Posted in Charlie Sheen, Christian Dior, Crisis Management, Crisis Management Consulting, managing your reputation in good times as well as bad, negative publicity, problem employees, reputation management, THE RHODELL GROUP on May 11th, 2011 by mnayor

Ah, to be blessed with an employee as talented as John Galliano. The problem is the more creative and (in)famous an employee is, the larger his head becomes and the more difficult it is for a company to reign in the beast.

What to do with an uncontrollable employee who is as much or more in the limelight as the company itself. The first rule of thumb is that the COMPANY is more important in the scheme of things than the employee (unless they are one and the same. See Martha Stewart). Certainly a Company can turn a blind eye to little things if those things do not really reflect poorly on the Company. After all you can’t go around canning every employee who gets a speeding ticket.

Nevertheless, there are very visible employees who act out in public and when such actions reflect poorly on the Company, emphatic, decisive action must be taken. The public for the most part applauded the actions of Christian Dior. John Galliano, its head designer, was canned on February 28th for making racist and anti-Semitic remarks caught on video. But prior to that, on February 25th, he had been suspended (pending the results of an inquiry into the matter) for assaulting a couple in a Paris bar, using similar anti-Semitic and racial slurs.

Now, here’s the rub. Did it take a venomous and outrageous video to get Dior to take its final action or was Dior at that point already. Perhaps the Company had already chosen the guillotine for Galliano. And if so, good for them. But the small time lapse brings up the real issue which should count as a lesson for most companies.

Most corporate executives when faced with a crisis like the Galliano affair want to accomplish two things: 1. Look like they are doing the right thing and 2. Salvage the talent in order not to harm the company. It’s the old slap on the wrist routine with fingers crossed that no one is really watching. In the case of Dior only a few days elapsed from the time of the first reported incident to the announcement of his firing. Assuming Dior had no prior information that executives chose to ignore, let’s give the nod to Dior, for realizing that there are thousands of talented designers out in the world waiting to be discovered and for decisive action that reflected very positively on this venerable house.

Contrast this with the affaire Charlie Sheen. On March 7th it was announced by CBS and Warner Bros. Television that Sheen had been fired from the hit TV show Two and a Half Men. It is not necessary to catalog the antics of Sheen over the last months to the present. Suffice it to say that the drunken rampages, coked up babble and other extraordinary behavior reflects a troubled, delusional mind and reflects poorly on both CBS and Warner. But what reflects even more poorly on them is their handling of the crisis. Inaction and vacillation seemed to have guided them until they were backed against a wall. The most telling comment to be made on behalf of the companies was that he was a good employee, was never late, knew his lines etc.

Having your cake and eating it too, is not always possible. A more respectable and man-up approach would have been to at least put Sheen on indefinite suspension from the onset until he got the help he needs. This would have shown more concern for the actor as an individual and would have shown that doing the right thing was more important than squeezing out as many episodes as possible before the implosion. Look where it got CBS and Warner. Egg on its face as well as a suit.

But that’s human nature. No one wants to self immolate. Companies almost always want to salvage what they can. But the moral of the story is that when you do take the right course of action, you almost always live to see another day. Perhaps bruised but with more dignity and respect. Just make sure your employment contracts allow you to make subjective judgments about the injury to your reputation that an employee is creating. An employee’s job description should always contain the obligation not to undermine, and even to bring honor to, your institution. Christian Dior – what would you have done?

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Posted in managing your reputation in good times as well as bad, publicizing good works, reputation management, the benefits of doing no harm on February 1st, 2011 by mnayor

In times of business crisis, many executives turn to reputation managers or public relations consultants to stem a tide of negative publicity, staunch the flow of bad press or put a spin on events that will make their companies look better. But managing your reputation is far more than that. Many companies understand the benefits of continual reputation monitoring as an integral part of their successful management and capitalize on good news on a regular basis.

Why are so many companies today fighting fires instead of basking in the sunlight of good press? Perhaps it is because from the inception of our country the concept of capitalism has been somewhat muddled. Capitalism envisions private ownership and means of production with the resulting benefits or profits to those same private owners. It is the counter theory to government control. Capitalism is also a theory of freedom – free markets and freedom from undue government interference.

Our founding fathers did not, in all likelihood, support these great ideas for the purpose of allowing private enterprise to take advantage of the public. Of course, our history is replete with charlatans and snake oil salesmen. After all, “there’s a sucker born every minute”. But one would be hard pressed to believe that an overriding principle of capitalism is to milk the public for private gain. Instead, capitalism is a catalyst for stimulating individuals to take risks and seek their own rewards by providing for a free market and private profit. Hopefully, those who engage in capitalistic endeavors are creative, savvy, have a competitive advantage, a better product, or better marketing and distribution channels.

An adage that actually predates the Hippocratic Oath is “First, do no harm” or primum non nocere. Its meaning is obvious, especially in the medical profession. But it certainly has applicability to the business world as well. In the quest for profits, a business should “first do no harm”. Unfortunately, for some the quest for profits is overriding and justifies questionable actions. The potential for profit is great and the risk either small or not easily measurable.

While the vast majority of business managers do not have a wish to do harm, how can a business capitalize on that achievement with the public? Actually much can be made of doing no harm: honors from customers, industry awards to managers, press releases announcing “50 Years of Service to the Airline Industry”, and so on. Naturally, new improvements in existing products are another whole source of good press.

So, doing no harm can in fact enhance a reputation. But doing “good” can enhance it even further. New innovations and developments, acquisitions, a new plant, support for local and national charities, management participation on government advisory panels, the list is endless.

Reputation management is an ongoing process. It is not something that is rolled out in emergencies to provide cover. In order to capitalize on a reputation – first, do no harm. The rest will follow.

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