomes scarce or polluted,” write Graham Dietz and Nicole Gillespie, business-school professors in the U.K. and Australia.

Most of us consider being trustworthy an important character trait. Some consider trust naïve or foolish. However, even for the less virtuous, there’s a case to be made for it.  Trusted leaders create more value, and employees who feel trusted are empowered and deliver better performance.

Teaching Trustworthiness

Dietz and Gillespie suggest we can teach people to be trustworthy. According to these experts, trust is complex but begins with an assessment of others’ trustworthiness. They say it is comprised of three factors: ability, benevolent motives and integrity. If someone has “enough” of these three attributes we begin to rely on them in ways that can pose risks to ourselves. Judgment is made through our own personal exchanges, knowledge from others, or referent cues like a job title, role, and affiliations. 

Scandals, when corruption or some malfeasance is made public, come in many forms: bribes, obfuscation, falsification, cronyism, intentional duping, nepotism and known incompetence. Trustworthiness can be undervalued and undermined by organizational culture because of modeled behavior, financial pressures and mis-use of power.

Scandals Create Skeptics

Regrettably, scandals in the highly regulated private sector and nearly unregulated nonprofit sector suggest trust and trustworthiness are not broadly shared priorities.

Recent private examples include Olympus, Siemens, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. Nonprofit examples are easy to identify, too. Like, the Central Asia Institute (think Three Cups of Tea), Princeton Review (the Feds want $50M returned), Angel Food Ministries, Feed the Children, and the Catholic Church (child sexual abuse).

Like false sincerity, it’s possible to do the same with trustworthiness.  Real motives and incompetence can be masked by managing communications.  Once caught, people and organizations have become quite skillful in delivering the right public apology, displays of faux-contrition and micro-qualifications (e.g.; “I did not have sex with that woman.”)

Identifying and challenging great fakes requires the ability to interpret intentions, navigation of multiple expectations and needs, and a careful review of how organizational climates promote or preclude trust.

A Trust Barometer

For more than a decade, the Edelman Trust Barometer has measured informed public opinion in 23 countries regarding trust in government, business, the nonprofit sector and media. In 2011, the U.S. tumbled, in its composite score, now above only the U.K. and Russia.

Edelman, a full service global public relations firm, suggests the “Fortress Framework” era is over. This “old” scheme refers to protecting brand, controlling information, standing alone and a sole focus on profit. They say the new trust architecture requires transparency, engagement and social benefit.

Trust Matters

When it comes to issues of trust, skepticism may be a healthy response to reality.Trust and trustworthiness do matter, particularly because complex work requires collaborators, partners, allies and multiple stakeholders. No doubt, without trust chances for success wane.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See :

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