The|Intangibles » Uncategorized http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil Selected posts from Boyd Neil's blog at http://www.boydneil.com Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:22:30 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Non-Twitter Social Web Updates http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2010/7/13/non-twitter-social-web-updates.html http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2010/7/13/non-twitter-social-web-updates.html#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 18:47:21 +0000 Boyd Neil 417677:4590288:8243846 There is an argument that blog posts about interesting or instructive social web links have been made superfluous by the immediacy of Twitter tweets.

To a certain extent this is true, although I do wonder how many tweets with links to blog posts about social web trends have in fact been read by the tweeter before forwarding.

To be honest, I am guilty sometimes of only skimming posts before sending them on to Twitter followers. The posts below from the past two weeks, however, I have read and can recommend for their insight and sensible point of view.

ON FOURSQUARE:

ON SOCIAL MEDIA MEASUREMENT:

ON ONLINE ACTIVISM:

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Integrity – Surviving a Crisis http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2009/9/14/integrity-surviving-a-crisis.html http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2009/9/14/integrity-surviving-a-crisis.html#comments Mon, 14 Sep 2009 16:15:20 +0000 Boyd Neil 417677:4590288:5110397 It is a commonplace of communications that for an organization and its senior management to survive a crisis, at least with its reputation relatively intact, it should act with integrity. But what does integrity mean in these circumstances?

There are a multitude of complex compliance models of integrity such as the one appended here and used by the pharmaceutical company Novartis at "Citizenship@Novartis" to guide its corporate responsiblity program.

Impressive, yes, but impractical as a guide to behaviour when an organization and a CEO's back are to the wall and decisions about what to say and when to say it have to be made in a moment.

Michael Jensen, founder and co-chairman of the Social Science Research Network and a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, thinks of integrity ("what it takes for a person to be whole and complete") as honouring your word:

We can honour our word in one of two ways: first, by keeping our word, and on time as promised; or second, as soon as we know we can't keep our word, we inform all parties involved and clean up any mess that we've caused in their lives. When we do this, we are honouring our word despite having not kept it, and we have maintained our integrity.

(Note the reference is from an article in the Fall 2009 issue of the Rotman School of Management magazine which is not available online.)

Not bad advice for an organization or CEO troubled by a crisis of reputation: Inform everyone affected about what's going on: Recognize the mess you've caused; Clean it up.

 

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It is a commonplace of communications that for an organization and its senior management to survive a crisis, at least with its reputation relatively intact, it should act with integrity. But what does integrity mean in these circumstances?

There are a multitude of complex compliance models of integrity such as the one appended here and used by the pharmaceutical company Novartis at “Citizenship@Novartis” to guide its corporate responsiblity program.

Impressive, yes, but impractical as a guide to behaviour when an organization and a CEO’s back are to the wall and decisions about what to say and when to say it have to be made in a moment.

Michael Jensen, founder and co-chairman of the Social Science Research Network and a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, thinks of integrity (“what it takes for a person to be whole and complete”) as honouring your word:

We can honour our word in one of two ways: first, by keeping our word, and on time as promised; or second, as soon as we know we can’t keep our word, we inform all parties involved and clean up any mess that we’ve caused in their lives. When we do this, we are honouring our word despite having not kept it, and we have maintained our integrity.

(Note the reference is from an article in the Fall 2009 issue of the Rotman School of Management magazine which is not available online.)

Not bad advice for an organization or CEO troubled by a crisis of reputation: Inform everyone affected about what’s going on: Recognize the mess you’ve caused; Clean it up.

 

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Hubris and the CEO: A Cautionary Tale http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2009/9/3/hubris-and-the-ceo-a-cautionary-tale.html http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2009/9/3/hubris-and-the-ceo-a-cautionary-tale.html#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2009 10:15:00 +0000 Boyd Neil 417677:4590288:5065056 Wikipedia defines hubris as indicating "overweening pride, superciliousness, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution or Nemesis". Hubris is an essential element of Shakesperean tragedy in which the protoganist over-steps divine or natural law and suffers for this pridefulness (Think Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet).

The whole idea came to mind watching the sad, and in this case possibly tragic (the words aren't  synonymous), events surrounding the former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant who was involved this week in an altercation in which a cyclist was apparently killed by Mr. Bryant's car.

It would be irresponsible to pass judgment on these events or on whether Mr. Bryant suffers from hubris. However, he has been the subject of a number of articles in the last few months in which he has been described, for example, as a "political rock star" with "an overstuffed closet full of accomplishments in which to drape himself: magna cum laude LLM from Harvard Law School, Fulbright Fellow, MPP at 33 and cabinet minister from 2003 until earlier this year." He has been congratulated on his pricey wardrobe and described as "dapper" and "intense".

Which means if he did listen to his own notices, to use the theatrical expression, it would not be surprising if he suffered from some sense of invincibility. And that, as the Greek tragedians would tell you, leads to retribution.

Turns out there is a recent study that suggests hubris and its retributive consequences were also present in CEOs who were found to have committed fraud.

Thanks to a blog for institutional investors called Pom Talk I was directed to a recent Canadian study titled Like Moths Attracted to Flames: Managerial Hubris and Financial Reporting Frauds. In it Michel Magnan of Concordia University in Montreal, Denis Cormier of UQAM and Pascale Lapointe-Antunes of Brock University suggest

"Taking a look at the size of management’s ego as a possible indicator of fraud. . . the authors suggest that egotistical managers, stoked by media attention and analyst praise, gain a 'feeling of invincibility' that leads them to 'take more risks in fraudulent activities,' akin to the 'moths attracted to the flames that ultimately kill them.'  The study also suggests that 'managerial hubris… ignites and accelerates the propensity of senior executives to commit or to be oblivious to fraud' and thus may just be the red flag that can effectively weed out the truly fraudulent operations from the non-fraudulent.  The authors opine that 'inconsistencies between executives’ statements and observable facts or realities, outlandish claims, and a lack of concern for operational detail can be signals that managerial hubris has set in.'"

Since many in-house and agency communications professionals help manage their CEO's public persona, and spend time urging reporters and bloggers to profile him or her, this is a cautionary report. Abetting journalists as they strain to make celebrities out of leaders, no matter how successful the person, has its risks. Too much stroking of the ego in public can lead to inspiring boldness . . . or reckless bravado. Let's think twice about pumping up the boss. Humility today is a more constructive -- and safer -- virtue.

 

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Wikipedia defines hubris as indicating “overweening pride, superciliousness, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution or Nemesis”. Hubris is an essential element of Shakesperean tragedy in which the protoganist over-steps divine or natural law and suffers for this pridefulness (Think Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet).

The whole idea came to mind watching the sad, and in this case possibly tragic (the words aren’t  synonymous), events surrounding the former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant who was involved this week in an altercation in which a cyclist was apparently killed by Mr. Bryant’s car.

It would be irresponsible to pass judgment on these events or on whether Mr. Bryant suffers from hubris. However, he has been the subject of a number of articles in the last few months in which he has been described, for example, as a “political rock star” with “an overstuffed closet full of accomplishments in which to drape himself: magna cum laude LLM from Harvard Law School, Fulbright Fellow, MPP at 33 and cabinet minister from 2003 until earlier this year.” He has been congratulated on his pricey wardrobe and described as “dapper” and “intense”.

Which means if he did listen to his own notices, to use the theatrical expression, it would not be surprising if he suffered from some sense of invincibility. And that, as the Greek tragedians would tell you, leads to retribution.

Turns out there is a recent study that suggests hubris and its retributive consequences were also present in CEOs who were found to have committed fraud.

Thanks to a blog for institutional investors called Pom Talk I was directed to a recent Canadian study titled Like Moths Attracted to Flames: Managerial Hubris and Financial Reporting Frauds. In it Michel Magnan of Concordia University in Montreal, Denis Cormier of UQAM and Pascale Lapointe-Antunes of Brock University suggest

“Taking a look at the size of management’s ego as a possible indicator of fraud. . . the authors suggest that egotistical managers, stoked by media attention and analyst praise, gain a ‘feeling of invincibility’ that leads them to ‘take more risks in fraudulent activities,’ akin to the ‘moths attracted to the flames that ultimately kill them.’  The study also suggests that ‘managerial hubris… ignites and accelerates the propensity of senior executives to commit or to be oblivious to fraud’ and thus may just be the red flag that can effectively weed out the truly fraudulent operations from the non-fraudulent.  The authors opine that ‘inconsistencies between executives’ statements and observable facts or realities, outlandish claims, and a lack of concern for operational detail can be signals that managerial hubris has set in.’”

Since many in-house and agency communications professionals help manage their CEO’s public persona, and spend time urging reporters and bloggers to profile him or her, this is a cautionary report. Abetting journalists as they strain to make celebrities out of leaders, no matter how successful the person, has its risks. Too much stroking of the ego in public can lead to inspiring boldness . . . or reckless bravado. Let’s think twice about pumping up the boss. Humility today is a more constructive — and safer — virtue.

 

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CR Blogs & Websites http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/07/21/cr-blogs-websites/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/07/21/cr-blogs-websites/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2009 21:03:27 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-6a00d83451d94369e20115712be5e9970c One of the more tangible of intangible assets is a company’s corporate responsibility (CR) program. Since I consult with a number of companies and organizations on these programs, I try to stay current on new ideas and points of view.

I was in the middle of writing about the sites and blogs I use to try to stay current when a colleague pointed out I had been scooped by Chris Jarvis at Fast Company in a post on the top ten sites which encourage conversation about social media and CSR

There are some overlaps between my list and his (Just Means and Taking It Global) but here are a couple more smart websites and blogs tagged in my RSS reader. I also follow a few Twitter ‘friends’ who direct me to useful CR and sustainability studies and reports.

Here are some of the most valuable . . . to me at least:

Please post a comment if you have others to recommend.

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Comments on Empire Club Social Media Event http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/15/comments-on-empire-club-social-media-event/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/15/comments-on-empire-club-social-media-event/#comments Fri, 15 May 2009 16:17:58 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-66824791 Although it was a week or so ago, the event I moderated on Social Media and Corporate Trust in Toronto has resulted in a number of posts and articles.

For those who want to find out what others took away from the session take a look at these:

  1. From Paul Beier who blogs at One Degree (“The inside scoop on digital marketing and social media in Canada”).
  2. Panelist Tom Watson did a follow-up post on the Canadian Business magazine blog.
  3. Brian Jackson, reported on the discussion for ITbusiness.ca

I am grateful for the reports since it helps me remember what others said. As a moderator, I am too busy worrying about what the next question is to pay the attention I should to what the response was to my previous question. A failing I know, but one I’ll work at overcoming. :)

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Speaking Notes on Trust and Social Media http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/07/speaking-notes-on-trust-and-social-media/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/07/speaking-notes-on-trust-and-social-media/#comments Thu, 07 May 2009 19:23:07 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-66509581 I moderated a panel today at The Empire Club of Canada on Social Media and Corporate Trust which included Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada,  Suzanne Fallender, manager of CSR for Intel USA and Tom Watson, senior writer with Canadian Business magazine. Thanks to some lively points of view, and sharp questions from the audience, the panel was deemed a success.

Here are the remarks I made to kick off the panel . . . sorry for the length:)

It is self-evident that trust in companies has declined significantly over the past few years, although if you want to argue the point I can direct you to any number of studies, including H&K’s own corporate reputation surveys which make the case.

It has also become manifest that what can be called social tools – YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and blogging among others – have been catalysts for impugning corporate behavior (just ask Domino’s pizza, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Taser Intl., Continental Airlines or Dalhousie University). What is less obvious is how these tools can be used by organizations and companies to build or rebuild trust.

There are a number of hypotheses about social media and trust which I hope we can test in our short panel discussion. By doing so I think we will get a better understanding of what those of us who manage reputation both inside and outside organizations have to think and do differently to be effective.

I would like to get things going by posing a few axiomatic beliefs of my own about social media. My point of view comes from four or five years of blogging, engaging in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, providing counsel to clients on transforming crisis, reputation and issue management strategies through the analysis and application of new social tools, teaching new directions in communications at two Canadian universities and discussion online and in person with people much smarter than me.

Let me start by arguing that companies and organizations today are facing what can only be called a sea change in the universe of idea generation, news gathering and information sharing whose only precedent may be the impact that the creation of the printing press had on industrial society after the 15th century.

I can think of at least three things that social media change that can be both obstacles to and facilitators of creating trust, and make many of our past reputation management approaches obsolete:

First . . . the concepts of personal expression and friends first

In his recent book, Here Comes Everybody, NYU professor Clay Shirky says that “We are living through the largest increase in human expressive capability in history.” The midwife of this expression is the ability of anyone to post or publish anything, anytime and anywhere and to have an audience for this expression. Now the audience may be small and may only be an audience of friends, but you can never be sure that it will stay small or that it may not persuade a much larger network of people or dispose them to act.

It is important to recognize that this is not about the technology that makes interaction possible but about the anatomy of the interaction. It is an interaction that is consistent with our oral tradition of politics and storytelling. Like 17th century coffee houses, social media are now the place to assemble, to exchange ideas and if desired to organize action/dissent.

One of the most difficult things for senior executives and communications professionals to get our minds around about this change is that our strategies now require people more than communications products, because the expectation now is for personal relationship and responsiveness and not just facts and information.

Second . . . group formation

Clay Shirky also goes on to say that “By making it easier for groups to self-assemble and for individuals to contribute to group effort without requiring formal management (and its attendant overhead), (social media) tools have radically altered the old limits on the size, sophistication, and scope of unsupervised effort.” In other words, we now have what my colleague – Brendan Hodgson – calls empowered detractors and supporters – individuals and small groups who can challenge a point of view, force transparency, expose malfeasance and also become allies and friends.

What empowers them is the ease with which they can assemble in small but potent networks using social media. And because of the low barriers to participation and action, power increasingly resides in the hands of the committed and the concerned.  The Motrin Mom’s campaign is one recent example in which an angry individual used social tools like YouTube, Flickr and Twitter to defeat an advertising campaign.

Third . . . A vastly different “news” dynamic

Because news can come from anywhere, and increasingly frequently comes to the public consciousness not through the traditional news infrastructure but through social networks, listening, vigilance and conversation are more important than they have ever been in the past.

At the same time, although circulation for newspapers is declining and publications disappearing, our appetite for news (albeit news that we want to choose rather than have imposed) keeps growing. That means companies that want to affect the way they are seen will have to be prepared to provide a steady flow of news and information – supported by crystal -clear conversation and dialogue – rather than waiting only for what in the past they have judged as “worthy” of being released.

So what do these three observations mean for strategies meant to sustain, defend or build trust in corporations and organizations? I have at least four ideas:

Communication strategies that depended on influencing reporters in mainstream news infrastructure now must include ways to incite interest and engagement from a range of individuals, groups and networks. 

Communication strategies that depended on the publication of information must now be scrapped in favour of strategies that find and/or build communities of interest and small networks of advocates, champions or apostles.

Strategies meant to influence government or specific social behaviors or even encourage buying must now recognize that the new backbone of influence is the small – but highly connected – networks of ordinary people. Media “impressions” – the historic but oh so inadequate measure of the success of communications programs by counting how many people likely had access to a certain media piece – just doesn’t tell us much anymore.

And finally . . . Generic brand building strategies should now be supplemented – okay maybe even replaced – by programs that start from people, that engage networks, and that reveal personality because as a Deloitte consultant once wrote “It’s harder to distrust a person than it is to distrust a corporation.”

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New (?) News Financing Model http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/04/09/new-news-financing-model/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/04/09/new-news-financing-model/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2009 15:40:55 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-65269489 A hat tip to Meghan Warby for pointing this out to me . . . A small independent daily online magazine called Tyee based in British Columbia may have the new financial model for journalism we have been looking for. Tyee is dedicated to tough investigative reporting that “swims against the current” and its editor, David Beers, is asking readers to help finance political reporting during the current B.C. provincial election campaign because of the high costs of such coverage.

But this isn’t just the standard ’send us some money and we’ll figure out what to do with it’ donation approach. Beers wants funders to tell the publication what issue they want it to cover, and that’s how it will direct the funds. The publication is committed to directing the money to reporting on the issue that the donor specifies.

So, if you are concerned about the policies, programs or track record of the candidates on, for example, gang violence in Vancouver or environmental issues, you can tell Tyee when you send in your cheque and it will use it to finance the reporting of the journalists covering that beat for the magazine. The impact? With an extra $5,000, Tyee “could pay for about 30 extra reporter days . . . an extra reporter every day of the election campaign.”

Let’s talk about this.

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Texting Apologies – Crisis Management in a Few Words http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/01/07/texting-apologies-crisis-management-in-a-few-words/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/01/07/texting-apologies-crisis-management-in-a-few-words/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2009 17:31:54 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-60991682

Beleaguered Chinese dairy companies have used an unusual method of apologizing to 300,000 children and their families in China harmed by milk tainted with melamine. China Daily reported that on January 1st, the Sanlu Group and 21 other dairy firms sent a text message apology to the mobile phones of millions of Chinese citizens. The message read:

“We are deeply sorry for the harm we brought to children and society. We offer our sincere apology and plead forgiveness.”

In an email, my colleague Chris Gidez commented that “On the one hand, this demonstrates how technology enables direct-to-consumer communication. On the other hand, it can be seen as intrusive, gimmicky and insincere if the underlying problem isn’t addressed.”

As much as I believe that social and mobile media are undervalued as tools for managing crisis communications, and that apologies are essential to bringing about closure when harm has been caused, I have to agree with Chris that effective communication (online and offline) and sincerity are not enough to ensure an organization’s reputation recovers from the crisis.

What else needs to be done? At a minimum, a company or organization must:

  1. Demonstrate it has changed the process or behaviour which led to the damaging event and that it will work tirelessly to ensure it doesn’t happen again;
  2. Provide adequate restitution for the harm caused (in the U.S. this will likely be determined by class action suits anyway);
  3. Be prepared to work openly and honestly with regulatory bodies to find sector-wide solutions and protocols to prevent and mitigate similar events;
  4. Offer a recovery plan to demonstrate to other stakeholders — especially the investment community if the company is publicly traded — that its business and operations will be made whole again.

Although in some countries, like China, even this may not be enough. According to another colleague based in Hong Kong, the CEO of one of the Chinese companies involved is facing execution.

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M&A Blogging http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/01/06/ma-blogging/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/01/06/ma-blogging/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2009 22:57:00 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-60965268 Thanks to a post yesterday by Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester Research I was directed to what may be a first (?) . . . a merger blog. The Wells Fargo – Wachovia Blog has been live for about four days. It is meant to keep customers up to date on how the merger between the two financial institutions is taking place.

Both Wells Fargo and Wachovia people have posted and there have been 11 comments, mostly from customers. Although the tone is one would expect — a little hyperbolic (“Both our companies take pride in the fact that we have focused – and continue to
focus – on you, our customers. We believe in doing what’s right for you because,
quite frankly, without you, we wouldn’t be here.”) — the transparency in opening up a conversation with customers about the progress of the merger, and perhaps its hiccups, is admirable.

This one is worth watching.

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Obama’s Social Media Campaign: The Slide Deck http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2008/12/03/obamas-social-media-campaign-the-slide-deck/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2008/12/03/obamas-social-media-campaign-the-slide-deck/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2008 19:14:47 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-59448722 For those interested in the presentation by Rahaf Harfoush on the social media aspects of Obama’s presidential campaign, but who didn’t follow the link to her site in my post, here is Ms Harfoush’s slide deck.

The site also includes a complete video recording of the presentation. It takes about an hour to watch, but worth it.

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