An Apology to my Readers

Time. Something in short supply when you are an independent consultant.

You get so busy that you forget about your own voice, your ideas and the words in your heart.

You forget about your readers, because you become so busy working on the task at hand, that you sometimes forget to not just work in your business but also on your business.

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster. I lectured on Stakeholder & Relationship Management at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) for the the Barloworld Group Leadership programme, ran my Stakeholder Reputation Master Class working with 10 delegates and did most of my research for my upcoming Product Recall Crisis Management workshop.

In between all of this I also facilitated a number of Health & Safety Representative training workshops on behalf of Scott – Safe, an Occupational Health & Safety Compliance consultancy.

I became so busy that I did not update my blog. Now that is not so cool.

So to my readers I have not forgotten you. I still have lots to share, starting today.

The Shackles Of "We Have Always Done It This Way"

Organisations are like elephants – they learn through conditioning.

Trainers shackle young elephants with heavy chains to deeply embedded stakes.

After years of being chained, older elephants never try and leave even though they have the strength to pull the stakes out. Their conditioning limits their movements with only a small metal bracelet around their foot – attached to nothing

Like elephants, many companies are bound by earlier conditioning restraints. “We have always done it this way” is a limit to an organisation’s progress especially in this new era of enhanced speed.

In order to survive in this new society you have to let go of the shackles of the past. Too many organisations still have metal bracelets around their feet. However to make things happen you need to mobilise the support of your people behind your change.

And the process through which to do this: COMMUNICATION. My questions to you or to ask your clients is this:

  • “What shackles are constraining communication flow in your organisation”
  • Isn’t it about time for a relook or a new look at communication practices in your company?

Why Writing Concisely is Crucial

So, I started this piece by using the word brevity, then I thought to myself, who knows that word.

Concise and exact use of words is crucial in communication, just try and decode the following:

“We respectfully petition, request, and entreat that due and adequate provision be made, this day and the date herein after subscribed, for the satisfying of this petitioner’s nutritional requirements and for the organising of such methods as may be deemed necessary and proper to assure the reception by and for the said petitioner of such quantities of baked products as shall, in the judgement of the aforesaid petitioner, constitute a sufficient supply thereof”.

I guess a point can be made for the KISS method in writing – Keep it simple and short.

No wonder swear words abound. It fits the KISS description accurately.

As one professor once said:” Why use a twenty five cents word if a five cents one will do”.

The above: Give us this day our daily bread.

7 Compelling Reasons to Educate, Train and Develop your Employees About Reputation Management


Managing an organization’s reputation may be the most important asset a CEO and his or her team manages – as a good reputation helps a company to attract business, investors, hire and retain the best employees, partner with other leading organizations and lower the cost of capital.

Reputation must be built from the INSIDE OUT, and encompasses everything that the organization says and does. Reputation is an intangible asset at risk on a daily basis.

Recent studies show that it can make up as much as 63% of a company’s market value. According to Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO of TNS MENA “Reputation capital is the sum of the value of all corporate intangible assets, which include business processes, patents, trademarks, reputations for ethics and integrity, quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience”.

He goes on to say that “Indeed, companies must understand and influence the relationships they have with stakeholders – from customers, investors, business partners, influencers, the general public and employees. The ability to attract, maintain and motivate talented employees, as well as customers rests in a good reputation.”

Psychologists tell us that awareness precedes behavior change whilst the term preparedness refers to the state of being prepared for specific unpredictable events or situations. Awareness and Preparedness are therefore closely linked.

The level of preparedness is depended on the cumulative deposit of knowledge or the sum total of the learned behaviour of a group of people. This awareness that the psychologists talk about is created by knowledge and knowledge is acquired through information. (Even this process is fraught with danger – remember the Desert Survival or NASA team building exercises that some of you have done on Leadership training).

Therefore awareness can play a huge role in protecting and nurturing your organisation’s biggest asset and risk. How would a manager know whether he or she is adding or subtracting to that value, unless he or she has been made aware?

The next time your organization meets to decide what the training goals and priorities should be, ask yourself: “What are we doing to ensure that our managers understand the creation and protection of our Reputation”?

A good reputation means your name is trusted. You are considered a sound investment, purchase, trusted partner, and employer. All of this dramatically impacts the organization’s bottom line.

So, here are 7 compelling reasons why you should educate, develop and train your staff in reputation management principles.

1. To ensure that your business is well-positioned especially when reputational surveys such as the World’s Most Admired Company and Annual Best Employer surveys are conducted. Those businesses that obtain better scores, also have better revenues and a more sustainable footprint.

2. To remain competitive. If your employees are knowledgeable and motivated, they will build your reputation in a very competitive marketplace, and stakeholders like to do business with winners.

3. To understand your stakeholders needs and concerns and find ways to wow and engage them. You need to maintain good relationships with them and gather their support and trust.

4. To enable your employees to stand back from the day-to-day operations and understand the strategic implications of their work on the company’s largest and most important asset, and yet, biggest risk.

5. It sends one of the most powerful messages to your employees – that they and the organization’s reputation are valued. When your employees are anxious about maintaining the reputation of the institution, it is more important than ever to demonstrate a commitment to them, by giving them the know-how and understanding to manage that asset and risk.

6. To avoid Reputation Risk. When employees understand the value and risk of reputation as an asset, they will think twice before destroying it.

7. Training increases productivity in the short term, as well as the long term. It enhances reputation.

Think back to your own experiences. What a pleasure to deal with employees that are dedicated , focused and competent. The sooner you engage your staff, the earlier you can address and deal with the issues that may affect your reputation.

Read this post Education & Training Programs Woefully Reputation Deficient for more provocative insight based on research.

Should Reputation Management Training not feature on your company’s Training agenda? Are you leaving the deliberate management of this asset to chance?

One Event, Multiple Stakeholder Impacts

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Just a storm in a teacup! How often have I not heard CEO’s say this, only for the share price to be 20% down a day later!

Normally these are the visible signs, but a crisis poorly handled, have a wider impact than most managers anticipated. Look at the following model.

A single risk event is likely to have multiple impacts on a company‘s reputation. To understand this, imagine that XYZ Corporation has been fined by the Competition Commission for price fixing and allegedly engaging in unfair and predatory business practices.

News of the lawsuit is picked up by major media outlets, which run exposés on the company and how it has taken advantage of its customers.

The list below gives examples of how different stakeholders may react to this single lawsuit.

Current Customers – Possible Action: A number of customers believe they have been taken advantage of, and they refuse to do business with the company again. Other customers, who may not even be part of the lawsuit class, decide to cut back on their business or switch to new, aggressive competitors.

Potential customers – Decide not to do business with the company.

Suppliers and partners – Decide not to enter into an alliance or demand more favourable terms because of discomfort at being associated with the company.

Employees – Not wanting to be associated with a company that takes advantage of its customers, or believing that future opportunities at the company are limited, decide to take other jobs.

Financial markets and lenders – Believe the growth prospects of the firm are limited or even worse, that the business model is no longer valid. Discount the share price and demand more onerous lending terms

Government regulators – After a few politicians make speeches mentioning the fine, an aggressive regulatory agency puts a team of lawyers on the case to decide whether the company has broken the law and should face further fines or limitations on doing business

The downside of failing to meet stakeholder expectations can be enormous. In many cases, brand equity value is the single biggest component of a company‘s market value, even exceeding book assets.

Sixty-three percent of a company‘s market value is attributed to reputation (Weber Shandwick/KRC Research, Safeguarding Reputation, 2006).

The growth of the Internet-powered economy has dramatically raised the importance of reputation. Today, the velocity of information flow has increased to a level unthinkable in the years before the proliferation of websites, blogs, e-mail, instant messaging and other Internet-powered communications. In this environment, we say: Semel emissum volat irrevocabile verbum (Horace).

Loosely translated, this means that once the word is out, it has flown and cannot be brought back. In today‘s wired business environment, positive events may bring incremental benefits, while negative perceptions can spread like wildfire, with devastating results to a company‘s reputation and, ultimately, its shareholder value.

While a company‘s reputation can be harmed by a single major event, more frequently, reputations are harmed over time by “erosion” – slowly chipped away by one unsatisfactory stakeholder interaction after another. For example, dissatisfied customers are more likely to do less business with a company than they are to abandon it completely. Yet the cumulative impact of these decisions can be profound.

Question: Can you really afford to not manage your stakeholders? No wonder that, in the King 3 Code specific mention is made of the importance of stakeholder inclusivity (,i.e. that the legitimate interests and expectations of stakeholders are considered when deciding in the best interests of the company), stakeholder identification and determination of expectations and needs, the proactive management of stakeholder relationships, and that management should develop a strategy and formulate policies for the management of relationships with each stakeholder grouping.

To learn more about how to manage and engage stakeholders, you should consider attending the following event:

What: Stakeholder Reputation Management Master Class
This intensive 2-day training seminar explores international best practice approaches to Stakeholder & Reputation Management and will help organisations to comply with Section 8 of the King Code 3 Guidelines on Corporate Governance. The course gives a delegate the practical, experienced guidance they need for designing a successful Stakeholder Reputation Management system and includes a dedicated look at communication, engagement and relationship building and reputation enhancement practices. To register, e-mail
When: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:30 AM to Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:30 PM
Where: Apollo Hotel, Randburg, Johannesburg

158 Bram Fischer Drive Johannesburg 2118
Johannesburg, Gauteng 2118   South Africa

Building More Cost-Effective & Efficient Consulting Practices

Recently the Minister of Finance declared that Government Departments will need to become more lean and mean and make do with what they have.

This “freeze” is bound to affect consultant income. Times are going to be tough and Government are certainly going to be cutting costs and re-evaluating consulting relationships and contracts.

Professional Service Providers are going to have to do the same. Re-evaluate their practices and how they do things.

In this process there are two approaches that can be followed:  

  • Focus on what to cut or reduce or,
  • Focus on what you need to do to continue doing well.

426123_96981711The key to consistent success is to “Work smart, work efficiently and constantly deliver results to customers.”  

In 1984 I was in a situation where I joined a new organization, when after one week with the company, the CEO asked me in a meeting, so “What extra value are you going to add. I started rambling about my tasks, when he said, “No – no that is the minimum, what extra do you have to offer”. I have never forgotten that lesson. That’s sound counsel, regardless of the economy.  

So, here’s some advice that could help you with name recognition and your own reputation externally and internally in a tough economy.

Re-examine your Core Value Proposition – What made you successful in the first place? Sometimes we start to focus on turnover and forget about the small things, such as the personal attention to detail that made the practice successful in the beginning.

Stick to your knitting but embrace New Principles. Teaching an old dog new tricks is possible. Learn better, faster and more efficient ways to do things. My secret weapon – Reading the daily tips from Lifehacker.

Balance innovation and your past successes. Stay relevant. Constantly review your service offerings. Is it still in touch with customer needs? Along those same lines, an internal or external service provider needs to stay relevant. If you constantly prove your value, you’re more likely to remain a partner in the business”

Think and sell strategically and tactically. During a recession, value is going to be more deeply examined; clients are going to demand that you add extra value.

How do you do that – attend my new and revamped 1 day How to Market and Grow a Consulting Practice workshop on the 10th December in Johannesburg.

As we all know, perception is everything. Do you treat all people with respect? Not just senior management! Relationships are built at all levels. Often senior management will turn around and ask junior staff members about their perception of you. What would you like them to say?

Market, Market, Market yourself. In the book “High Income Consulting” by the late Tom Lambert, the author had the following to say: “The so – called window of opportunity is open only briefly as an organization’s priorities change. When a potential client recognizes the need for services which you supply, yours must be the name they know. Your marketing, therefore, must be CONSISTENT and INDIRECT, aimed specifically at making you well known to ALL your prospective clients”.

To be a recognized name means that you have to find methods that will work for you in the long term and in the short term, using vehicles ranging from public speaking engagements to suitable audiences to being listed in directories.

The lesson is clear. You should find ways and means to ensure that yours are the name customers remember when that window of opportunity arises.

Social Media has now become the preferred tool of choice in this strategy. Learn more on how to best market your consulting services using many different approaches and techniques on the 10th December.

Register now and avoid disappointment.

The Dates for the Remainder of my 2012 Public Training

Please check out and register for my remaining 2012 public courses. I will facilitate a Stakeholder Reputation Management Master Class, a Product Recall Crisis Management workshop, a Reputation Protection & Defence seminar and a Marketing and Growing a Consulting Practice workshop during November & December.

A Definition for the Word “Stakeholder”


Last night I received an e-mail asking me for a modern definition of the word stakeholder.

Immediately my ‘humour’ side kicked in, and I thought of vampires  a-la Edward.

This is a question that I ask at conferences and in my workshops, and inevitably I will get words such as someone or a group that has an interest, or position, or impact on an organisation.

But being a stakeholder is so much more. So this was my response to my client’s request.

My definition : An Organisation derives its reputation from the way it’s performance, actions and behavior is perceived by stakeholders.

A Stakeholder is any group or individual that can affect or is affected by the performance, behavior and actions of an organization.

These perceptions are influenced by the relationship building, communication and engagement practices of the organization.

In the King 3 Code on Corporate Governance specific mention is made of the importance of stakeholder inclusivity (,i.e. that the legitimate interests and expectations of stakeholders are considered when deciding in the best interests of the company), stakeholder identification and determination of expectations and needs, the proactive management of stakeholder relationships, and that management should develop a strategy and formulate policies for the management of relationships with each stakeholder grouping.

Here are some typical questions that leaders should be asking about stakeholder & reputation management processes in their organizations.

  • Who are our stakeholders?
  • What are our stakeholders’ stakes?
  • What opportunities and challenges do stakeholders present?
  • What economic, legal, ethical, and social responsibilities does our organization have towards our various stakeholders?
  • What strategies or actions should we take to best manage stakeholder challenges and opportunities?
  • Do you have a system for managing relationships with stakeholders?
  • How do you measure results? What metrics do you use to assess and gauge stakeholder relationships?
  • In a crisis how quickly can you communicate with your relevant stakeholders?
  • Do you know the various methods to engage with stakeholders and when not to use it?
  • Can you state how much you are spending on each stakeholder group and what your ROI is?
  • Have you developed a set of rules and practices on how best to manage the process of building stakeholder reputation with each stakeholder group?

Another definition says that the term ‘stakeholder management’ refers to the development and implementation of organisational policies and practices (example decision-making) that take into account the goals and concerns of all relevant stakeholders.

Example: If you have employees in wheel-chairs, surely you should have wheelchair ramps. In SA, the Chinese community went to the highest Court to be included as part of Black Economic Empowerment legislation.

The  keywords here are relevant (to the outcome or issue on hand) and the word stake.

The word stake can mean an interest, a legal or economic position (example shareholding or ownership), moral ( I do my best even though I am just a salaried employee), it could mean a public interest stake ( Media – The public has a right to know) or it can even be emotional in nature (example – I cannot relocate, because my forefathers are buried here – symbolising an emotional connection with the land – often seen at Land Claims Court).

Inclusiveness means to ensure the inclusion of the full range of different stakeholders, including marginalised and vulnerable groups.

Relevance –  Include only relevant stakeholders – those who have a significant stake in the process (i.e., not everyone is included).

Remember Gender sensitivity. Both women and men should have equal access within the participatory decision making process (and never forget transsexuals as well…real inclusiveness)

If you want to unpack it further:

· A stakeholder is any group or individual who can affect or is affected by an organisation’s impact or behaviour – I saw this on a Body Shop delivery truck in Singapore. Definition based on Friedman’s work

· Those who are affected by a particular issue, incident or program;

· Those who have information, knowledge, resources or positions which are relevant to the issue;

· Those who have some control over the outcome of the issue.

OK, so what does the above teach us:

– A Stakeholder can be a group or individual (example – a blogger)

– Stakeholder Profiling is contextual and have to be done EVERY TIME, a situation or issue change. Example – I may decide to become active over certain issues but stay dormant on others. THUS stakeholders can change positions.

Read this article for more clarity:

This is what I teach.

Persistence Is About Little Steps


Dr. Laura Schlessinger tells the following story: “Guy comes to the guru in the road and says, “Guru, which way is success?” Guru points off silently, because gurus don’t talk when they’re wearing white robes.

Guy goes off in that direction and then you hear SPLAT. Guy comes back, a little bloody, a little worn, his hair’s messed up. Says, “Guru, which way is success?” Guru points in the same direction. Guy takes off.

Bigger SPLAT! this time. Guy comes back crawling, nails broken and bleeding,  dragging himself along the ground. This time he grabs the guru by the collar, yanks him about and says, “Guru, which way is success?”

Guru points off in the same direction. Guy gets hostile and crazed and yells, “I went that way twice and all I got was SPLAT SPLAT!”

“What is the way to success?” Guru finally speaks.” Success is that way, he says, “Just a little bit past SPLAT. 

There is a saying that ” The power to shape the future is earned through persistence.” No other quality is as essential to success. No matter what endeavour you choose, persistence is what will overcome all obstacles.

In your communication campaigns it will be persistence in getting the message across that will be the deciding factor in achieving a successful outcome.

As a consultant it will be the value you add on a daily basis. Every step, every effort and every inch helps. In training we know that repetition is the mother of skill.

As Nike says: “Just do it!”

One of my all-time favourite quotes is this :

” The power to shape the future is earned through persistence. No other quality is more important to success. It is the sandpaper that breaks down all resistance and sweeps away all obstacles. It is the ability to move mountains one grain at a time”.

This ties in nicely with the poster on my wall depicting a Chinese proverb:

“The man who moved a mountain is the one who started taking away the small stones”

Persistence is about little steps. Removing or moving little stones.

The Importance of Quick Response

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Are you one of those culprits that do not promptly return e-mails, phone calls or direct tweet messages?

Then read on. It can be the key to success or failure. One of the reasons why the SA e-commerce security company Thawte came to be worth so much to US Competitor Verisign was that the owner Mark Shuttleworth managed to get the company’s name embedded in the popular browser software.

The story goes that in 1996 Thawte was run out of a garage in Durbanville in South Africa, and Shuttleworth was handling all correspondence himself. The future of the company hinged on persuading browser developers that Thawte was important enough to include in their software, so that companies wishing to sell their goods and services online would be steered towards Thawte when they needed security certificates.

After spending months hitting a brick wall to convince Netscape to take him seriously, Shuttleworth was visiting London when he decided, on a whim to check his e-mail. There, in the pile of everyday messages from friends and colleagues was a bombshell: Thawte would be included in the new version of Netscape navigator browser if he responded by the …. NEXT DAY.

A few frantic telephone calls and heart palpitations later and the arrangements were made. Not to be outdone, Microsoft rushed to ensure that Thawte was embedded in the next version of its Explorer browser, and the rest is history. R3 billion rand history.

To this day Shuttleworth cannot say what made him check his e-mail, but he is the first to admit that he came within a few hours of missing his multi -billion dollar deal”.

The lesson from this piece is clear. E-mail is instantaneous and sometimes the sending party wants an immediate answer.

How prompt are you?

Today rapid response to a tweet or an e-mail can be the difference between failure and success.

Or are you willing to risk on the basis of doing business as usual. Today’s speedy economy and rate of change dictates immediacy as the key between success or failure.

Complacency can be a Killer

I recently saw an e-mail on the OD List that I want to share verbatim with my readers and I have the writer’s permission to do so. The e-mail is written by Allon Shevat, an OD Consultant from Israel.

My comments straight after this e-mail.

4 years ago, the train station where I board was bombed at 0700 am. (I was to have been on the 0900 am train.) The station was torn apart, the security guard died, and many people waiting in line were maimed.

Ever since then, there is far more security…….but like many things in my country, it is sloppy and undisciplined.

An airport scanner was installed and now, everything goes on the scanner and passengers must personally walk thru a detector after first emptying one’s pockets.

People wait in the sweltering heat to be checked, and at peak hours it is more or less like JKF in peak hours.

The person who mans the scanner is on her cell phone all the time. She yaks and yaks and yaks, and, like many Israelis (and Indians), she has more than one phone; as she yaks, she send text messages on the other phone.

A few weeks ago, I yelled out “what good is this check point when she is not looking at the screen”? She pulled me aside and told me “I will make sure you take the bus”. I showed her my card with my military reserve rank, and she almost passed out. Within two days, I had a written apology and she was given 2 weeks suspension.

Now she is back again, and…..on her phones.

I was faced with a real dilemma. Since our society is VERY VERY tolerant of bad discipline, (life is hard so we all deserve breaks), I know that I have no chance with getting her off her phone or dismissed.

Yesterday I made my decision and filmed her on her phones and sent the clip to the head to the train hq.

Last night I got a call that “she really needs her salary but you are right; we will have a good talk to her and ensure corrective action is taken……in other words……there is to be no change.

Some societies and cultures are sadly more resistant to random acts of responsibility.

My response.

Until the next bombing……

For the past 16 years I have been an independent consultant focusing on Corporate Reputation. Yet, there is another side to me. I am also a trainer and consultant in Occupational Health & Safety – and it is a passion of mine.

For the past 16 years I used to perform Health & Safety training and consulting a few days a month on behalf of an ISO registered OSHA Compliance consultancy.

What I find so enticing is to raise people’s awareness of health & safety issues (dangers) in the workplace. After these workshops delegates cannot express enough gratitude and the statements are always universally the same:

“Thank you for raising my awareness”!

How do we make people more aware about potential crises in the workplace?

This question should interest all managers.

I believe that it is necessary to expose managers to that type of thinking, that we educate and train them, and we share knowledge. The South African Occupational Health & Safety Act has a number of conditions and issues that has made it one of the most benchmarked Acts in the world. One of the interesting requirements and questions that arise from it:

Have you given the employee adequate information, education, and training in his task considering the task, the hazards, potential outcomes and consequences of non-compliance?

jpg_00004473A few years ago I had the opportunity of standing at the top of the Empire State Building in New York. Standing there with the wind blowing me nearly off my feet, I could not help but visualize friends jumping of the burning World Trade Centre.

911 has come and gone. Yet for many organisations the impact, reality and lessons from it does not remain. How many organisations have not slipped back into the normal mode of doing things? Assuming that an incident like 911 will never happen to them?

Recently I was in a building in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa when I decided to use the fire escape instead of the lift, but between the 3rd and 4th floor was a locked gate. When I called the Facilities manager he said the following words to me: “Deon, you worry too much. If a fire breaks out, someone will come and unlock this gate!” No way, in my experience most people look out for number one in any crisis – themselves.

Standing at the 911 site, the thought arose in my mind as to what should an organization do if you are faced with a situation that is beyond an organisation’s normal scope to act? Health & Safety experts teach that 2% of accidents are “Acts of God”, 10% caused by unsafe conditions but that 88% of accidents are caused by unsafe behavior.

How does a company deal with the hand of fate and at the same time protect its reputation and integrity? How can a company come out “smelling like roses”.

One simple lesson is that stakeholders will forgive you for mistakes, but they will not forgive a company for not caring. Therefore in line with industry experience a company who aims to be a good corporate citizen should prepare for any eventual crisis.

But for what and how? Since 9/11, nearly every emergency preparedness and business continuity regulation and industry best practice in the USA has been strengthened, several even mentioning the threat of terrorism as a prime motivation for their enhancements. In South Africa, interest seems to be only to cope with the demands of the latest sporting events.

Considering the following points will help you prepare your organization for the worst.

1. Remember that the very things you believe cannot happen to your organisation can. Professor Ian Mitroff, who for more than 20 years headed up the Institute for Crisis Management ran a crisis management workshop in New York about two weeks before 911 happened. Most of the executives present, represented multi-national companies. In compiling likely risks, car bombs featured at the top of the list. However no one mentioned “flying bombs”. Mitroff goes on to say that something is lacking, and that “That something is our ability to think comprehensively about crisis”. Are you thinking comprehensively about crisis?

2. Equip yourself with knowledge so that you can help your organization be better prepared. One of the most frequent comments I hear from clients is not that they do not know the answers, but that they don’t know the right questions to get started in their planning or to persuade management to allocate resources for this planning. You can read the various good books out there in bookshops or you could equip yourself in the short term by attending training workshops such as my Crisis Management & Communication workshops.

3. Talk to the specialists (consultants, local authorities and emergency management service providers) in your area. If possible, contact your suppliers and find out who has done this type of planning before so that you can reduce your organisation’s learning curve.

4. Revisit the basics of crisis management. I walk into many organisations to do OSHA Compliance workshops only to find out that the organisation have not recently conducted any fire drills, if any. To assume that everyone will be able to escape the building and be accounted for is dangerous. One large firm affected by 9/11 took more than three days to account for its personnel because they lost their primary means to track and contact employees.

5. Appoint one person who is responsible for crisis preparedness across the organization and communicate his or her identity to managers at all levels.

Ensure each crisis planning team (strategic crisis management, business continuity, crisis communications, disaster recovery, emergency response, employee impact, etc.) knows the relationship between their plan(s) and the overall organization’s crisis management goals and objectives. (I provide a two day training course that enables managers to create one integrated crisis management action plan that can assist you. Or, you can purchase my Crisis Toolkit).

6. Audit your organisation’s crisis plans. The audit should cover evacuation/egress planning, personnel accountability, emergency system shutdown procedures, correct names/numbers on emergency phone lists, media and other stakeholder communications guidelines, family communications guidelines, expectations for employee communications and support.

6. Consider holding a table top exercise or discussion around a likely event.

Brainstorm likely crises; determine the roles each team member is expected to play while responding to an incident will help identify strengths and weaknesses in your organization’s ability to respond, especially for teams requiring interaction during the response. Scenario planning is a helpful tool leading to overall preparedness. No organization does everything well, and exercises are a terrific way to highlight improvement needs for multiple areas at one time.

(I work together with organisations to design, develop and facilitate likely scenarios unique to that organisation. I assisted ATNS with that before the World Cup Soccer event, and assisted the Department of Statistics during the Census 2011)

7. Nearly every survey taken after 9/11 has shown that the most overlooked area of crisis preparedness is the human and communication side. When Saambou, the South African bank closed down one employee committed suicide.

Work closely with EAP (Employee Assistance) experts, psychologists, the church and other specialists to determine modes of action prior to problems happening. Communication is integral to making any plan work and should be factored in from the outset.

8. It isn’t enough to know that your organization is better prepared. The impact of a crisis may become an industry issue and affect your business.

The Marikana shooting incidents and riots have placed an unnecessary burden on the Mining Industry in South Africa and has the potential to negatively impact investment in South Africa, and this at a time, just as we are getting things right.

Build alliances with suppliers and industry experts before a crisis breaks, so that you can make use of this expertise when the time comes.

There is lots can be done, but the biggest danger is that of Complacency. Complacency to the extent that people tell me they attended a first aid workshop 8 years ago.

Is your capability/competency still current? If not, you may just hurt the other person.

How sharp is your axe? How current are your Crisis Management & Crisis Communication plans and Capability?

Let me share with you a story written by the late Stephen Covey.

Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job to a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was good and so were the working conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Carry on that way!”.

Very motivated with the boss’s words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could bring only 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but could bring 10 trees only. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought.
He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your Axe?” the boss asked.

“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my Axe. I have been very busy trying to cut more trees for you.”

Complacency is akin to not sharpening your axe.

Executives Need to Learn a New Style of Decision-making

Reputation Risk has been described as elusive and difficult to manage. Some have even called it “Soft issues, tangible impacts”.

Why? Why is it difficult to manage? Well, for one few know how an issue or crisis can erupt. It may or may not. An issue may be material or not.

To understand reputation risk you need to understand some basic tenets of risk and reputation. Risk is something that causes a sudden and unforeseen event leading to loss of expected income, damage to property or harm to individuals. It is the possibility that a future event may cause harm.

Pure risk – a Risk that results only in loss, damage, disruption or injury whilst speculative risk – is a risk which carries the potential of either a loss or a gain. Risk is also a combination of probability and consequences.

In my own consulting work I define, Reputational Risk as the loss of earnings that occur in a situation of negative public opinion. It normally results when the reasonable expectations of stakeholders are not met and culminates in loss of sales, share value decreases and breakdown of relationships. It is the adverse operational and financial impact to business performance when the company’s good name gets tarnished.

In the case of many of the corporate disasters a decision was taken without due thought, to its implications, and hence it backfired. It is thus important to realise that a decision has reputational implications if it has the potential to affect the relationship between the company and any of its stakeholders. In other words, it is difficult to think of a decision that does not have reputational implications. I believe that we can go a long way to minimise corporate disasters if we teach directors and senior executives the value of perception management, stakeholder reputation and good ethics.

By exposing them to these concepts the likelihood of reputation damage can be minimized since they will factor reputation earlier into the decision making mix. My reasoning is that in most of the Corporate Disasters currently there is a pattern of limited and distorted decision making. Many decisions are made not considering all the angles and potential impact zones.

Every decision that an organisation must make has four broad sets of implications. The obvious three sets of implications are operational, financial and legal.

The fourth set of implications is generally ignored, delegated or included in the process only on the basis of the “gut instinct” of one of the participants. This fourth set of implications is reputational.

The reputational implications of a business decision can be defined as those that impact the way in which an organization is regarded by those with whom it interacts, including shareholders, customers and employees, as well as suppliers, government regulators, the media and even competitors (and any other stakeholder). This fits in well with the ecology model of organisational effectiveness. The New Collins Concise English Dictionary defines ecology as:”The study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment, the set of relationships of a particular organism with its environment.”

This means that the ecology model is concerned with the organisation’s ability to deal with internal and external contingencies, and its ability to manage interrelationships between stakeholders in the context of its environment. Any organisation is dependent on its stakeholders for support and the strategic importance of any stakeholder depends on how dependent the organisation is upon it. And this relationship can change over a period of time or due to indiscretions.

Reputation, most managers today would agree, is an asset, even if only a perceptual asset (or, if mismanaged, a liability). It certainly is not optional. Every corporation, organization, institution, individual has a reputation. The only option is whether to manage it or allow it to be inferred. If reputation is a strategic resource and if it is to add value, it should be managed with the same care and attention as any asset. It should be obvious that if a decision has four broad sets of implications, and only three are formally and routinely considered, the potential exists for flawed decision making. After all, the role of a manager is to manage all the assets under his or her control effectively.

Most Directors, leaders and managers have never received training in managing an organisation’s reputation, yet some studies now show that reputation can make up as much as 55% of an organisation’s share price. They receive training in Corporate Governance, but companies tend to forget why governance is important. The end purpose of governance is to be perceived in an excellent manner by your stakeholders. Thus the end purpose of governance is to have an excellent reputation.

A large proportion of intangible assets is thus not being adequately managed and may be at risk in today’s knowledge based economy.

By getting directors and senior managers to interact and learn about the link between reputation and effective decision making you will raise the ante, improve their competences and minimise the likelihood of reputation damage. Davis Young, in “Building your company’s good name” wrote:

“Every employee needs training to understand the impact their actions have on your company’s good name and its business success. This training needs to start the day they are hired, with daily reinforcement thereafter, if only through leadership modelling. Every employee must understand the importance of his or her actions in terms of what those will mean to the organisation’s reputation”

Companies, who do not provide reputation management training to their directors, and senior executives, are at RISK.


How to Project a Positive Corporate Image

Plant 3370498035_8b8ba70861_mPrice Waterhouse Coopers years ago referred in one their booklets that reputation has two main components namely:

  • Perception- How the company is perceived by all stakeholders and;
  • Reality – the truth about a company’s policies, practices, procedures, systems and performance.

Perception is thus closely related to the image that a company projects.

Another way of defining the elements of reputation is that it consists of:

  • Images – what stakeholders think of a company,
  • Identity – what the company say it is, and
  • Personality – what the company is all about.

The alignment of these factors is vital if we want to build, sustain and protect an organisation’s reputation.

Each one of us plays a part in this by representing the company we work for.

The question is whether we project a positive or a negative image? The way we dress, talk, act, and feel expresses this reality of the company to the outside community.

Specifically what we say to others and how we act adds to the images of the organisation. It is therefore important to evaluate what your employees and stakeholders such as the Media are saying about your organisation. If we want to protect and build our company’s reputation, image being just one element, we have to influence this process.

I believe that the way to do that is to reflect on the actions we should use to make our employees become loyal in an era of continual downsizing, restructuring and other changes, and the feelings we should express about our company and what it is accomplishing in the community.

In this process we have to enlist the support of all employees. This process is not the domain of only the Communications department.

Here are a couple of ideas and suggestions that may help:

Conduct research into what stakeholders such as employees are saying about your company.

– Conduct research into the actions you want from employees (Example – All employees will effectively neutralise any negative comments about our company and work to project a positive image), the methods that can be used to measure progress towards projecting a positive company image, and the incentives that might be used to help employees project a positive company image.

– Develop a list of suggested actions* on how to project a positive image that can be handed to each employee as part of an outreach & training program.

– Meet with employees to share this list of suggestions.

– Launch a formal program together with incentives. This has to be a process of selling the benefits to employees, not just telling them what to say, otherwise it will just be received as management propaganda.

* Suggested List:

– Relate positive stories or observations about our company, internally and externally. By telling only the good things we can prevent the spread of negative messages.

– Relate details selectively. Not every interaction with a customer or another person needs to become a “Truth and reconciliation” affair. You don’t have to confess just because some one asked for the details.

– Make a positive remark to neutralise a negative statement about the company. Support your company.

– Do what is important to you and let others know what you value.

Remember that your actions stand for what you are and what stakeholders believe the company is all about. This is closely related to stated company values.

(Or are you just working for the money?)

– Learn about and tell the little known positive things the company is involved in. Make it a point to discover these and to spread the good word about your organisation.

By influencing what employees are saying about an organisation, we can directly affect our reputation in the market and workplace.

Nothing is New

There is a Zen saying, “To the one wearing sandals, the whole world is leather”. 

So, that is where Maslow got his statement – “If the only thing you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as a nail”.

So, nothing is new.

The art of originality is forgetting where you heard something in the first place.

Reputation is like a Burning Flame

The reason for the custom header photo – Reputation is like a flame, easily blown out and fickle unless you keep the flame going.

A person’s or Business’s Reputation needs constant attention – building it, sustaining it and protecting it, and when the time comes that things go wrong – effort and attention to restore it.

I am here to assist you.

Drivers of Company Vehicles–What Impact do they have on Reputation?

The manner and way in which a company’s employees use the road can significantly harm the company’s public image and reputation.

The other day I was nearly wiped out by a truck that moved from one lane to another without indicating. Best of all, on the back of the truck was a notice with the words: “How’s my driving? Phone this number!” What a joke!

The way employees drive or ride on the road is a reflection of the company’s image, and highly visible to members of the public, many of whom may be customers of the company.  Road crashes involving company vehicles, especially delivery ones, are also very visible, especially when pictures or company names are reported in the media. Court cases following crashes or prosecutions for driving offences are also reported in the local and national media.

On the positive side, companies which are proud of their road safety performance should include details of their driver management approach, targets and performance in health and safety reports on their websites.

A Humorous Look at Transparency

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.

The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.

When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour. Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.’

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ‘Who was that?’

‘It was Bob the next door neighbour’, she replies.

‘Great’, the husband says, ‘did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?’

Moral of the Story:

If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your stakeholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

The Triple Filter Test–One Way to stop Gossiping & Rumours

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem.

One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?”

“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not.

Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

This is why Socrates was a great philosopher & held in such high esteem.

Next time someone starts gossiping, you know what to do.