#40 – The top 10 reputation stories of 2017…and we need your help picking #1

#40 – The top 10 reputation stories of 2017…and we need your help picking #1


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We’re coming up on the end of 2017, so it’s a good time to look back on the year’s biggest Reputation Roadkill and Reputation Rainmakers!

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:

  • Want to know the top stories of 2017? You’ll have to listen to the podcast. Or wait until we upload the transcript. 😉
  • Also, we need your help to pick the #1 spot for 2017!

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

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal: Welcome back. This is going to be our last episode of the year, so we thought we’d make it a good one for you. We’re actually going to take a look back at what we believe are the top 10 Reputation stories for 2017. This could be Reputation Roadkill, or it could be Reputation Rainmakers, so it could be positive, or negative. We’ve got them in, I guess, reverse chronological order, the typical countdown. We’ll get started. Number 10 is Photobucket. If you recall, Photobucket took away their free photo hosting and basically broke the internet, because lots of people used Photobucket to post and upload images to forums, and message boards, and websites. They got accused of basically blackmailing users into switching to a paid plan.

My takeaway from this, my lesson I’d like you to learn, is that you always need to consider how you’re going to retire a product, or how you’re going to take away a particular price level, or service plan, because people are reliant on that and so you should always consider having some kind of grandfathering clause where if they were getting it for free, then in this case all their images should’ve stayed free. As opposed to, “Hey, if you want to keep them up, you’ve got to pay for the plan.” Any thoughts on that, Erin?

Erin Jones: I completely agree. I think they really added insult to injury also by making people download their photos individually if they wanted to keep them. They came out and said, “Yeah, you can have access to all your photos, just download them and do what you wish with them,” but there was a, “Glitch,” in the system that required people to download their photos one by one. I feel like everything they did just kind of piled on and I have yet to hear of anyone … I’m sure some people paid it, probably more from a business side, but I’m seeing blogs and forums with that little ransom image all over the place still.

Andy Beal: Yeah, me too. It didn’t really work out well, but maybe it did. If you Google, “Photobucket,” you still see the story on the first page, so that’s not good.

Erin Jones: Yeah. I’m curious to see how long they’re going to be around after this, because it really reached far and wide. Speaking of far and wide, I feel like 2017 seemed to really be the year of reckoning for people in high positions as far as sexual assault, and taking advantage of co-workers, and employees. We’ve got Kevin Spacey coming in at number nine for this one. Granted, he was one of many this year, but due to his high profile and the horrible way that he handled his accusations, we’re going to make him the poster child for this one right now. What really stuck out to me reputation-wise about this, was that he not only harmed himself, but everyone from the cast, to the crew, and the network that his show was on was affected by this, because the network did the right thing and took the show down. Now, all those people have lost that income and revenue. What do you think about this one?

Andy Beal: Yeah, and he didn’t do the LGBT community any favors by trying to come out at the same time. They didn’t really appreciate that. I think for me, you should always assume that your private behavior will eventually become public, so you can’t be some kind of saint in public and be a demon in private. I think that that’s what we’re seeing here. I think we put these stars on a pedestal, not really knowing what’s going on in their private lives. Like I’ve always said, big lies, big scandals will always eventually be revealed.

Erin Jones: Absolutely.

Andy Beal: Number eight, we have our positive story and that’s from Wendy’s, the hamburger chain. They made good on a Twitter wager when somebody asked, “How many retweets in order to get free nuggets for a year?” They managed to get that number and Wendy’s made good on it, which is a really just a great story of adding personality to your Twitter profile, your social media, but in also when you promise something, make good on it. Genie Bouchard did something similar with a wager over a football game and went on a date. You’ve got this great example of Wendy’s personality and you’re seeing that with other brands like [Mumbai 00:05:00]. Just a good reminder that social media doesn’t have to be all about just push, push, push and promoting whatever story or press release you have.

Erin Jones: This was one of my favorite kind of feel-good stories of the year. I love how many people picked it up and I feel like Wendy’s was such a great sport throughout all of this, that it really made their whole brand very likable.

Andy Beal: Absolutely agree.

Erin Jones: I loved what they did there. They’ve been roasting their audiences, and their competition, and they even tried to help out the airlines a little bit here. They sent this … The guy that won the nuggets on the Ellen Show and after a horrible, horrible year for United, United reached out and offered to pay for those plane tickets. I feel like Wendy’s is inadvertently helping our number seven story, which was, I call it airline shenanigans. I feel like every time we turned around this year, something bad was in the news about an airline. There were fist fights, there were people being dragged off of planes, and this wasn’t brand specific. This was industry-wide.

Andy Beal: Yeah, and if you look, a lot of it is basically employees just sticking to the rule book, right? Sticking to what they’ve been told to do, whether that’s stick to a message, or stick to a policy. Instead, the lesson here is to empower your employees to dump that rule book and just use some common sense. A lot of these issues, especially with the passengers being deplaned, or they were wearing leggings when they weren’t supposed to be, like give them just the opportunity to demonstrate some common sense and say, “Hey, if I enforce this policy, that person in 23C that’s pointing their smartphone and recording this, this is not going to be good for the airline. You know what? Maybe I should cut him some slack and not enforce this policy.” I think maybe the airlines did learn a little bit of that lesson.

Erin Jones: I think you’re right. I feel like the last few months things have been very quiet on the airline news front. Hopefully, the holidays will bring some changes. It’s about to be a really, really busy travel season, so I’m really hoping that all of those airlines went and asked Santa for some reputation overhauls for the new year.

Andy Beal: If not, then we’re going to be kicking off with some great stories for the new year. We’ll wait and see what happens there. All right. In at number six, how could we possibly forget Cracker Barrel and Brad asking why they fired his wife after she had worked there for 11 years. Basically, Brad’s wife became one of the hottest memes of the year. What was interesting is that Cracker Barrel decided not to reply. They just decided to ride it out. To my knowledge, I checked today, they’ve never replied.

Now, nine months later you can argue that there’s really no harm. If you search for Cracker Barrel, the story doesn’t really show up on Google. We probably moved on. However, when you think about it, they really missed out on an opportunity to make things right. They could’ve rehired her, make her a spokesperson, done something to capitalize on this, and kind of come out on top. Instead, they decided to take the silent treatment and not comment on it at all. I’m not sure that necessarily was the best thing … The best policy for them to take.

Erin Jones: No, and especially with how many local companies jumped on board and kind of took that spotlight away from them and did offer jobs to Brad’s wife.

Andy Beal: Right.

Erin Jones: There were billboards all over the place from companies all the way from Chick-fil-A, to Wendy’s, bringing Wendy’s back into it again. There was even someone running for Congress that made a campaign promise to find her a job if he got elected.

Andy Beal: Right, yeah.

Erin Jones: They missed a huge opportunity here.

Andy Beal: Yeah, they sure did.

Erin Jones: Okay. Another huge missed opportunity would be Equifax. I didn’t see anything positive about Equifax in the news this year. They messed up big time. They had a huge data breach with everything from credit card information, to drivers license numbers and social security numbers being compromised and stolen, and they were radio silent about it for a very long time. I think the lesson from this one is that communicating during a crisis is imperative, especially with how quickly information spreads now. They set up a website and sent people to it and then we found out that that website wasn’t secure. Then insinuated that if you took their free help that you couldn’t sue them later.

Andy Beal: Right.

Erin Jones: That just doesn’t scream trustworthiness to me and really, when you’re in hot water, you probably shouldn’t be setting conditions for the people that you need back on your side.

Andy Beal: Yeah. That for me, Equifax deserves to be on this list for all the reasons that you just described. That is, it’s not so much that they had a data breach. I mean, we’ve seen lots of companies have data breaches that didn’t make this list. It was the way that they handled it, the way that they delayed making the announcement, the way that they had websites that didn’t work. Like you said, they insinuated that you couldn’t sue them if you took the free monitoring. It was all of those things that really hurt their reputation, more than the actual breach. You really got to consider, this is why it’s important to have some kind of plan ahead of time.

Try not to wait until you’re actually in the middle of a crisis before you figure out who says what and what do you announce. I’ve actually known companies that have an emergency blog ready to go. They’ve built the shell, they’ve got the domain name, and really just needs them to fill in the details of whatever crisis they’re facing so that they can launch it quickly and get the message out as soon as possible, rather than trying to scramble it. Just be prepared. You are going to have a reputation crisis, so think ahead as to what that might likely be and how you’re going to respond to it. Then take swift action and be clear in your communication.

Erin Jones: Especially if you’re dealing with sensitive information and people’s money.

Andy Beal: Yeah.

Erin Jones: Financial wellbeing, medical information, all of those companies should have that stuff at the ready.

Andy Beal: Yeah. Cheers to that, or should I say, dilly, dilly? Because at number four we have Bud Light and this is a recent story, but when Bud Light discovered that there was a small brewery that was going to release a brew called, Dilly Dilly, they felt like that was encroaching on their trademark for the phrase, “Dilly, Dilly,” for the new Bud Light commercials. Instead of getting heavy handed and acting like the bully, they sent a person dressed as a medieval town crier to their offices with a scroll and basically had a little bit of fun, but with a serious message saying, “Hey, you can’t infringe on our copyright, and there will be punishment, and trips to the jail, and torture, and all that kind of stuff. Hey, also we’re going to give you a couple of thrones for the Super Bowl, because we’re not that much of a bully.” I thought this just was an excellent way to handle it.

Erin Jones: I absolutely loved this story. Not only did they get their point across, but they gave a very small brand a little bit of a spotlight. They gave them a nice moment in the sun and they delivered the message with a little bit of lighthearted humor and look at how well it went. There was no litigation. It never got, “He said, she said.” I think you used the word, “Bully,” the original podcast that we talked about it in and I loved seeing this large brand not come down as a bully on the small brand. No word on if they’re throwing them in the pit of misery or not yet as far as the implied punishment, but I definitely think everybody came out on top here.

Andy Beal: Yeah, they definitely took something they had to enforce, something they had to do, but did it in a lighthearted way.

Erin Jones: Yes, I absolutely loved that. That brings us to what might be my favorite story this year, second to the Wendy’s story. Another fast food company had a little possible blunder. We may never know if they planned it or if it was absolutely an accident. On Black Friday, McDonald’s put out a tweet that read, “Black Friday *** Need copy and link.” It got a ton of retweets. McDonald’s came back and shared a photo of a man with a big cup of coffee that said, “When you tweet before your first cup of McCafe, nothing comes before coffee.”

Andy Beal: Right.

Erin Jones: I love it. They messed up, or they didn’t. I’m still not really sure about that, but they owned it and then they got in on the joke. You’ve mentioned repeatedly that if you can get in on the joke when you do something that may be foolish, but is relatively harmless, then you get to ride the joke out. You’re not the butt of it. They didn’t delete the tweet. They didn’t make a big deal. They added some humanity to a big corporate brand that frankly in the past has not had a great reputation and people absolutely loved it.

Andy Beal: Yeah. It’s really common sense when you think about it. When we have … When we do something embarrassing in our personal lives, we can pout and just kind of go running, or we can just kind of be in on the joke and ham it up a little bit. I think that’s what they did here and it was just a great opportunity for them, like you said, to just build a little bit of positive reputation and show a bit of … Again, show some character in your social media engagement. Yeah, well we don’t know. We discussed this on our original story, was this absolutely amazingly thought out to make it look like they’d made a mistake? Probably not, but if it was a genuine mistake, they did a fantastic job of kind of turning the ship around, getting in on the joke, and getting some just fantastic buzz out of it.

Erin Jones: Agreed. I loved that they didn’t delete the tweet. There was some humor there. The relatability between not having your coffee, and being a little bit tired, and off your game. I just feel like it was a home run for them.

Andy Beal: Absolutely. All right, so we’re down to the last two and we’d like your help on this, because we can’t decide which one should be number one for the year. We’ve got Chipotle and we’ve got Uber. Now, each one has had numerous negative stories over the past 12 months. They just can’t seem to get out of their own way. Just when they think that they’ve squashed one crisis, another one pops up. We want you to chime in in the comments, or on social media, and let us know which one you think is more deserving of being at the number one spot. The lesson is the same for both.

That is, they kind of both demonstrate that your reputation is only ever as good as your character, because they continue to have scandal after scandal, issue after issue, which demonstrated that they hadn’t really shored up what was going on behind the scenes. When you have a company that’s not run correctly, and has poor management, and the policies are not enforced, and you’ve got sexual harassment, and you’ve got all kinds of issues going on, then it doesn’t matter what you do reputation-wise, because you’re just kind of going to constantly shoot yourself in the foot.

Erin Jones: Definitely. I think one thing that Uber has going for them, first of all, my initial thought was that they would be number one because they’ve hit people in a lot more of a vulnerable place than Chipotle has. I’ve noticed a huge disconnect from their corporate office to their drivers. Again, it’s that human aspect where people meet the drivers and they’re just like them, they can kind of push away the corporate drama. I’m curious to see where this goes.

I did notice this year when I was Christmas shopping that there are a ton of Uber gift cards out there and I’m wondering if they’re hoping that people will buy those and then the people who receive them will be inclined to use them just because they have them. I think that might’ve been a good move on their part, as much as I hate to say it, because I’m not really impressed with the way they’re running their brand right now, but I think that we’re going to have to see a lot of work from these two companies in the new year.

Andy Beal: Yeah. It’s interesting, I’m thinking of what observations do I have? I’ve got one for each. One is when I drive by a Chipotle now, it doesn’t ever look to be as busy as it used to. They always used to have lines almost coming out the door. Then with Uber, it’s more a case of that I notice a lot more cars with the Lyft sticker in the window, then I do Uber now. They’ve both been hurt and they’re both showing signs of being hurt, but in different ways.

Erin Jones: What do you think? Do you think they’re going to be okay?

Andy Beal: Let’s see in 2018. Yeah. I’ll get my crystal ball out and maybe that will be another good show, we make our predictions for 2018. I think that they’re both going to be okay, but I don’t think either one of them is going to return to the level of success they had prior to these mishaps and scandals that they had. I think that we’ll probably see both of them showing up in future podcasts, so we’ll keep an eye on that. All right. Well, we hope you enjoyed that. Again, we’d love to hear your thoughts as to who you think should be number one.

Maybe there’s another story that you think is more deserving than the ones we’ve talked about today. Please head to Facebook.com/AndyBealORM, or you can go to AndyBeal.com and just find any of the podcasts and just leave us a question there, or comment there. We’d love to hear from you. We hope you guys have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. That will be it for us until the new year. Erin, thanks for joining me. I hope you have a great Christmas.

Erin Jones: Thanks so much for having me and I hope you do as well.

Andy Beal: We appreciate you guys listening in. We hope you’ll join us again in 2018. We’ll keep an eye on all of the stories for you, bring you the ones that we think are lesson worthy, whether that’s negative or positive, and we’ll be back again real soon. Thanks a lot and bye-bye.