Earlier today, I wrote a post on the Harvard Business Review blog about Joe Paterno and reputation management.
Last Thursday, former FBI head Louis Freeh released a report on the child abuse scandal at Penn State that dealt a devastating blow to the university and to the legacy of the once revered football coach, Joe Paterno. In the report, Freeh’s investigators pointed to “a pervasive fear of bad publicity” as one of the main reasons Paterno and former Penn State president, Graham Spanier, allowed such heinous acts to go unreported. How could he have thought that covering up Jerry Sandusky’s repeated offenses would help him reach that goal?
After studying the topic of reputation for over a decade, I see Paterno’s behavior repeated again and again in the corporate world. Just a few months ago, the New York Times revealed that Walmart senior executives hid evidence of widespread bribery in its Mexican expansion effort. And just this past weekend, the Times reported that the FDA spied on its own scientists to catch whistle-blowers who leaked evidence that the agency had employed faulty review processes that led to the approval of potentially dangerous imaging devices.
Why do otherwise intelligent people seem to believe that they are protecting their reputation by covering up the truth when they are actually making things even worse? And, what can you do to make sure you are assessing reputational risk as seriously you do financial and legal risks to your institution?
I’ve written several posts about TEPCO and what happened in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year. TEPCO recently let a group of journalists and photographers into the Fukushima nuclear plant where three reactors suffered meltdown after the earthquake. The communication strategy behind this is worth a post in itself, but in the meantime the Guardian has posted a slideshow of fascinating pictures from the visit.
Knowledge @ Wharton wrote a follow-up post to the New York Times article I was quoted in regarding Blankfein’s new role as spokesman for same-sex marriage. Some excerpts are below and you can find the full article here.
“I’m Lloyd Blankfein … and I support marriage equality.” Those are the words used by the chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs in a new video spot produced by The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that advocates equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.
Blankfein is not the most obvious spokesperson for such a campaign. As an article in The New York Times points out, he has been “a lightning rod for Wall Street critics” taking aim at exorbitant executive pay packages and the role Goldman Sachs and other investment banks played leading up to the financial crisis.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park with my daughter Julia just a couple of days before it was dispersed by the NYPD. It immediately brought back memories of my high school days in the ‘60s and my time at Columbia in the ‘70s. The clothes, the look of the pamphlets, even the smells were the same. I was particularly fascinated by their incredible focus on communications and media. But something was very different. While the protests in the 60s and 70s were clearly for something (the end of the Vietnam war) this movement is very squarely against something—big business with no outcome that will ever satisfy the group and make it go away. Some may believe that this lack of focus makes the occupy movements in New York and elsewhere less worrisome or even irrelevant, but I think it is more insidious than most people in business realize. Let me explain why. Read More…