#21 – Maria Sharapova’s reputation double fault, Sears is upset at the media, Dove’s bottle battle, and more

#21 – Maria Sharapova’s reputation double fault, Sears is upset at the media, Dove’s bottle battle, and more


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This week we talk about rebuilding a damaged personal reputation, not letting the media tell your brand story, having the bottle to expand your brand, and how to get ahead of a potential reputation crisis.

Each week, Erin Jones and I take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:

If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

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Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  Welcome back to another episode and Erin is with me. Now Erin, are you aware that I’m a bit of a tennis fanatic?

Erin Jones:                  I had a hunch.

Andy Beal:                  I think the whole Internet knows I’m a little bit of a tennis fanatic right now. I love tennis, picked up a racket about four years ago and I play it, watch it, read about it, and so it’s no surprise that the the Maria Sharapova story is what I’m going to kick off with this week. If you’ve not heard of it, because you’re not as big a tennis geek as I am, she had a 15 month ban for testing positive for a banned substance. It was originally 24 months but it was reduced to 15 months because there were some mitigating circumstances because the drug was only added to the list may be a few weeks before she tested positive, but at the end of the day she still should have, her or her team still should have been aware of the addition.

Anyway, so she’s now back but she’s so far down the rankings the only way she can get into the French Open would be with a wildcard entry, which is basically a personal invite, and they turned her down basically stating that, ‘Hey, if she was coming back from an injury we’d love to have her, but she’s coming back from a doping scandal and we don’t want to be tarnished with that.” It’s kind of you’re hearing a lot of people on both sides. Some people think it’s unfair. Some people think that she still needs to kind of work on repairing her reputation. What say you Erin?

Erin Jones:                  You know, I have opinions on both sides of the issue. I’m glad you explained how the wildcard thing worked because I was a little bit confused about how they could not accept her. I know that she’s, you know, I’m not a huge tennis person and I know her name. I know she’s really big in the industry. I also know that sporting events in France have had some reputation issues with doping in the past. There’s been the Tour de France and some things like that, and I do think that fair is fair. She wasn’t injured. She was riding a penalty. Now, my question is next year does she get to start over and come back fresh so that she can work her way back into this and earn it, or is this going to be career damaging from a tennis standpoint?

Andy Beal:                  Well, as she picks up wins her WTA ranking will improve and then she’ll be able to just automatically qualify for these events.

Erin Jones:                  Oh, okay.

Andy Beal:                  Right now I think she started off down in like the 300s. She’s in the 100s right now but she’s not high enough to automatically qualify, so as she picks up the wins she’ll recover her ranking and then this won’t be an issue. The reason why though this is, for me, I think this is a smart move the French Open, or any tournament, because yes, she has served her time, 15 month ban. That was for the actual event, so that was for testing positive.

Now, I speak to people all the time that have served prison sentences or some kind of industry ban for an event that happened, but that penalty is for those circumstances. There’s still a penalty that’s imposed on your reputation because now you’ve got to convince your audience, your fans in this case, other tennis players, members of the media, that this was truly an isolated incident, that it was unintentional, and that she’s not going to have any other scandal. Yes, she served her time but reputations don’t get repaired the moment you serve your time. Speak to anybody that’s had a DUI. Speak to anybody that’s gone through bankruptcy or been fired. It takes a while to build back that trust and regain your reputation.

Erin Jones:                  I agree and I think that in the long run her reputation will be a lot stronger if she earns her way back to the top over being handed a golden ticket.

Andy Beal:                  That’s a great point because right now other tennis players are feeling like she is riding her previous reputation, and that because she’s such a big name that everybody’s heard of and has a reputation that transcended the tennis arena, that you know, they feel like she’s kind of getting favoritism. In some of the events they are accepting her and they feel like she needs to earn it back, and I think that’s the case.

I think that for any of us we need to realize that if we have a slip-up we’re going to have to repair our reputation, but if we do a really good job of having a strong reputation to the point where when we have a slip-up like this, we get that second chance. If she was a nobody, if she was somebody that already had a reputation or had some scandals in her past, she wouldn’t even be having these discussions about getting in a wildcard. She does have reputation collateral, reputation equity, and I talk about that in Repped. She has this reputation equity and that’s what’s even getting her consideration and still keeping her fans on board. If she didn’t have that she wouldn’t even be having these discussions, so it’s really important to build a positive reputation before you have a scandal because that will give you a stronger foundation for returning and recovering.

Erin Jones:                  Agreed, and I think that, like you said, is the only reason she’s even being considered right now. People love her, you know, as an athlete, as a model, as a spokesmodel. She does a lot of great things so I do see her coming back from this but I really, really think she’ll be a lot stronger if she gets her hands a little bit dirty and puts the work in to do it all the way.

Andy Beal:                  Right. You need to show that you’re contrite. You need to show that you’re, you know, you don’t expect to be treated like a princess the moment you come back and that you are willing to fight for it and earn it. I think she did put out a tweet that basically said that so good for her. Hopefully this will be something that she can come back from and perhaps earn more fans and a better reputation.

All right, someone else who might try and come back from a reputation that’s kind of reeling right now is Sears. Why don’t you tell us what’s going on with Sears and their CEO Eddie Lampert?

Erin Jones:                  Oh my goodness. This one I’m going back and forth between finding this amusing and finding it annoying. Sears basically is having some financial trouble, and they sold off their Craftsman brand, and they’re trying to really bring things back. Their CEO actually was quoted saying that they’re fighting like hell to set stay afloat but he feels that unfair media coverage is making it difficult for them to turn their business around. I’m not sure I agree with that. You know, he compared them to JC Penney, saying that they’re are ahead of Macy’s and ahead of Target. I don’t agree with that.

Andy Beal:                  Well, you know what struck me is like, really? That’s the best you can do is that you’re kind of ahead of JC Penney and Macy’s? I mean those aren’t exactly the darlings of department stores these days. I mean they’ve all had their problems over the years, closing stores, or in JC Penney’s case the terrible decision with their pricing, so I kind of feel like he’s kind of kicking and screaming and saying, “Hey. We’re doing stuff too. Costco came out with a credit card and everybody was writing about that, but we came out with A credit card, nobody cared.” Well, that’s apples and oranges. Costco is huge, very popular, growing, and when they have a credit card that you practically have to use to shop there, Sears doing a me to is not going to get you the coverage you’re looking for.

For me they need to craft their own story, right? They’re currently trying to say, “Hey, this is unfair. We’re not getting the same positive press that, you know, our peers are getting.” Well, boo-hoo-hoo, you know? Ask anybody in any industry that’s got hundreds of competitors and I’m sure you’ll find dozens of companies that say, “We have just as good of a product as they do. Why are we not getting the press coverage?” Well, it’s because you’ve not crafted a story about your brand and Sears right now it’s just kind of like drifting in the winds, if you like, trying to figure out what it’s story is.

I mean I’ve not seen anything that makes me feel like, “Oh yeah. Sears, they’ve really taken their brand, turned it around, and crafted a new message. To me it seems like they’re kind of saying more along the lines of, “We’ve been alone around for so long we don’t deserve to go bankrupt.”

Erin Jones:                  Right, and dumping Craftsman definitely does not instill confidence in many buyers. That was one of the mainstays of their brand and he’s whining that people don’t trust them because they’re hearing the word bankruptcy too much. The word bankruptcy does not instill confidence in me, you know? It makes me a little bit leery about buying something that may or may not be warrantied down the road. You know, most of my Sears purchases have been big-ticket items like appliances or lawn equipment where I want to know that someone’s going to be behind me if something comes up.

Andy Beal:                  Right. I think it’s, you know, when you just sell stuff off, and you close stores, and your shares are down 23% in the past year, of course the chatter’s going to be about bankruptcy unless you take control of the chatter and have a message as to why you’re doing this. You know, you can’t just be, “Hey. We’re going to be a more efficient, leaner. We’re going to be more profitable.” That, that doesn’t fly. We’re still seeing you selling off brands, cutting staff, shutting down stores. That doesn’t fly. That just tells us that you’re in trouble and you’re not profitable.

If you have a message that says, “Okay, we’re going to focus on online retail,” or, “We’re going to rebrand and focus on these core products,” so you’ve got to have a story to tell otherwise the media will tell their own story, and that’s important for individuals or companies. You’ve got to have your story. You know, why should the media single you out in a positive way if you’re not even sure how to single yourself out in a positive way?

Erin Jones:                  Especially not when you sound like a petulant child in the news. You know, I keep hearing that this is unfair. “Why are people looking over here? Yes, we’re closing stores. No, we’re not making any money but that’s not where we’re headed.” Well, I can’t see where you’re headed if you’re closing stores and losing money. Quit whining and do something.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and he’s playing into the media’s hand because maybe he does have a story, but by not sticking to it and not talking about it often enough, by switching to this tactic, and we’re kind of seeing this in, we won’t touch on politics, but we see this in the political realm. It’s like, “It’s fake news. The media’s biased. You know, they’re saying all this negative stuff and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.” da, da, da, da, da. Ignore it. Focus on the positive stuff. Like you said, don’t come across as a petulant child. Come across as somebody that is like, “You know what? You guys say what you want. This is what we’re doing. This is what’s going to be successful for us and this is how were changing things.” But you can’t make that message if your shares are down 23%, your cutting staff, closing stores, and selling off your most popular brands, so something’s not jiving there.

Erin Jones:                  Right. Don’t be waving your left hand saying, “Look over here.” while the buildings on fire to your right. You know, now you’re talking to your audience like they’re stupid and nobody likes that. Give us something to work with. There’s just nothing to work with here other than someone stomping their feet and that doesn’t instill confidence in me at all.

Andy Beal:                  Right. Let’s move on to a different story. Let’s talk about Dove now, because the reason Dove kind of plays into this is because they do have a story that they’re sticking to it, even if it gets kind of mixed reviews. Now, Erin and I talked about this off air. We thought it’d be to cliche to turn over Dove to Erin to talk about just because it’s a campaign aimed at women, so I’m going to just kind of embrace this and share the story with you, right, because I have some things to say on this.

Dove came out with these Real Beauty Bottles and let me read something that came from Dove, “From curvaceous to slender, tall to petite, and whatever your skin color, shoe size, or hair type, beauty comes in a million different shapes and sizes. Our six exclusive bottle designs represent this diversity. Just like women, we want to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes too.”

Okay. Let me, okay, I’ve got, what have I got? Three or four points here and then I’ll let you chime in.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah.

Andy Beal:                  First of all, yeah. I know you’re ready to go. Okay, first of all it’s a bottle of soap, okay? So let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is a soap bottle. We use it in the shower. We squeeze it out. It’s not anything revolutionary. Second, if they want so much diversity why, as someone pointed out, I’m not going to take credit for this, in the comments, why are all the bottles of soaps all white? Why are they not in different colors, and where is the one for us guys, right? There’s not one that’s aimed at us guys. Why’s it just aimed at women? Where’s the diversity there? Okay.

Then also we’re not all happy with our shape, right? I mean I’m not, if I’m browsing through the store and I see some bottles of soap or shampoo and one of them is a beer belly shaped soap bottle, I’m not going to think to myself, “Yes. I identify with that.” I’m going to think to myself, “I don’t really like having a belly. I’m going to go with the slender bottle, right?” So there’s that. All right. Erin over to you. What if you got on this?

Erin Jones:                  I completely agree with you. The first thing that irritated me about this if they said that there are a million different shapes and types but we’ve narrowed it down to six empty plastic bottles. Okay. Human beings are not plastic vessels, you know? I really do like the Dove beauty campaign. I think up until now they’ve done a pretty good job representing a wide variety of people and embracing the fact that we’re all different and that that is okay, so I don’t want to knock them because for the most part I feel like this campaign has been incredibly positive. They’ve featured models without makeup on, un-airbrushed ads. I think of all of that’s great.

I think this took it too far. You know, it kind of retracted from their message. It’s not as positive and it’s really kind of marginalizing everyone, and like you said, I would probably rather have a cute Barbie shaped bottle in my shower then someone who’s got two children and is constantly trying to figure out how to get back to the Barbie shaped bottle.

Really I just think they missed the mark on this. I don’t think it’s going to put them out of business or destroy their brand, and from practicality standpoint how hard is it going to be to pack these bottles into boxes, onto crates, put them on store shelves? They’re taking up more space and they’re not … You know, are stores even going to order all six bottles because it’s kind of a lot of shelf space to not really send a message.

Andy Beal:                  As much as we can mock this, and I think overall like you said, this is not going to hurt them. In fact, like I started off, the sentiment towards this is mixed and it’s not all a bad thing. I mean we wouldn’t be talking about Dove if it wasn’t for this and when you consider what we had with, was it Shea Moisture or Shea whatever it was called, just a week or so ago and the problem they had, I mean this is very benign. If you’re going to have a reputation issue this is the very benign one. At least they’re trying something different.

They’re getting more brand mentions online. Social media’s discussing them. It’s a top story across Twitter and Facebook. It fits with their previous messaging, as you pointed out, even if it’s gotten a little quirky with it, the handling of this, but they’ve seen a brand lift too. More people are aware of it and I think the net result is people appreciate the sentiment behind it, the motivation as opposed, well, not necessarily approving of the execution, and so overall it’s going to be a positive lift for Dove even if they’re getting mocked heavily by all kinds of people. I’ve seen all kinds of bottles shared and it’s just parody after parody.

But I think that the thing that surprised me is it was maybe a little bit too of a bold move for Dove in terms of, yeah, they’ve had great campaigns and the natural beauty, but I think there’s a little bit of a risk to them. It’s one thing for us to all agree that we’re different, but to then like you said, pigeonhole us into six different shapes and say, “Well, surely you’re going to pick the one that you think best represents you.” and it’s like no. I don’t want to. In fact most people just pick the generic bottle that they’ve had all along.

Erin Jones:                  Yeah. It fits on the shelf. They know that it works. Another interesting thing that I noticed when I was looking at this is that people are making a lot of noise on social media because that’s what people do on social media. I looked at the Dove page and their comments are largely positive. You know, I’m seeing a lot of posts from people who already like Dove saying, “I love this. It’s great. Thank you for your effort.”

I think the people who are already buying are definitely not going to stop buying, and like you said, now they’re going to be a little bit more top of mind when we’re standing in the drugstore trying to figure out what we’re buying. I think that, and especially since they’ve been memed now, maybe they could turn this into a great positive experience. If they don’t go Sears on it and stomp their feet and whine about people being mean they could take this really far without a lot of advertising expense.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. I think there’s an opportunity here but it really needs to represent maybe a more bold approach to their marketing. If this is something that they really want to do then run with it and let’s see that. Be intentional with your messaging. If they look at this as a, “Well we screwed this up and this is not where we wanted to go,” then it’s a miss. It’s a fail, right, but if they really wanted to be a little bit more bolder or wanted to get up in people’s grill, if you like, and just kind of get more attention, then it’s an absolute win. Only they can really tell us whether or not they feel this is a win or a fail based on the direction they’re trying to go with their brand and their reputation.

Erin Jones:                  I agree. I hope they can have some fun with it.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. All right, were going to finish off. A question from a good friend of mine, Joe Hall, and Joe has asked, “How does one mitigate the risk of a reputation issue that isn’t brought to the surface until it’s too late? So for example, offline chatter that builds up to an online crisis.” Just real quick Joe, because we could do an entire show out of this, first thing of all, step one is to encourage that feedback early and offline. Most people go online because there wasn’t a direct obvious channel to complain to the brand or the person and know that there would be resolution from that, so have a placard up on your store, or have prominent emails or customer service numbers. Encourage that feedback early and often.

Number two is proactive monitoring is essential, so don’t wait until the conversation’s so loud that everybody can hear about it. Make sure you’re monitoring your reputation online so the moment someone’s talking about you, when it’s that little spark, you can address it, nip it in the bud, and stop it turning into a fire. Monitoring is really important. Obviously I own Trackur but you could also just use Google alerts. It’s totally fine.

Then third tip is to let your audience know, your customers know, your favored community location, so funnel them. Make sure that your customers, your stakeholders, know that you have a Facebook community or a Twitter account, wherever it is you want to funnel them to, it could be a forum. Encourage them to leave that feedback there so at least it’s on your doorstep. It’s on something that you have a little bit of control over, and you can address it and kind of keep it in a little bit of a walled garden before it kind of breaks out into the Internet.

Hopefully that helps you Joe, and probably not personally. I’m sure this is for a friend Joe but I appreciate your question, and it probably hopefully helps other people that are considering the same question as well and have the same concern.

Please head over to our Facebook page, speaking of funneling, Andy Beal ORM, if you have a question. You can also go to the blog post page for this podcast. Leave your question there. We’d love to hear your questions. We appreciate you guys tuning in. Erin, as always it’s a pleasure to have you on the show.

Erin Jones:                  It’s a pleasure to be here.

Andy Beal:                  In fact I was talking to someone just the other day that said how much they enjoyed hearing your voice on the show too, so I think we make a good team.

Erin Jones:                  Ah, fantastic.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and thank you guys for listening. We hope you’ll join again. Check out the page for this podcast. I’ve got a contest going on right now which I think you’ll like. Just for subscribing you could win some very sweet Bose headphones, so check that out.

All right, we’ll be back again next week. Thanks a lot for listening and bye-bye.

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