#47 – United’s lottery fail, do we have a right to be forgotten, and Reputation Cage Match: should your brand be political?

#47 – United’s lottery fail, do we have a right to be forgotten, and Reputation Cage Match: should your brand be political?

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Apparently, Erin and I tend to agree too much, so this week we present the first Reputation Cage Match–two enter, but only one will be victorious!

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.

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  Thank you for joining us. We have a great show for you this week and we’re going to kick it right off with, yes, an airline. In fact, United Airlines is in the news, not for beating up passengers, but for kind of beating up on their employees. It was announced that they were going to try to replace bonuses with a weird hundred thousand dollar lottery. And get this, what would have happened is they would have paid out a $100,000 to one lucky employee, selected at random, and then smaller bonuses, if you like, of $2,000 to $5,000 to about another 1,300 or so people. And then other employees would have gotten prizes including 50 vacation packages, or 10 Mercedes Benz cars. And it kind of didn’t go down too well for the majority of the 90,000 employees that were going to lose their bonus, did it Erin?

Erin Jones:                  It didn’t and you know, I really want to know how the thought process or the discussion process went, you know, when they were coming with this idea. You know, I kind of envisioned a room full of people, who by the way were not part of this bonus lottery. They were still, you know, ready to get their regular bonuses, which I found interesting. But I’m imaging them in a room going, “Hey, you know, regular bonuses are just so boring and not newsworthy. How can we shake things up a bit?” And apparently this is the best they came up with. You know, they took money away from all their top-performers, to possibly give a small few a chance at a large payout. You know, that doesn’t feel good to me. I feel like reputation really starts within your four walls, and a great way to really get people talking would have been to increase everyone’s budgets across the board and, you know, let that conversation start from within. What are your thoughts on that?

Andy Beal:                  Well, where’s my incentive to be this fantastic employee that’s going to really help United’s reputation, if you’re taking away my opportunity to earn a good bonus by kind of splitting up the money into more of a random selection? It’s kind of like, “Hey, you all get a participation trophy or at least get an opportunity to get one.” It’s not really an incentive for me to go out and do my best to try and correct the problems at an employee level when you know, my chances of getting that bonus are a lot smaller and a little bit more randomized. And it’s not surprising that, you know, a lot of the employees where very vocal and pushed back on this, because, hey, guess what? You know, you didn’t include them in making this decision and you’re no longer, in this day and age, you’re not solely responsible for the culture of the company in determining things. If employees don’t like it, hey, guess what? They’re your stakeholders too. They’re not external customers but they are internal stakeholders.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. I mean, I really think that this is a really quick way to lower morale and lower the quality of the work, like you said. Take everyone’s bonus away and give it all to a couple of random people. And, you know, another thing I that I thought about, that as much I would love to be gifted a Mercedes, if I am a newer employee to an airline, and I’m probably making in the $30,000 to $40,000 a year range, can I keep up with taxes and insurance on a vehicle like that? Or would that $1,500 bonus to help me cover bills or Christmas or you know, school sport expenses for my children, come in a lot more handy and be more appreciated?

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, it really feels like, like you said, you know, maybe the executives where at 30,000 feet and the oxygen cut out a little bit because I can’t see how they thought this was a really good idea. Perhaps they thought, “Hey, this is different. Maybe we will some good publicity out of being creative with our thinking.” That’s the only thing that I can think of. That and the fact that I’m sure that this saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses, so I’m sure that there was that aspect of it. But they didn’t think it through. But to their credit, United Airlines did push the pause button as it said, as it was described, and are re-thinking this. Maybe they’re going to throw in an extra five BMWs or something. I don’t know what their logic is. But if they’re smart, they’ll just rid of this, and if they’re really smart, they’ll come back and say, “Hey, you know what? Employees are the bedrock of our foundation. They are the ones that define who we are as far as our customers are concerned. We are going to come up with a bigger and better incentive program that not only reinstates bonuses but focuses on things that are going to improve the customer experience, not including how many passengers you drag off of a plane, kicking and screaming.”

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. And you know, I think a great opportunity here would be something that you’ve mentioned before is create an advisory board of those employees that work at the level that they were talking about this bonus thing. You know, take some people who are not so far removed from that life and that day-to-day work, and see what they would want. What would make them happy and make them want to work harder?

Andy Beal:                  Absolutely. That’s a great suggestion. All right, moving onto our second story, so for the past three years Europe has had a right-to-be-forgotten law, which basically allows you to petition Google to have negative things removed from the web. It could be things, transgressions from 20, 30 years ago, it could be private information, whatever it is, you can make that submission. Well, Google has revealed in a report, over the past three years they’ve received 650,000 plus requests to delete a total almost 2.5 million URLs in Europe. Give you a few breakdowns of the numbers here, 89% of the requests came from private individuals, about 15% of those were trying to dodge either some kind of professional wrongdoing or crime. Google granted 43% of the requests. Now what was interesting is that 20% of their requests came from just 1% of the people requesting it, which kind of suggests that there are probably people like us, Erin, over in Europe doing a lot of cleanup work on behalf of clients.

Erin Jones:                  Right, and that I think is where my unease comes with this whole situation. Now, the highest percentage of removal requests were for directory listings and personal information, which seems really reasonable to me. You know, I don’t want my address or personal information all over the internet, so I can understand that and respect it. Now, the news articles and legal history, I think that’s shakier ground. You know, how far can we go with delisting these kinds of things before we’re going to be accused of creating our own history, so to speak?

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. I don’t want Google having some kind of kangaroo court and making these decisions. I mean, I agree with you. You know, anything’s that’s an invasion of privacy, maybe hate or revenge sites, personal information that should never have been posted, like Social Security numbers or something like that, I can deal with that. But do we really want Google making Arbitrary decisions as what content should be removed? They already have basically that power in Europe. They get to decide which requests get granted.

Erin Jones:                  They do, and Google is a huge company and they’re, you know, not just American culture based as far as where we get our information. You know, a lot of people use Google. I find this really shaky ground, you know, both from it not being a job I would want perspective, as far as the patience and the responsibility that would put on the shoulders of the review team. I see a lot of potential for problems here. Is it, you know, is the loudest voice going to get the final say? Is the biggest wallet going to get the final say, or is this really going to be a fair and accurate, you know, system? It makes me really nervous.

Andy Beal:                  Do think it’s something that we need over here or do you think it would put us both out of work?

Erin Jones:                  Well, you know, I love the idea of those revenge and hate sites going away. You know, I don’t like things like that, and like the idea, you know, like we’ve discussed of the directory listings, personal information … You know, so maybe a 50/50. My concern is with where do we draw the line and who is drawing that line? I would rather continue having the wild west and letting people fend for themselves and letting the public decide, then having things just get wiped out based on the opinions of few. You know, just like the United situation, why do three or four people get to decide what’s best for the rest of us, if, you know, if that’s not really what the public wants?

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, and it’s a little bit dangerous to kind of give nefarious people a mulligan on their reputation. This should be something that you work hard at every single day without thinking that you can kind of have this free pass tucked up your sleeve in case you mess up. Now, everybody deserves a second chance, but I’m in favor of you working hard, really bloody hard to get that second chance and to repair your reputation. It shouldn’t be something you can just submit to Google and just have it wiped clean and nobody knows about your transgressions. So, I think, yeah, we could probably see something over here, but mainly for private information that is truly sensitive and also the hate revenge sites.

Erin Jones:                  I agree. As both a parent and an employer and like you said, someone who has worked really hard to make sure that I live in a way that I want to be portrayed online, I don’t like the idea of somebody coming and having an attorney just wipe it out for them, or submitting a form. So, right now I’m leaning toward being really against this.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. All right. So, it’s been suggested to us that Erin and I get along really well, which is true. We’ve worked together for a number of years, and we agree on a lot of things, and there’s a few people out there that would like to see us not agree on some things as often. So, those two stories were our undercard, we’re up with the main event now, ’cause we’re going to introduce the reputation cage match, so stay with us on this. We’re going to give it a shot. Was we’re going to do is we’re going to take a topic and each one of us is going to pick the opposite side to debate and to push for.

Now, we may not necessarily agree personally with what we’re going to argue, but we are going to give it a hundred percent effort to argue for each side of a particular topic. We’ll each have two minutes to defend our side, and then we’ll another two minutes or so of discussion where we’ll try and poke holes and maybe argue a little bit. So, keep in mind, we may not actually agree with as we’re about to argue, but we are going to give it our best effort, and hopefully give you guys two perspectives, two sides of the same coin, so that you can kind of give this a balanced consideration.

All right, so, we’re not going to take an easy topic. We are going to dive headfirst, in deep, and the topic for this week is going to be, “Should companies be more political?” And Erin, you say that they shouldn’t and you’re up first. You’ve got two minutes.

Erin Jones:                  Okay, I say that shouldn’t and this is going to be an interesting exercise for me because you tend to be really good at changing my perspective on things or making me see things from another angle. So, we’ll see if you can get me to change my opinion here, but I say, “No, for 98% of businesses. No, not at all. Ever.”

I do have one brand that I work where the bulk of their leans one direction politically, but I don’t think this is common and that brand still is very careful to post politically. They let their client base do it for them. My argument here is why would you alienate half or even more of your audience or potential by sharing something that doesn’t need to be shared? You never know who’s listening, how influential they may be, or how loud they can get. So, unless it’s an argument that you are really, really to dig your heels on and really get into, I just don’t think this is a good idea, both from a reputation perspective, from a friendship or a relationship-building perspective, and from a financial perspective. So, these are kind of the three areas that I try to look at things objectively from, and I get a resounding, “No,” from all of them.

You know, Andy, you’ve mentioned several times that swearing, as a brand, which may be something we can talk about later, but no one has ever offended when you don’t swear, so it’s easier just to not use, you know, curse words or derogatory language. I put political opinion in with that point of view. I just, I don’t see a need for it unless there is a really, really good reason and again, 98% of the time, I just don’t think it’s there. I think, you know, promoting what you love is great, but not at the expense of alienating a huge percentage of your audience.

Andy Beal:                  You’re out of time.

Erin Jones:                  [inaudible 00:14:01]. Okay.

Andy Beal:                  All right. So, here’s the deal. Here’s the deal. That was very well done, but you’re absolutely wrong. So, you absolutely should be political with your business. In this day and age, everybody has an opinion. Everybody’s aligned themselves. And the management of your company, whether that is you as an individual or you as a board, whatever it is, you should be authentic to your own ideals. You shouldn’t just kind of whitewash what you feel about a particular topic. And if it’s a political topic, if there’s a side of the coin you want to fall down on, if you don’t agree with the president, if you don’t agree with the law, if you don’t agree with a current situation in our country, then you should be authentic in your own ideals. And it’d be hypocritical to not be as authentic with your company’s ideals. And by being transparent, you ensure you end hiring people with similar ideals.

Now you don’t make it make specific, but when you are very vocal, you end up hiring people that align themselves to you, and you create a company that is very unified and you grow in that unity. That will helped you to feel brand evangelist, because you ‘ll have employees that feel confident that they are aligned with management. They’re not going to feel like, “Oh, I’m speaking out against the majority here and I need to keep quiet if I’m going to keep my job.” That allows them to go out on the social media, be bold, be brave, and to, you know, bash whatever it is they’re up against, because they’re going to build that unity. They’re going to build that support for that company. They’re going to build that support for the company. You’ll get a lot of publicity. You’ll be remembered for that, and you’ll also, you’ll attract a lot of new customers that hadn’t even thought about using your business.

Now, yeah, of course, you’ll get those that say, “That’s it. I don’t want to agree with them. Keep your bias out of my, whatever, product.” But you know what? People forget about that. You know, after a few weeks, they’ll want that delicious hamburger or they’ll realize that that phone is the one that’s better than the other phone that they’ve had to settle with, and so, they’ll be back. So, you won’t really lose anything and you’ll gain a lot of things.

And I am out of time. Okay, so that’s my two minutes. Rebuttal, Erin? Anything I said that you don’t agree with? In fact, you have to not agree.

Erin Jones:                  So much that you said I don’t agree with. Authenticate? Yes, that is important. Alienate? No. I don’t think that’s whitewashing or hypocritical. I think you are potentially making a lot of employees really uncomfortable, which is setting you up for a lot of lawsuits. We’ve seen that happen. And bashing what you’re up against is just not a good way to run a business. It’s a great way to run a passion project, but not a successful company.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, business your company has to be a passion product, otherwise, you’re not going to be successful. And if you’re biting your lip all the time, your mouth’s going to bleed.

Erin Jones:                  Promote what you love, don’t bash what you hate. I think you can do that without being political. And all those new customers you’re attracting, you’re going to need because you’re going to lose half of your customers too.

Andy Beal:                  But don’t you think it’s better to align your messaging with whatever political stance so you that you attract that kind of customer and build a stronger loyalty rather than not being known for anything, and just being kind of lukewarm?

Erin Jones:                  You know, messaging and values I think, politics I don’t. Especially because especially in this country, our politicians are really wishy-washy and talk out both sides of their mouths. So, you know, you could be supporting someone one day, and have them go up against something you don’t value the next day, and then you’ve spent all this time promoting them, and where are you at?

Andy Beal:                  All right. Well, on that note, we are out of time. Erin is still is wrong. You should be political, but we’d like to hear your thoughts. What are thoughts on being political with your brand? Is that something you should do as a company? Do you think you should sit on the fence, and play it safe, and make sure that you don’t get involved in any controversy, and that way you just let people buy your great products and services and not have to worry about, you know, are you alienating with your politics, and just everybody’s happy? Or do you think you should, you know, absolutely stand up for your ideals, pick a side and be a little bit more political and, you know, if you suffer a few loss customers, then so be it. You’re being authentic.

Erin Jones:                  Don’t do it.

Andy Beal:                  Head to facebook.com/andybealorm or go to andybeal.com. Leave us a comment, let us know what your thoughts are. As I said, don’t pick on us individually. I’m not going to reveal whether or not we totally agree with what we’ve just debated, but we gave it a fair shot. So, hopefully you enjoyed that. If there’s another topic you’d like us to tackle, let us know, and Erin, thanks for being a good sport and for arguing with me for a change.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you, and, you know, now that this is done, we can take our own advice and take our argument offline and to finish it.

Andy Beal:                  I don’t know think we’re going to argue a whole lot here. All right. And thank you guys for listening. We’ll hope you’ll join us again next week. Thanks again and bye-bye.

ByAndy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.