Sunday, August 30, 2009

Managing Reputation Risk: An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure

Managing Reputation Risk: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in many instances

This blog about reputation risk from the Reptutation Institute caught my eye because BlueChip's issues/reputation risk kit has had a serious work out since January 2008.

Of course financial services organisations, be they large, small, new or established, have found themselves needing to manage reputation risk far more closely in the the last two years than ever before.

Suddenly financial services public relations switched gear from the occaisional perceptual crisis and lots of marketing to lots of perceptual crises and the odd bit of marketing support.

Hence the many calls we've had that start "We've got a problem. It's highly sensitive, and we think we need help in case it becomes public/when it becomes public/so that it doesn't ever become public/now that's become public."

As communication or marketing professionals our key contacts inside client organisations already know that reputation risk prevention is better than cure. What they struggle with is getting the CEO and executve team to buy that, and to invest the time and money needed to really properly risk manage their their reputation with anything appoaching the care factor applied to, say, financial risk.

Dr. Majorie Dijkstra of the Reputation Institute gives a four-step process for managing reputation risk, summarised below:

1. Risk identification - assessing the gap between stakeholder’s perceptions and beliefs and the actual performance of the company.
2. Prioritisation (risks and stakeholders) - assessing the probability of risks and the impact of the risk on reputation.
3. Mitigation - assessing the best response based on controllability of risk, the impact of risk on the business across stakeholders and the cost of implementing the strategy.
4. Monitoring - closely monitoring changes in stakeholder’s beliefs and expectation that may affect reputation.

BlueChip's process is similar:

1. Identification: through scenario planning (what are all the things that could go wrong here and where might that leave us??) risk logs and context analysis (e.g. media commentary or sentiment around a particular issue)
2. Prioritisation: through risk logs/workshops and stakeholder analysis
3. Response: through management action and communication strategy & action plans/actions/running orders across stakeholders. We include monitoring in this part and step 1!
4. Embedding: as often as not, whatever led to the issue has it's roots in longer term organisational issues. The only way to prevent similar issues in the future is to look back at those root causes and address them going forward through conscious management and communication behaviour.

When capable in house communicators or trusted consultants are allowed to complete step 4 we're able to help prevent a whole truckload of potential trouble.

Of course not everyone on the senior team necessarily takes that at face value.

I've always found that having that risk log or scenario planning from step 1 to hand, fleshed out with some of the more scary potential outcomes, tends to help colleagues focus on the potential downside of not managing reputation risk!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to show you genuinely care about all 1 million customers

Many moons ago, in the years leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, my then employer, AMP ran one of THE most successful financial services advertising campaigns of the decade.

Enter Vicki Williams, a customer service staff member from AMP in Perth. Vicki was the winner of competition conceived by the agency (Leo Burnett) and run among AMP staff to produce the star of the big budget TV ad.

And Vicki certainly became a star.

It helped that she really did care about AMP's clients. It also helped that Leos had her plus-sized frame in a bathing suit and cheery face in a frilly bathing cap. And of course the media spend was considerable.

One of the reasons the ad was so well remembered had to do with the context of the time. Banks had a lot of bad press for shutting down branches. The other insurance and funds management companies arguably lacked AMP's strong local representation of financial planners who were part of their towns and cities across the country.

People remembered the funny, warm smiling face of Vicki Williams because she was real. The genuine item. And it showed, even when she'd done that shot a million times.

Vicki gave out as many autographs as Olympians - she was LOVED. She may not have sold many policies or superanuation funds, but she was (briefly) adored by thousands.

Then there's "the AAMI girl" as she's known. I'm not sure if there's a picture in the attic of the woman in that long-running TV ad, or if they update her every 5 years. However she's probably been the best known and most liked face of general insurance in Australia for years.

The point?

People connect with people.

Especially when it comes to money (trust matters) and the really boring stuff they'd rather not have to think too much about.

Like insurance and super.

Ads used to be a good way to provide a human proxy for the personal touch.

As branches have closed down and technology has replaced people we've seen all sort of replacements for humans. Interactive voice systems, online banking, ATMs, online share trading.

We've also seen a far greater reliance on public relations or custom content to generate media coverage for financial services organisations. Both communication tools are far more credible ways to get people back in front of customers again, without the multi-million dollar spend or the big geographic footprint of a national staff.

So if you, just like many other financial services organisations with shrinking staff numbers who want to grow their retail presence, think about how you're going to get a credible, friendly and mass-produced human in front of the humans who matter most to your business.

Staff, customers, clients, channel partners, even business partners.

We're all looking for that person who really cares.

Does your brand have one?