Category Archives: GM

Another measure of corporate image out–the Cision Index

It must be the season to measure corporate reputations. Here is the results of the Cision Index, formerly the Delahaye Index. Microsoft comes out on top as it does in the Edelman Trust Barometer.

The bigger news is the astounding recovering of reputation enjoyed by the US auto industry. Hmmm–let’s see, losing billions, on their backends due to continuous and effective competition, losing market share constantly, but reputation up?

I think Microsoft’s stunning recovery and the automaker’s improvements are related phenomenons. It is the monopoly vs, underdog situation. As I blogged before, Microsoft’s reputation didn’t turn around because of bloggers (they helped) or any massive PR campaign, or even Bill Gates doing his marvelous philanthropy. Google did it. Google demonstrated that Microsoft was vulnerable. Not to the general public because frankly I don’t think most non-tech types understand the clear and present danger that Google represents to the software giant–but the influencers who understand technology get it and their opinion is now showing up big time in the public (see the comments discussion about the Edelman Trust Barometer for differing opinions about the role of influencers).

I don’t think people have gotten to feeling sorry for Microsoft, but their loss of position as a fearful monopoly along with Google’s transcendence have contributed greatly to their reputation. Auto companies? Well, we still like Americans and made in America. We just don’t like big huge powerful monopolies or anthing close to them, particularly when they don’t operate with humility. GM, Ford, Chrysler have been humbled. they are fighting for their lives. They have huge obstacles to overcome–not just Toyota and Honda but their own labor force and the changes in the world that they were slow to adapt to. They now appear weak, vulnerable, but their efforts also seem somewhat heroic.  We want them to win–if not get back to dominance, at least show they can still compete well in a world increasingly dominated by smart people from Europe and Asia.

Perhaps, as a PR person, it would be better for me to conclude that the reversal of fortune of these companies was due somehow to the brilliance of PR strategists and the far thinking of corporate leadership. I think circumstances–often dictated by competitors–can have a lot to do with reputations. It is the smart communicators who understand these dynamics and know how to take full advantage of human psychology as well as changes in the world.

Microsoft the most respected brand–how'd that happen?

I’ve seen several studies in the last couple of years that show that Microsoft (our neighbor here in the Pacific Northwest) is now the most respected brand, or company, or name or whatever. This is truly remarkable and if it is indeed the case, it should be studied by all of us involved in reputation management. Because it was only a few very short years ago that the name was almost universally hated, it had more blog sites attacking it than anyone else, it was always in the news in a most negative fashion. It was accused of being a bully, driving others out of business, doing all kinds of things illegally–mostly related to aggressive business tactics.

I’d like crisisblogger readers to share their thoughts. Here are a few possible explanations:

– Microsoft communications became much more transparent, particularly with their blog policy that enabled thousands of employees to openly blog about the company (this is Robert Scoble’s primary explanation)

– Bill Gates left the CEO position and others, particularly Steve Ballmer became much more visible

– Bill Gates became one of history’s greatest philanthropists

– Their products stopped sucking (I’m writing on a Mac–what do you think I think)

– Their business practices changed, they became less mean and aggressive

– All the lawsuits made them a victim of aggressive prosecutors and lawyers

– press coverage went through the cycle of build up, tear down and now build up again

My opinion? All of these had some minimal impact, the biggest thing that changed was Google. The simple principle is that we all hate a monopoly and we deeply distrust anyone with unchecked power. Power corrupts… Google demonstrated that there was someone to check the power of Microsoft, someone to challenge their market position and even someone who could make them look vulnerable. We love vulnerable.

If this is the case, what does this mean for crisis managers and reputation managers? That the environment you operate in may have more to do with reputation than anything you can do or say. This is critically important because I see lots of evidence everyday that people are not really studying or understanding the reputation environment they operate in. One company that seems to understand this is Toyota. This remarkably successful manufacturing machine has overtaken GM in the US and is overtaking it in the world as the world’s biggest car company. Of course, for profitability they overtook them a long, long time ago. They are nervous as heck about getting to such a strong position. They are not a monopoly for sure, but they have good reason to be fearful of the “ginormous successful global giant” label in this environment. You can see evidence of their thinking all around–promoting US manufacturing plants to the US market–they are sellling their plants more than their cars these days. And branding new lines not with the Toyota name but introducing other names like Scion.

Despite this, I predict a growing “I hate Toyota” movement. It’s just in the air we breathe.