Rebuilding, Rebranding, and Reacting are the three themes for this week.
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:
- How do you rebuild a personal brand after a scandal? Billy Bush is working on it.
- Maybe you’re not offended by Gypsy Taco, but enough people are and the owner is doing something about it.
- Panera Bread is trying hard to not become the next Chipotle.
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, welcome. We’re going to jump right in because we got three good stories for you this week, and we’re going to start off with Billy Bush. In case you have a short memory, let’s remind you what happened with Billy Bush, because he was the person that was talking to President Donald Trump with that shameful conversation that was very degrading to women. Billy Bush foolishly, we hope foolishly, went along with it. It was one of those circumstances where we hope he was uncomfortable by it, but kind of felt like it was probably private and so just kind of went along with it. It was recorded and we all got to hear it.
Now he’s talking to People Magazine about trying to rebuild his tarnished reputation. He talks about the fact that he’s ashamed and he was embarrassed. He talks about basically losing the career that he built. He talks a little bit about what he’s doing to change, and he’s saying all the right things. Is this enough, Erin? Do you think Billy Bush is on the right track for a comeback?
Erin Jones: You know, one thing I really like about what he’s been saying about this, is he’s owning what he did and he’s calling it bystander abuse. Saying that, by not acting on the problem, you’re endorsing it. I really would like to give him some credit for taking that stance instead of trying to explain away what happened or trying to say, “Oh, you know, Donald Trump was in a position over me and if I had disagreed with him then it would have meant bad things for the show.” You know, there are a million excuses he could have come up with. He’s really gotten in front of this and said, “I have three daughters and I’m trying to educate myself and change my perspective.” I kind of feel like we should give some credit where credit’s due here. I think that the bystander abuse claim is legitimate and I think we see it a lot.
Andy Beal: Well, I mean, I for one have been involved in uncomfortable conversations where sometimes I have been brave enough to say, “Well hey, wait a minute. You can’t say that about somebody,” whatever it may be. There’s been other times where people have said stuff and I’ve kind of cringed and maybe just excused myself. I’d like to think I’ve not kind of gotten drawn in and gone along with it, but even not taking an action can hurt your reputation. The fact that he actually got caught up with this and actually went along with it, yeah, he says “bystander abuse,” yeah, I can kind of somewhat see that.
The thing that really kind of strikes me here is, you know, Bush’s biggest problem is, he kind of had a somewhat clean image, whereas, Trump really didn’t. Right? There’s a lot of rumors about Trump and he didn’t have this image that Bush had. When this tape come out, Billy Bush let us down, whereas Trump’s behavior was kind of really not enough of a departure from what we already knew about him. I think that’s part of the reason why Billy Bush took a greater fall with his reputation, and Trump went on to survive and become president. That’s because the starting point for our expectations for reputation were different, and Billy Bush was, for all intents and purposes, clean cut, on a rising stardom, very popular, on TV a lot, you know, good looking guy. Just kind of, you felt like, at least for me, he let me down more than Trump did.
Erin Jones: Agreed. We expected better, even though he was on a TV show and Donald Trump went on to take on the presidency. You know, there’s definitely some conflict when you look at it that way going, “Wow, our expectations are definitely set by past behavior.” I think that when you set the bar high, you need to maintain that bar.
Andy Beal: Right, and I was keynoting an event one time, we did some Q&A afterwards. This was just before the election. I was asked about Clinton and Trump, in terms of all of their arguing and all of the stuff that’s coming out and all of the scandals for either side, and would this hurt their reputation, would this hurt their chances of getting elected. I made the point then that, no it wouldn’t, because they’re really just acting in line with what we’ve come to expect from either one of the candidates at the time.
You’d have to take that into consideration with your own reputation. If you build a reputation of being squeaky clean or being above reproach, you don’t cuss, you’re respectable, that kind of thing, then you have something like this, you’re going to fall a lot further because you have let your audience down. They have bought into your brand and you have kind of tarnished the brand that they’ve been paying for. When you’ve got a brand where you’re kind of more, maybe foul-mouthed or you’re a brand where you do womanize, or whatever it may be, then yeah, it’s still disgusting, but it’s also not that same level of drop off because we had low expectations to start with. You really have to kind of consider your actions in contrast to the expectations from your reputation.
Erin Jones: I agree with that, and I also think you really need to take a look at your industry and kind of set that reputation accordingly. Someone who is big in the media is going to get away, probably, with a lot more than a news reporter or someone who works with children or, you know, something that’s considered morally higher standarded, I don’t know if standarded is a word.
Andy Beal: It is now.
Erin Jones: I just coined that one. You know, but I definitely think that it is something that we both had to consider when going into the reputation field. You can’t coach people on their reputation if yours isn’t above board. I think that that is a really good point, as far as knowing what you come to expect and where you place yourself accordingly.
Andy Beal: Yeah, and I think it’s a good practice for anybody to assume that there’s a hidden microphone recording you. You really need to kind of like have this assumption that, “Hey, I’m being recorded. Is what I’m about to say going to be something that I want the world to know or I want my mom to know or I want my God to know,” whatever it is. Just make that assumption, because then that will help to keep you to a standard.
I think it’s, like you said, I mean, everything I say and do I try to be authentic. We talk a lot about your reputation being the extension of your character. That way, how I act in private is pretty much 99.9% of how I act in public. I’m hopeful that I don’t have this big trip-up. If you’re the kind of person where you’re trying to portray yourself as something that you’re not, then you have to be on guard all the time.
For Erin and I, and I know Erin very well and I can tell you she’s the real deal. What you hear is what you get. We try to walk the walk because we talk the talk, and so, I think that you have to keep that in consideration as well. Assume that you’re always being recorded. What’s the worst thing that could happen, and that is, whatever you’re saying in private gets pushed public. Whatever you do online gets pushed public, and how would that reflect on the reputation you’re building?
Erin Jones: I agree, and that’s something that I talk to even my children about a lot. Is, it shouldn’t matter who is in the room. If you’re being yourself all the time, you should be able to say the same thing to five different audiences and not be embarrassed or ashamed of what you’re saying.
Andy Beal: Yeah. I think that’s ultimately the downfall. I do think Billy Bush is going to be able to come back from this. I think he was smart to lay low for 15 months. I think that he was kind of complicit in all this, but he wasn’t the instigator. I think that there is a small window that, if he does the right thing, says the right things, moves slowly to get back into the public eye, I think he can rebuild his reputation. Perhaps not to where it potentially could have reached prior to this, but I think in the next couple years, you’ll see Billy Bush back on TV.
Erin Jones: I agree. I think really not making excuses and coming out and saying, “This was absolutely wrong and I’m getting some education here and changing my perspective,” is a really good way to reenter the public eye.
Andy Beal: That’s a good segue to our second story, you know, because doing the right thing, saying you’ve been educated, you’ve got a story about a food truck named Gypsy Taco and what the owner is doing after receiving some backlash.
Erin Jones: I do. Hopefully I can say this right. The owner of Gypsy Taco’s name is Mitch Ciohon, I believe.
Andy Beal: See, I wouldn’t have even attempted it. I just would have called him the owner.
Erin Jones: Yes, owner Mitch, he actually goes by Chef Mitch, so he’s probably aware of the fact that his last name is a little bit tough, issued a public apology for the name of his Milwaukee taco truck, saying that he accepted fully blame and was not aware of the term’s derogatory origins regarding the long history and plight of the Romany people. What he said was that he didn’t understand the negative commentary of the word gypsy, but he’s done a lot of research now and understands and does not want to be hurtful to anyone, knowing that saying I’m sorry or I didn’t know isn’t going to be enough. He’s changing the name of his business and he’s rebranding.
You know, he said all the right things, that the local community had spoken and he was making it his mission to listen. Then he went on and condemned those who were supporting his soon to be former brand name, saying that working via hateful speech is not supportive in any way, and if they can’t accept his choice, that his only request for them would be their silence. I think he hit this out of the park. He took quick action. He apologized. He changed his behavior, and he’s educating himself and the local community on why he’s making the change.
Andy Beal: Yeah, this is just a great example, because we often see large brands do bone-headed mistakes. We wonder how that could ever happen. This is just a guy that likes to run a food truck. He’s a chef. I don’t want to judge him, but maybe he’s not social media savvy, maybe he’s not branding savvy, he just liked the name because he considers himself kind of a nomad. I mean, it’s a food truck, so Gypsy Taco, I could see how he can come to that.
To be honest with you, sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up with what is acceptable to say these days and what’s not. It’s an education for all of us as to words that, I mean, I’m 43, and there’s words that we cannot use today that I totally used growing up. In fact, gypsy was one of those. It’s an education that we all go through. What I really like is that, he didn’t try to defend it, didn’t try to kind of continue to build is brand on quicksand and take two steps forward and one step back, because he’d always be fighting against this brand.
He listened, he got educated. He said, “You know what? You’re right. I’m going to change the name of this brand.” He doesn’t know what he’s going to change it to yet. He’s not announced it. He has made a decision that he’s going to change it, and that’s the key here. It’s like, sometime we do mess up, and if it’s a genuine mistake, we can demonstrate that by our reaction that and quickly apologizing, fixing the situation, and moving on.
Erin Jones: I agree and I also like how he didn’t ride the fence on this one. He went straight to the side of the people who he had wronged and said, “I fully support this. I agree with you. I’m making it my mission to hear you,” and then he condemned the people who came back and said, “Don’t listen to them, your name is fine.” He said, “No, this is not okay. I want to make this right, and if you don’t agree with me, I don’t want to hear it.”
You know, I feel like he’s handled this so well all the way around, even to the fact of saying, “We are working on rebranding starting now, please be patient with us as it takes a little while to change signage and things.” There was just no hesitation there. He took it full force and got ahead of it. I just feel like he handled the whole thing really well.
Andy Beal: It helped that his business appears to be less than two years old. There wasn’t a lot to unravel here or to redo. The Washington Redskins, you know, they’ve been around for decades and they receive a lot of pressure, but that’s a huge brand and they’re continuing to fight, and I think they’ll eventually lose that fight and have to rebrand. It helps that his business was a little bit newer. It also helps him that he did the right thing quickly, because now all of this publicity that he is getting from this, instead of being continually negative, instead of having to fight one star Yelp reviews and all the backlash he would have gotten, he’s now going to write some positive coverage from this, which is really going to help him.
For the rest of us the lesson here is, when you start coming up with a brand, a brand name or a product name, try to get input from a broad selection of friends and family and peers to say, “Okay, this is what I’m thinking. Anything you think about this that would potentially hurt me or anybody that might be offended from this brand?” If you do that at the outset, you don’t have to go through these steps later on.
Erin Jones: Exactly, and if your friend group isn’t incredibly diverse, find a group on Facebook. There’s always somebody that’s going to be offended in one of those groups, so if you can get consensus from a group on Facebook, like a mom’s group or a local community group, you’re good.
Andy Beal: Yeah, good advice. All right, let’s move on to our last story. Panera Bread is recalling some cream cheese products that, they did a small sample and on a single day they found evidence of listeria contamination. They didn’t find it before, they didn’t find it afterwards, just one specific batch had it. Nobody reported being sick, so this was not like a reaction to media coverage where they had to fight the fire.
They were proactive in making the announcement, pulling the product from the shelves, and really getting ahead of the story. I really like the fact that they did this, because now the media is kind of latching onto their narrative and showing that this is a proactive thing. Boy, Erin, what a contrast to everything we’ve talked about with Chipotle over the various years.
Erin Jones: Oh, it’s amazing. You know, the chief executive said of Panera that it was their intent to go above and beyond for their guests and that they want people to expect nothing less from Panera. You know, I think it rendered a lot of people who typically would want to be outraged completely speechless because, what do you argue about with this? I think they did a great job, and it was definitely at their expense, completely recalling all of the food and throwing it away and getting new batches made. It really makes people feel like they care about the health of their guests and the happiness of their guests and the quality of their product.
Andy Beal: Right, and you’re absolutely right. If you look at this from how this could have played out, so if you say they didn’t take any action and then there was listeria reported and people got sick, so now you’ve got this company that claims to be part of this clean food kind of trend, you’ve got this company that’s saying that, but then has this big breakout, so now they’re on the defensive and they’re trying to recover their reputation.
Whereas, the approach they took, I’m sure it gave them a little bit of heartburn to actually go out and say this, because nobody else was talking about it, they proactively announced this, and effectively they’re saying, “Hey, we are so serious about the quality of our food. Even though this has not been reported as contaminating or anybody’s gotten sick, this is not acceptable standard for us, and when we are taking action to make sure that our food stays clean and healthy.”
Yes, you’re going to get a little bit of angst because there is going to be this report about listeria and it’s going to be associated with Panera, but long term and ongoing, it’s really going to reinforce Panera as being a place where, hey, they really care about the food that they are serving you and it’s really going to reinforce that clean eating image that they’ve got.
Erin Jones: Not only that, but the inherent trust in their brand. You know, if you’re out and about all day and you get home in the evening and you’re not feeling so well, you know, someone’s going to say, “Oh, is it something you ate?” You’re going to go, “No, I had Panera and I know they’re really good about taking care of their food.” Not only is it making them look good for being proactive, but it’s really instilling trust in their brand on a subconscious level.
Andy Beal: You can’t help but think if Chipotle had taken this approach the first of the whatever dozen times that they had this situation, then they may be in a different situation, different circumstances right now and their brand might be stronger. Because they are always one step behind, now every time there’s even a remote breakout or anybody reported sick, then they’re going to take a big hit to their reputation.
The key thing for Panera here is to continue to do this, to continue to be proactive in monitoring the quality of their product, be proactive in getting the story out with their narrative. That’s the thing, whoever breaks the story first gets to decide the angle that the news media pick up on. That’s why when it’s usually an outbreak or something negative that happens, it’s whoever’s been slighted, or in this case whoever’s puking that gets to decide the narrative. Because Panera came out first, they get to decide the narrative.
Now of course, journalists are going to dig around, see if anybody got sick and they haven’t found anybody, to my knowledge. This is really just a great example of, yeah, it might give you a little bit of heartburn, but do the right thing by your customers, be proactive, and you’ll actually build a stronger brand because people will trust you that if anything does go wrong, you’ll be the first one to tell them.
Erin Jones: Absolutely, and that point you made about controlling the narrative is incredibly important because like you said, if the news media had broken this first, even though nobody had gotten sick, Panera’s reputation would be tarnished. Where, when they came out ahead of it, we’re all going to side with them because they did jump in front of it and they let us know and they cared about us over their bottom line for that day.
Andy Beal: This story, I’m not really seeing it widely reported, I’m not really seeing it affecting their search engine reputation. It’s going to be a non-issue in the next day or two. Now, a key thing is that they’ve got to make sure that this is an isolated incident. They got to find the cause of this, make sure it doesn’t happen again. Maybe step up their testing for the next few weeks and months to really make sure it doesn’t happen again. All the signals are pointing that this is going to be a breeze for Panera. They did the right thing and it’s really a good example of getting ahead of the story.
Erin Jones: Agreed. My only complaint, and it’s incredibly nit-picky, is that they didn’t address this on their Facebook page. I would have liked to have seen if they broke the story, I would have liked to have seen them say, “Hey, all of our fans, we wanted you to hear this first,” and shared something about it there just to ease concerns. I don’t think it’s a big deal, and like you said, I don’t think any of this is going to affect them in the long term, but as someone who uses social media to kind of monitor the temperature of what’s going on with brands, I would have liked to have seen them jump in there.
Andy Beal: It’s a good point. That’s something to discuss for another show, because there is a tendency for companies to segment the channels. Right? “Hey, we’ll announce this in a press release and on our corporate site, but you know, we want to keep that happy-go-lucky feel to our Facebook page, so let’s not disturb anybody there. Let’s just keep posting photos of recipes and food.” It’s a valid observation and something we’ll discuss with a future show and we’ll kind of talk about how, hey, you’ve got a voice. You can’t have one voice on one channel and one voice on another. You’ve got to be transparent and you’ve got to be, hey, radically transparent across all channels.
We’re out of time, so we will talk about that at some point in the future. If you have another topic, story, or question for us, please go to our Facebook page which is /andybealorm, or just go to andybeal.com, find any of the podcast pages and just leave a comment there. We’d love to get your feedback or answer any questions you have. As always Erin, thank you for joining me this week.
Erin Jones: Thank you for having me.
Andy Beal: Thank you guys for listening. We hope you’ll catch us next time. Thanks a lot, and bye bye.