Trust and relevance, in combination, is the key to building reputation. What happens when you are relevant for the wrong reasons? When relevance comes without trust, the result is negative for reputations. Here are my thoughts on the biggest reputation losers of 2011:
- Rupert Murdoch – Murdoch was never a beacon of honesty, but a publication-ending scandal of this magnitude solidified his position as the guy we shouldn’t trust.
- Ashton Kutcher – what happens when a twitter-licious celebrity goes off the rails? Ashton’s public marital problems, followed by his rant defending Joe Paterno caused his reputation to take a major tumble.
- NBA and David Stern – when millionaires fight with billionaires, nobody wins. And while the fans got a Christmas gift with the return of NBA play, they start the shortened season with a black eye.
- Yahoo – is this really how you fire a CEO? Enough said.
- Joe Paterno and Penn State Football – Legendary coach Joe Paterno’s firing in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal is the headline here, but far from the only reputation damaging event in college football.
- Bank of America – already the poster child for labor protests on executive pay and the “1 percent problem” Bank of America’s decision to implement nickel and dime fees to customers is one of the things that makes me go “hmmmm?”
- Mayor Bloomberg – OWS, mishandling the October blizzard and the Cathie Black debacle have made the straight talking Mayor one of the year’s reputation losers.
- Big Banks, Wall Street and the Financial Services industry – it’s hard to believe that there is further to fall after the TBTF trend of last year – but OWS, MF Global and other high profile events are proof that there is still further they can fall.
- The European Union – the European Financial Crisis is one to watch in 2012…seems like yesterday that the world was celebrating the EU and the Eurozone – concepts whose viability are now in question.
- Netflix – the customer owns the brand. And that customer is angry. A bumbled apology doesn’t make up for a breathtaking lack of awareness of what matters to customers. BofA and Netflix seem to be missing the same chip here.
Reputation building requires relevance – sometimes that relevance comes from an event in the news, and sometimes it is created and crafted by the choices, statements and actions of individuals. History is filled with examples of reputations ruined in a single action or in a brief news cycle, and 2011 was no different. (Watch for that blog soon).
But winning the reputation battle…that is another story altogether. Here’s my list of reputation winners of 2011 – who would you add?
- NYC as a tech hub – the success of FourSquare, Twitter’s NY office and Facebook’s plan to come to NY in 2012 have put NYC back on the map as a legitimate technology center.
- Tablet Computing – sure, Apple still dominates the category – but the holiday success and popularity of the Kindle Fire and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab have taken Tablets from a product (the iPad) to a category.
- Populism and mass protest – three letters – OWS. But this wasn’t the only movement that captured attention this year – think about the protests over Russia’s elections, the Arab Spring or even India’s anti-corruption movement.
- The British Monarchy – there is nothing like a royal wedding to make an out of date institution like the monarchy relevant again. Will and Kate have captured the hearts of the public in a way we haven’t seen since Princess Diana.
- Social Media – no longer the wild, wild, west – social media’s acceptance in the mainstream world and in the board room makes it a big winner of 2011.
- NCAA Basketball – scandals in college football and an NBA lockout made college basketball the darling of winter sports – where the love of the game rules the day.
- Steve Jobs – The untimely passing of Steve Jobs, and the insight into the long range plans he left behind for Apple has taken an iconic leader of our time and made him even larger and more iconic than when we was living.
- Google’s Sergy Brin – taking back the reigns of Google and tackling tough issues like China while restoring Google’s focus on the ideas that work is helping Google get its mojo back. Let’s watch Google+ in 2012.
- GM, Ford and the American Automotive industry – Once the industry America loved to hate, complete with CEOs taking private jets to Washington to ask for a bailout, the American Automotive industry is on the rise, fueled by bold leadership by CEOs like Dan Akerson, who dares to say out loud what many just think, or Alan Mulalley, who arguably led the industry’s reputation turnaround.
- Lady Gaga – once known simply for her eccentricity (meat dress, anyone?), Lady Gaga has emerged as a leading equality advocate – for LGBT issues and for anti-bullying in general.