#8 – Fiat Chrysler’s emission scandal, Steve Harvey alienates audience, and the declining trust in the media

#8 – Fiat Chrysler’s emission scandal, Steve Harvey alienates audience, and the declining trust in the media

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This week we have the trifecta of Reputation Roadkill: corporate, personal, and industry.

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

  • Erin Jones of Social Ink joins me as co-host.
  • Fiat Chrysler gets accused of emissions cheating and replies with a weak rebuttal.
  • Steve Harvey manages to upset Asian and African Americans, as well as democrats–all in one week!
  • A new survey shows trust in the media is down 5%.

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:                  Okay. We’re back for another episode. Thank you all for joining us. Erin is with me again this week. Hi, Erin.

Erin Jones:                  Hello. How are you doing?

Andy Beal:                  I am doing pretty good. How are things with you out in Colorado?

Erin Jones:                  They’re good. Just a little update for everyone. Still do not have an alpaca.

Andy Beal:                  Oh, no.

Erin Jones:                  Things are going well.

Andy Beal:                  I saw the pressure got pretty intense on Facebook for you to get it.

Erin Jones:                  It did, and I may never be forgiven. I think we probably would’ve had a lot more company out to our house if we had made that happen, so maybe in the future.

Andy Beal:                  That’s funny. That’s funny. Well, that’s a sad story, and we’ve got another sad story to kind of move into. We’ve got some roadkill for this week, and the first one up is Fiat Chrysler. If you’re not familiar with the story then Fiat Chrysler basically got hit with the same thing that Volkswagen got hit with, and that is the EPA sent them a notice of violation, which is the first step from the EPA that basically says, “Hey, we think you’re up to something that’s no good and we’re going to investigate.” They’re basically accusing them of using software to alter the emissions of over 100,000 cars and trucks.

If you’re not familiar with how that works, basically, these cars and trucks, they detect that there’s an emissions test being done and then they adjust the mix of, I don’t know, air and fuel to make it so that they pass the emissions test, but when you’re actually out on the road that mixture, that formula changes, so you get a very efficient car or truck when it’s being tested, but not so much when you’re out on the open road. Did you get a chance to look at that story, Erin?

Erin Jones:                  I did. I would love to know what kind of the thought process is on the company side when these things happen. Is this an oversight or is there some sinister backdoor meeting going on where people are saying, “We’ll fool everyone. Ha, ha, ha,” to skew their numbers? I just don’t know how you could think something like this wouldn’t come out, whether your customers figure it out because their gas mileage isn’t as good or it comes out this way from the EPA.

Andy Beal:                  That’s a good question because if you read the response from Fiat Chrysler they’re basically saying all companies have to do something to some degree to manipulate the emissions and how they control the emissions that come out. It makes you kind of think that they’re all playing a game. It’s like, “Okay, how far can we push it before we get busted by the EPA?”, which is really the wrong way to run a business, let alone a multi-billion dollar business selling millions of vehicles each year because you’re playing brinkmanship with the EPA. At some point, they’re going to fight back, and with Volkswagen having their situation now the EPA’s out looking at all the car manufacturers.

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. On the consumer end, I’ve been Jeep fan for a really long time and it just kind of hurts my feelings. I always thought that they were kind of able to stand away from some of the trends that other car companies did, and I guess I had hoped that meant some of the shadier things that they were doing as well.

Andy Beal:                  Which is interesting because if you think about it what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to set it up so that they pass the emission test while still being fuel efficient. I’ve owned a Jeep before, and I’ve never owned a Jeep because it was fuel efficient.

Erin Jones:                  No. No.

Andy Beal:                  You’re taking a risk with a brand that nobody cares about fuel efficiency when you buy a Jeep. You buy it because you want something rugged that can go off-road, that can go through the snow. Sure it has to be environmentally friendly, but when you start manipulating things and risking that brand because you want it to be environmentally friendly and you want it to come across as being fuel efficient you’re playing a game that your customers don’t really want you to play. It certainly wouldn’t be the first question I ask if I go out and buy a new Jeep. It’s not going to be, “What’s the mileage rating on this? How far am I going to go on a tank of gas?” It’s going to be, “See, that big boulder over there? Can I get over it in this Jeep?”

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. Between that and their response that, “Well, everybody’s doing it, so we had to do it too,” that also doesn’t sound very rugged and that go forth attitude. I find myself disappointed in that side of it as a consumer. I think that the diesel engine is different anyway, and people could argue that emission standards for diesels are to placate consumers. That’s a whole different argument, but I think that they could’ve handled this better.

Andy Beal:                  If they are truly innocent then they’ve really missed the boat when it comes to their response because if you go and look at the statement that they put out it’s really very weak. They use the phrase that they’re disappointed that the EPA has taken this action. Not a, “We’re going to fight this tooth and nail because it’s absolutely not correct and you can trust us.” It’s a, “We’ve been in discussions with them and we’re disappointed that they’re going to take this action,” which basically is one step away from saying, “Yeah, we were wrong. We were hoping to get away with it and maybe settle this privately. Yeah, you can’t trust us anymore.”

I would’ve liked to have seen Fiat Chrysler coming out with a strong show of force and keeping that trust with their customers, with the media, with government agencies and basically saying, “No. No, no, no. We didn’t manipulate. We didn’t cheat. There’s something wrong here.” Kind of like the way Apple did with the Consumer Reports and the battery.

Consumer Reports with the latest Mac said, “Hey, we can’t recommend the Mac because their battery doesn’t last as long as Apple is claiming.” Apple didn’t really go off sheepishly into the night. They kind of said, “No, there’s something wrong here,” and then you see that they’ve looked at it and said, “Well, Consumer Reports disabled browser caching and they disabled this. They disabled a lot of things that consumers are going to leave activated on their Macs, and when they do they’re going to get the battery life that we’ve claimed.” They kind of had more of a, “Hey, let’s get to the bottom of this together,” where Chrysler’s kind of more of a, “We got busted here, and we’re hoping we can get this resolved so that we don’t get slapped with a big penalty. That’s the way I read it.

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. It almost felt a little bit petulant. Like, “Oh, we got caught and now we’re going to go pout.” I think that it would’ve been easy to get the public support too. A lot of people don’t go straight to supporting government agencies when something like this happens. Like you said, I think that they really could’ve turned this around and gotten people behind them instead of making it sound like they’re a big, bad cooperation that is above standards.

Andy Beal:                  This is still going to play out. Maybe we will discover that there’s really nothing going on here, and there’s a mistake, or Chrysler will be vindicated. But they’re not doing a lot to protect their brand at this point, which suggests to me that they’re not willing to put a stake in the ground of their reputation because they know they’ve done something that has skirted the rules and they need to be blamed for something. We’ll see how it plays out, but it’s not looking good for them.

Erin Jones:                  Oh, I agree. Come out. Own it. Move forward. That’s kind of a standard formula whenever you’re talking to someone when they get into a little bit of trouble with their reputation. It feels like they didn’t get good advice on this or they followed a legally safe ground instead of worrying about their reputation as a brand.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, good point. Good point. Let’s move on. Someone else that’s also having a pretty bad week is Steve Harvey. Now, I am a big Steve Harvey fan. How about you? Do you like Steve Harvey?

Erin Jones:                  I do. I think that he has had a rough year though.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. Well, it’s self-inflicted. For those who are not familiar, especially in the last couple of weeks, Steve Harvey, first of all, he basically insulted all Asian men. He made a joke, to summarize, about what a dating advice book would like for Asian men and it wouldn’t be very long because people don’t want to date Asian men. Then he had the meeting with Trump and he got backlash from that. Let’s kind of look at this because we asked 100 people, and not a lot of them are happy with Steve Harvey right now. The racial thing. You would think that being an African-American man Steve Harvey would understand that even if you’re a comedian making jokes about racism is just never going to be a smart thing.

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. Some comedians pull it off, but they’re typically known as people who always attack everyone. I think once you get into that side of the business you’re stuck there forever, and I don’t feel like that’s an area that he has tread into in the past. It seems like a stretch from where his comedy has traditionally been as far as offending people. You’ve kind of heard that joke where if you’re going to offend anyone you need to offend everyone or it’s not fair.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, true.

Erin Jones:                  I don’t understand why he would go racial. I just found it very off-putting.

Andy Beal:                  I think that sometimes we run the risk of becoming too arrogant. We run the risk that, especially with a comedian, “We’re just so darn funny, and as long as I’m making a joke you’re going to laugh. I can say whatever I want.” I think we kind of get caught up in just because we can say something doesn’t mean that we should. We see it in social media. We see individuals that aren’t comedians that will share a meme or share a gif, or something that, yeah, it’s kind of funny, but it’s also not right. Maybe behind closed doors and in close circles that kind of thing can happen without there being any consequences, but you see a lot of people that share things online just because they can or they think it’s funny. You’ve got to think about how that reflects on you.

I am very careful. For example, on Facebook, I don’t even allow anything to show on my wall if I’ve been tagged in something without my permission because I love my friends, but there are some that don’t have that kind of filter. I’m not even just talking racial. I’m talking just about anything. I want to see it first before it goes on my wall. I think Steve Harvey, this is kind indicative of what we’re seeing in social media where people are just forgetting that just because you have the ability to say or post something doesn’t mean you should.

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. I think that he’s going to learn what a lot of people learn even in small venues on Facebook, is when you say something this polarizing you’re going to see a lot of people that traditionally ran in your circle distance themselves a little bit from you.

Andy Beal:                  Right. [crosstalk 00:12:49] Go on.

Erin Jones:                  I was just going to say, we’ve seen that in our industry. Working in the reputation industry, when somebody that we view as a colleague does something that may not be very reputable you kind of back up a little bit because you don’t want to be affiliated with that reputation.

Andy Beal:                  That ties us into the second thing that Harvey did, which we already touched on, and that is he had a meeting with Trump and there was just a backlash. It mostly came from his peers and co-workers in the entertainment space who, let’s be honest, most people in entertainment, they lean very heavily liberal. Right now a lot of people that voted for Hillary are feeling very vulnerable because Trump’s in office. They don’t know what they’re going to get. They’re very disgusted with a lot of disgusting things that Trump said, and they’re waiting for this to play out, and Steve Harvey goes and has a meeting.

I think the biggest problem he had is that he let the media spin the narrative. Instead of him coming out up front and saying, “I’m going to go meet with Trump because I want to make sure that the views and the concerns of the African-American population,” or the liberal population, whatever he wanted to represent, “are heard. I want to make sure that we can feel confident that the things that he’s said and done in the past are not indicative of how he’s going to run the [inaudible 00:14:18]” No. Basically set the scene instead of photos of him coming out of a meeting and then letting the media dictate what that storyline was.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. He should know better as far as what was going to come out if he didn’t get ahead of it. The images that are being put on articles and things of his face standing next to Donald Trump likening him to Chris Christie after backing up Donald Trump. Just looking completely confused and bewildered. Was it staged? Was he pushed into this? There’s just so much speculation going on right now that his voice is going to be completely drowned out when he tries to actually speak on what really happened.

Andy Beal:                  I think that, again, just because you can doesn’t mean necessarily you should. I think that those in the entertainment space should stick to entertaining. That’s my personal opinion. I think a lot of people agree with that, but instead, they want to get involved with politics. I think it maybe goes to their head that they have the popularity and the platform where people are listening to them, and they’re like, “Yeah, sure. I’m going to go ahead and meet with the President-elect because I’m Steve Harvey. I’m an important person.” Well, you’re important because you read the questions on Family Feud, and you’ve got a talk show, and you’re a comedian. I don’t pay attention to Steve Harvey for his politics. I leave the politicians to talk politics.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely.

Andy Beal:                  Here’s my thoughts on this. Steve Harvey has got a tremendous brand. He has apologized for both of these. He has indicated that he was not prepared for the backlash. I suspect that we’ll see him take a little bit of a low profile. He’s definitely taken some hits. Going all the way back to the Miss Universe kind of thing. I think he probably needs to just stick what he’s good at, and that is being an entertainer, radio host, comedian, Family Feud. Just kind of focus on doing what Steve Harvey does best and let everything else take a backseat for a while, and I think his brand will recover. I think that he’ll get back in everybody’s good graces and he’ll probably learn a lesson from this that, “Hey, I am not touching politics again.”

Erin Jones:                  Maintain likeability and be fun.

Andy Beal:                  I put this on Twitter the other day. Every time you tweet something political you risk alienating part of your audience, which is fine if that’s what you want to do. If you’re a political commentator, if you’re an activist, if your audience is expecting you take a stance then that’s absolutely fine. It is also absolutely fine if you’re completely comfortable with the consequences of talking politics or being political, and that is you are going to offend and upset some people. Rightly or wrongly, you are going to do that. When you’re trying to build your reputation you need to keep that in mind.

I’m not saying always be vanilla and just kind of be milk toast where nobody wants to kind of pay attention to what you have to say because you never say anything exciting. Just be aware that if you all of the sudden deviate from the reputation you have to become very political that’s going to raise eyebrows. Sure, you’ll get some applause from some people, but you’re also going to offend and lose people. Many people will start boycotting brands and individuals the moment they start talking politics because that’s not what they want from that brand or individual.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. Not only could it be offensive, but some people are just so tired of hearing it that even if they agree with you, they don’t want their local pizza place telling them who they should vote for.

Andy Beal:                  Exactly. Exactly. Let’s wrap up that up, and we’ll kind of update if we see any developments on that. Moving onto our last story, the big PR firm Edelman releases an annual trust survey. Lots of great information on this. We’ll put a link in the show notes. We covered this on the ReputationRefinery.com blog, but the two things that jumped out to me is that trust in CEOs, so CEO trust is down 12%, but trust in the media is down 5%. Now, 5% may not sound a lot, but when you consider that the media’s supposed to be unbiased, non-political. It’s just supposed to report the news, and I think in the last year we have seen time and time those lines being blurred, and I think the media’s paying their price for that because the trust in them is down 5%.

Erin Jones:                  It is. It’s hard to know. With large media outlets we’ve kind of learned which way they lean, so we can take things with a grain of salt or take what we need from them and maybe not hear the political leanings, but right now it feels like everyone is trying to get an ulterior motive in. I’m hearing friends that are not big on technology say, “I don’t go to news outlets anymore. I go straight to Twitter or Reddit because I feel like I can at least get my own opinion out, and take good information and do what I want with it.” This is coming from people who traditionally watched the news every evening.

Andy Beal:                  The media’s really upset with Trump because he tweets a lot, but at the same time, they’ve only got themselves to blame because he feels like they filter everything. He feels like he can get his message across by tweeting directly, which by the way, he probably could use a little bit more filtering based on [crosstalk 00:20:28] tweets. He’s cutting through what he perceives as bias in the filter. I think us, as consumers of news, we’re trying to find news that doesn’t have the filter.

It’s gotten to the point now where if I want to see what’s going on in the news I pull up MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News because somewhere in there has got to be the truth, but I can’t trust one particular media outlet because of all of the bias. I just don’t know what to believe anymore. I think that’s where we’re heading because I can’t think of a single network or cable news outlet with any significant audience that doesn’t demonstrate some kind of bias.

Erin Jones:                  No, and I completely agree. I think part of it ties back into what they were saying about people not trusting corporations. We feel like our news is being driven by corporate money instead of by, like you said, the facts.

Andy Beal:                  [crosstalk 00:21:28] Go ahead.

Erin Jones:                  I feel like maybe these two numbers dropping together is kind of telling in that.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, I think you’re right. We’re in an age where just our trust in anything is low. We can’t trust our car manufacturer. We can’t trust the cellphone we put to our ear. Heck, we can’t even trust doing laundry without the washing machines trying to attack us. Our trust in anything is down, and I think part of that is coming from the access to information that we get now from social media. We can fact check so many more things thanks to Twitter, Reddit, Wiki Leaks, whatever it may be. There’s a way to kind of fact check this stuff, and we’re realizing that the media is kind of putting their own spin on whether that’s political or whether that’s sponsorships, or whatever it may be. I think that the media is in a reputation crises because they need to find a way to get back to reporting the news.

I think it’s easy to point fingers at BuzzFeed. Especially with the uproar they had recently, but forget about that. Think about the reason why BuzzFeed became popular, and it all goes back to sensational titles, and click bait, and things that get people tweeting, and retweeting, and sharing. The mainstream media got sucked into that because they are struggling to get revenue. Nobody’s buying newspapers. Nobody’s watching the TV. They’re all going to websites, and so now we get these sensational click bait headlines, and they only get you so far. Unless you can add your own bias to the story to really even ramp it even more so that you can really get someone’s attention by putting out a story that is just so skewed and so misleading, but, “Hey, it gets someone to our website.”

Erin Jones:                  Right. It’s like they don’t even care. Even if you look at comments on Facebook from people who are reading these articles going, “You are absolutely incorrect,” they’re getting that engagement. I feel like the engagement-

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, it’s a drug.

Erin Jones:                  Yes, and I think it matters more to them than their reputation. I was actually jokingly going to tell you that I feel like if you don’t have enough on your plate you could revamp Radically Transparent for this media craze we’re having right now. Sit down and just, “Hey, guys. This is not how to do this. Get back to the transparency.” I feel like there may be a dip there, but people would love some refreshing, just, “Here’s the information. Garner from it what you want.”

Andy Beal:                  I think somebody’s going to fill that void. When I was growing up, as the intro to the podcast says, “Here’s the guy with the funny accent,” because I grew up British born. Grew up in England. Moved to the US in 2000. Got hit with a southern drawl and now I have this funny accent. That aside, I grew up watching the BBC News, and never in my lifetime, the 24 years, 25 years I was in England, never was there any hint of bias in BBC news. It was always fairly and maybe rather boringly delivered, but the news was delivered factually. I don’t know if that’s changed in the years that I’ve been away. They could’ve gone the same way as everybody else, but I think there’s a desire now. I think there’s a void.

I think any news organization that can clearly put aside its bias is just going to be so refreshing to people that I think we need somebody to kind of turn the tide. The tide’s been turned toward bias, and sensationalism, and click bait headlines. Now we need somebody that’s going to come in and just report the news factually, and let people have the information without there being any underlying bias. You can’t get rid of all of it, but as much as possible. I think there’s an opportunity for somebody. It’s certainly not going to be me, but there’s an opportunity for … I don’t know who it is.

Erin Jones:                  Train them! Teach them your ways!

Andy Beal:                  It’s like The Return of the Jedi. It’s almost like we’re down to the last few newsmakers that know the true art of just reporting on the news, and we need apprentices that can be trained in that skill and hopefully, there’ll be a resurgence. I can’t think of a news organization that I can trust right now. Is there anybody you listen to that you think, “Yeah, these guys report without any bias”?

Erin Jones:                  I can’t. Although, BBC is one that I would probably lean a little bit more towards for that. Maybe they can bring it back.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see.

Erin Jones:                  Get some Jedi knights out. Something I actually thought about bringing up today, speaking of children growing up in the ’80s, I’ve noticed there’s been a resurgence of male fanny pack wearers. If we can bring that back somewhat respectively, I cringe as I say that, maybe the news will follow.

Andy Beal:                  So we need young Jedis wearing fanny packs to lead the way?

Erin Jones:                  Oh, lord. That’s terrifying.

Andy Beal:                  What a great note to finish on. Well, that’s our show for the week. If you made it this far then well done, you made it all the way through and you got us talking about Jedis with fanny packs. Kudos to you. Thank you, Erin, for joining me this week.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you for having me.

Andy Beal:                  Thank you guys for listening. We always appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen. Please head to our Facebook page /AndyBealORM or just go to the AndyBeal.com website, and leave us your questions if you have any or any follow-up comments. We’d love to hear from those. We’ll hope you’ll tune in again next week. Thanks a lot, 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.