Archive for the ‘Reputation’ Category

Mourinho and the mystery of the lost magic?

August 28, 2018

Mouinho - three fingers, respect

As a Liverpool FC fan it was a natural thing to watch for the Manchester United result coming through last night from their home match against Spurs, three games into the season.

Things were ominous for moaning Mourinho and Co. as they had lost their last match away to Brighton the previous week and the self declared “Special One” has just not been himself for quite a while – in truth he hasn’t been himself for a really long while.

While I have always detested him I remember enviously watching the clear comradery that he seemed to share with his players, back in the early days of Chelsea FC where that combination of talent, money, team spirit and passion seemed to create an unstoppable force, which resulted in three Premier League titles, which he was quick to remind the press about last night in his press conference.

He wants respect from them for what he has achieved before.

Mouinho Chelsea

The magic seems to have deserted Jose Mourinho, whatever has happened. He doesn’t seem to be happy and even with his expensively assembled squad (of course he moans that he doesn’t have more) including World Cup winners, they stuttered at home and lost 3-0.

Spurs are a really good side and there is no shame in this but the timing of the result was awful for him, the team and their fans.

The big question is what happens next?

A great manager will use this result to dig deep, to reboot the team, to rally them to the cause, to make them believe in themselves and to motivate this talented group to start performing to their optimum level.

Great players who believe in this cause, this club, their teammates, their manager and themselves will treat this result as a big line in the sand and will together, use it to kick-start their season.

While this could be a possibility it seems a remote one as Jose has clearly lost the magic he once had in abundance might just need to take a break, to look deep inside himself to find out what has changed and why isn’t he smiling anymore?

We all have bad days and when we lose this feels lousy and inevitably leaves us lacking in confidence and motivation – when this happens it’s up to us, all of us, managers and players to rally together and reboot.

It’s easy when you are winning, it’s tough when you are not and that’s when the true leaders appear, to turn things around.

Jose is not winning but even worse (for Manchester United fans!!) he is not happy – is he the guy who can reboot this team?

#WinHappy

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

“Ordinary” voices speaking loudly

May 13, 2018

Vicky Phelan

I was driving across the city and listening passively to RTE 1 – it was Dee’s car so I didn’t have it set up to stream podcasts from my phone.

The presenter brought on a woman to talk about the utterly awful and totally depressing situation with the cervical cancer screening fiasco, brought to light by the very brave Vicky Phelan who had refused the insulting and inevitable “non-disclosure” clause in her settlement case with the HSE.

(can you even get your head around the callous thinking here? “We’ve practically killed you by not owning up to an error and we are now giving you some money to compensate you, but a condition must be that you keep your mouth shut about it!!)

This brave, “ordinary” woman had courage, refused this clause and used her voice to expose this awful crime on Irish citizens.

Margaret Murphy

The person who came on air was Margaret Murphy, who is a Patient Advocate for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Patients for Patient Safety Programme. I had never heard of her before and I never heard of this programme.

Margaret came to this position because of her eloquence and her unique ability to share the story of her son Kevin who died aged 21 years.  Margaret gives an insight into what it is like to be a patient, a family and a clinician when things go wrong in the healthcare system.

Margaret speaks all over the world addressing audiences on the topic of “things going wrong” within the medical world and advocates strongly for a regime of honesty, transparency and candour – she knows it works, she has the facts and she even makes the business case for being honest as it is proven to save money for the medical profession!

Once Margaret came on the airwaves she immediately grabbed my attention –  the most engaging thing about her was that she spoke in a down to earth accent (an “ordinary” person) and used down to earth language and she spoke with passion.

This is the time for all “ordinary” people to stand up and use their powerful voices and highlight the bullshit that is contaminating the most powerful institutions in the country.

Bring on the ordinary..

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

#IBelieveHer and Justice?

March 28, 2018


Belfast Trial

At the time of writing there has been over 70,000 tweets using the Hashtag #IBelieveHer, with most of these expressing total outrage at the verdict in the alleged rape case against the rugby players in Belfast.

Being honest, I wasn’t surprised at all with the unanimous verdict by the jury as there seemed to me, to be lots of grey areas and inconsistencies throughout the case and in a scenario that must operate in the realm of “beyond reasonable doubt” .

I read the summation by the Judge as she passed the case over to the Jurors and she outlined the issues very carefully, including strong guidance about the inconsistencies in the evidence presented.

As I said, I wasn’t surprised at the unanimous verdict by the jury – rape could not be proved, beyond reasonable doubt..no doubt about it.

The court process, in arriving at that moment, is brutal with skilled, intelligent barristers going hell for leather at the respective sides in the case, fighting the corner for their clients – for anyone that has ever been involved in a court case (of any sort), it is not for the fainthearted, and even if you believe you are 100% right in a seemingly clearcut case it is never an easy process.

“Proving” anything, as is the requirement to win your case is really tough, and without conclusive evidence that a clever barrister can’t pull down you will rarely get a result that you want.

In a rape situation, in particular in a case like this one where there was lots of pre-engagement between the different parties in a “party” type environment, it would be very difficult to prove unless there were ironclad witnesses.

I am very concerned that most of the “outrage” that I am witnessing on social media and in conversations that I am listening to are down to the fact that there was a verdict of “Not Guilty”.

I know I will get my head sliced right off by at least 70,000 tweeters but I will say it anyway…if we can’t prove that these men are guilty then this verdict cannot be given against them – while the process is horrible and upsetting it will never be an easy one as the stakes are so high.

If finding someone guilty of rape was an “easy” process , this would be a very dangerous scenario.

In this case I do hope that the jury who lived with this case for so long were best placed to deliver a fair verdict.

While the verdict of the case is one thing, the facts that emerged are quite another.

Consent or no consent we saw professional, privileged and gifted men willingly sharing a young, vulnerable woman for sex, which is quite horrible and disgusting and it does tell the whole world an awful lot about their characters and how they view women.

I watched the statements being read out by (or on behalf of) the various “innocent” parties after the case and there seemed to be a lot of finger pointing but no acceptance at all that their behaviour was wrong in any way – I thought what was communicated was very poor and misguided.

There will be even more outrage if these men don’t lose their jobs with the IRFU, which will be very tricky for all concerned – if a jury found them not guilty, what can they do? – lets see.

I read one particular very sad tweet that went: “On days like this I am thankful I don’t have a daughter”.

I am so thankful everyday that I have a wonderful daughter.

Do #IBelieveHer ?

I wasn’t there so I can’t say and it is probably the same for you.

Do I think she was treated badly?

She was treated horribly and I think these boys will pay a heavy, deserved price for this.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

Protection for (or from) Whistleblowers!

November 29, 2017

Protecting the Whistleblower

Frances Fitzgerald, the Tanaiste has resigned “for the sake of the country“..

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach has thanked her, for her service and has declared that it is a shame that a good woman who has done nothing wrong has resigned..

Fianna Faíl have got their way and they will quietly sit in the wings waiting, waiting, waiting until the perfect moment to pull that trigger.  They exercised their power in a big, public gesture and won this power battle..

Noel Waters, Secretary-General of the Department of Justice has decided to take early retirement and he is angry about the witch hunt against the organisation that he has been in charge of..

Noírín O’Sullivan, the Garda Commissioner, who was publicly supported by the Government retired in September (after her holidays!)..

A devious, nasty campaign against Maurice McCabe, the Garda Whistleblower, Parking Fines, Breath Tests – the whole thing is a shambles, a debacle of monumental proportions and yet at this moment in time no one is saying sorry and no one seems to be doing anything to sort anything out.

One of the critical instruments of the State, our police force, is totally out of control and no one is taking any responsibility – “I did nothing wrong“…The problem is that you did nothing!!!

But, phew..the crisis has been averted for now and there will be no General Election this side of Christmas – we can all get on with our shopping.

But..what about the Whistleblower??

Somewhere in the mix, the whole point of all of this seems to have gone over everyone’s heads.

What about Maurice McCabe??

Have we heard anyone in authority saying (in a manner that we believe them) that we will not put up with any corruption in our State organisations as it will not be tolerated and any whistleblower will get all of our protection?

Have we heard anyone apologising publicly to Maurice McCabe?

Instead we have listened to horrendous stories of legal strategies against him and “it wasn’t in my jurisdiction to interfere“.

In this country we have legislation that was enacted in 2014 to protect Whistleblowers.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 aims to protect people who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace. The Act, which came into effect on 15 July 2014. It provides for redress for employees who are dismissed or otherwise penalised for having reported possible wrongdoing in the workplace. 

Some of the detail:

(from the Citizens Information Board website)

Under the Act, you make a protected disclosure if you are a worker and you disclose relevant information in a particular way.

Information is relevant if it came to your attention in connection with your work and you reasonably believe that it tends to show wrongdoing.

This wrongdoing may be occurring or suspected to be occurring either inside or outside of the country. Even if the information is proved to be incorrect, you are still protected by the Act provided you had a reasonable belief in the information.

Wrongdoing is widely defined in the Act and includes the commission of criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, endangering the health and safety of individuals, damaging the environment, miscarriage of justice, misuse of public funds, and oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent or grossly mismanaged acts or omissions by a public body.

The definition also includes the concealment or destruction of information about any of the above wrongdoing.

The Act gives people anonymity, it describes how people should go about making a Protected Disclosure and it outlines how the Employer must act when presented with a disclosure.

All of this sounds great in practice, and there will be a poor sod who actually believes it and goes about reporting something they feel morally bound to do!! (Ssssh..if he/she was a friend or work colleague of yours what would you whisper in their ear?).

The Big Question?

So, taking the whole recent circus into account, lets be really honest here for a moment.

If you were in the scenario, working for a State body and who felt strongly about some bad crap or “wrongdoing” that was going on where you worked what would you do?

I’m guessing you would either shut up and say nothing (and perpetuate the problem) or just leave.

We have all learnt a big lesson – don’t complain!!

This is a wonderful country..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Decency, Manners, Legends and Losers

October 19, 2017

Legends and Losers

I met him in a hotel in Dublin one morning to discuss the possibility of working together on a few projects – our service offerings didn’t overlap but they could be combined making a powerful package for clients.

When I got there he had already arrived and had his laptop open and was sipping on a water.

I ordered a coffee and another as we chatted for quite a while making sure that we both understood each other’s offerings so we could best explore how to package the combined service.

He seemed like an ok guy and besides the work we actually did, we spent some time chatting about our teams, what motivates us and our general philosophy about business.

All was going well and after about two hours of in-depth discussions it was time to wrap up our meeting.

I went to pay and I asked him what he had ordered so I could pay for him as well “Don’t worry about me he said, all I had was tap water” he said.

An alarm bell went off in my head and a thought struck me …You miserable thing, sitting in their premises for hours, using their WiFi, using their space and having the audacity to order something for free!!

You had no problem taking from them without giving anything back, not even a tip to the waiter.

I paid my bill shook his hand and thanked him for his time and made a flash decision that I never wanted to do business with him as instinctively something felt wrong to me. To this day I have never contacted him again.

Was this me being stupid, unreasonable and quite dumb, walking away from a business opportunity because of what I perceived as a gesture of meanness?

I always look for decency and common courtesy in people – do they hold a door, let someone else go first, acknowledge the waiter, behave respectively to the receptionist, offer to pay?

In business do the personal traits of the people you deal with matter, as long as they are good at what they do – isn’t this the most important thing?

Legends and Losers

I was listening to another brilliant podcast by Christopher Lockhead and in this particular episode he was chatting about decency and character and ‘purpose before profit‘. When I heard the conversation it made me think of the meeting I had with my ‘tap water’ friend.

In this show he spoke about a business contact that he had met for lunch and how he distrusted him because of the lousy tip that he had left for the staff even though there was no issue with the meal. For him this was an important warning sign.

He mentioned the importance of good character in people as he found from his vast experience that ‘these people’ would always end up leaving you down when the going got tough and you needed them most.

Always listen to the signs – they rarely let you down!

Check out the fantastic and inspirational podcast series Legends and Losers  where Chris has the most captivating dialogue with business leaders each week.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

The Right Hook needs a Left Hook

September 11, 2017

George Hook

Whoah ….another storm with another high profile media personality saying the wrong thing and BOOM, the backlash erupts.

This time (I’m referencing the Kevin Myers storm) it happened live on air and a filter was impossible.

George Hook, the successful and very popular 76 year old Newstalk broadcaster said way too much when he was discussing the ongoing case involving a 19 year woman in the UK who alleges she was raped by a former member of the British swim team.

While discussing this case he spoke about the ‘personal responsibility‘ of the rape victim, he spoke about “modern day social activity means that she goes back with him” and then he put his foot totally in the biggest bucket of crap when he said “But is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”.

George ….oh my God what are you saying??

There was then some more insight from him when he spoke about parenting: “There is personal responsibility because it’s your daughter and it’s my daughter. And what determines the daughter who goes out, gets drunk, passes out and is with strangers in her room and the daughter that goes out, stays halfway sober and comes home, I don’t know. I wish I knew.

I wish I knew what the secret of parenting is. But there is a point of responsibility. The real issues nowadays and increasingly is the question of the personal responsibility that young girls are taking for their own safety.

Now George was trying to say something else and this point tells you a little more about his “lens” when he is discussing the topic.

Was there a simple message about being careful, that came out all wrong?

Quite rightly there was outcry from many quarters and this continues..

Colm O’Gorman, the director of Amnesty Ireland said on Twitter, “I get that @NewstalkFM wants to lead on ‘opinion led content’, but @ghook increasingly stupid, ignorant rants are grossly irresponsible.

Chris Donoghue, (who must know George quite well?) the group political editor at Communicorp, a media company that owns Newstalk, tweeted saying, “Someone needs to go to town on Hook. It’s disgusting.”

Needless to say George Hook has apologised and Patricia Station, Managing Editor said the comments made by Mr Hook were “totally wrong and inappropriate and should never have been made.”

On Twitter a poll has been set up to get George Hook off air and most of the tweets are calling for him to be fired.

One tweeter went as far as analysing all of the brands that advertised during the show and there was another group who were questioning Clayton Hotels for their sponsorship and suggesting that they should pull immediately.

Dalata Hotels (Clayton Hotels is one of the hotel brands) in the middle of all the twitter storm on Sunday tweeted “We will be engaging with Newstalk as soon as possible to terminate our commercial relationship.

While George was clearly wrong with what he said I wanted to discuss it with my folks, great people from the same generation just to test their perspective.

Not for one second did they absolve the rapist but they were very concerned about a 19 year old who would put herself in such a vulnerable situation. This generation do see things through a different lens in the same way that new generations will most likely see things differently to us. The word blame was not used once in their conversation and this is where George went totally wrong.

So……what should happen with the very popular, talented and opinionated 76 year old broadcaster (is this why he is so popular?)?

I don’t think he should be burnt at the stake and I don’t think he should be fired.

He made a big mistake and he should be given a big warning but I feel he should be allowed to continue as it is important to have valuable voices on air from this generation.

However, if George is to continue on air maybe the ‘Right Hook’ should be accompanied by a younger ‘Left Hook’  to maintain balance and help to keep that ‘lens’ always focused.

Update: 12th Sept

George Hook’s colleagues at Newstalk have written a letter to the station’s owners asking that he is removed from his position – this is not good.

Is this black and white that one cannot be forgiven for such a mistake or is there something else going on?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

Simple Courtesies and your Reputation

August 8, 2017

thank youMany thanks Greg,

Thank you for your time today and for all of this information. I’ll discuss with a colleague early next week and will be back in touch afterwards.

Warm regards,

 

You are so nice and you must work for a great place I thought …

This was an email I received today from a prospect I had chatted to on the phone – after our chat I put a brief proposal together and emailed it to her.

You might think there was nothing special about her email that warranted me feeling so positive about it?

I did spend time assessing what their business needed and giving her advice and I did spend time working on a proposal – surely, this warranted some acknowledgement?

Of course it did!

Unfortunately, I find this basic level of courtesy has disappeared from business. In extreme cases we have met a client, spent a lot of time with them to get a firm grasp of their requirements, spent the best part of a day writing a plan, spent a few hours presenting to them and then….nothing.

It drives me bonkers – reply to my email, return a phone call. If you don’t want to want to work with us for whatever reason, that’s fine, but at least respect the amount of time, enthusiasm and work that we have done by replying and being courteous.

This speaks volumes about you and your organisation and it can be turned really easily with a tiny “thank you, we appreciated the effort but…

Your reputation can often be about the small things as much as the big things!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

Making sure that ‘Great Taste’ is never lost

August 3, 2017

The Great Taste awards, described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world are organised by the Guild of Fine Food.

They are the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink, and when a consumer sees the Great Taste logo on an item it is a sign that they will be buying a great tasting product.

This year (2017) Food and drink producers entered 12,300 products with 4,347 earning 3, 2 and 1 star ratings of which 444 originated from Ireland.

Overall just 165 products earned a 3 Star rating and 1,011 a 2 star rating with Irish products well represented in both of these categories.

PatWhelan, james Whelan Butchers - Great Taste Awards

The Golden Forks (the big winners) will be announced at a celebration dinner at the International Park Lane Hotel, London on the 4 September.

Great Taste, values taste above all else, with no regard for branding or packaging. Whether it is gin, biscuits, sausages or coffee being judged, all products are removed from their packaging, wrapper, jar, box or bottle before being tasted. Furthermore the judges have no idea the price that these products normally retail at.

It’s all about the taste!

The judges then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of a 1, 2, or 3 star award.

As you can imagine the judging panel is very illustrious and this year it included; chef, food writer and author, Gill Meller, MasterChef judge and restaurant critic, Charles Campion, author and Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen chef, Zoe Adjonyoh, baker, Tom Herbert, and food writer and baking columnist, Martha Collison, as well as food buyers from Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols.

These esteemed palates have together tasted and re-judged the 3-star winners and will finally agree on the 2017 Top 50 Foods, which will be announced in August, with the Golden Fork Trophy winners and the Great Taste 2017 Supreme Champion unveiled on the 4th September.

Just Taste!

Judging the food and drink products on their taste seems very fair and as you would expect – the packaging and branding is removed so that the judges are able to experience the products in their pure, true state, without any interference or bias.

Sunnes Stores - Sticky Toffee Pudding

When do we ever, truly taste anything?

The minute that award winning cake goes into a wrapper, it changes the taste for the consumer.

  • Once we see the packaging, the colours, the type of paper and the visuals, it changes the taste.
  • Once we see the brand name, it changes the taste.
  • Once we read where the product is made and we see the ingredients, it changes the taste.
  • Once the product is placed in a retail outlet, it changes the taste.
  • Once we see where it is placed in the store, it changes the taste.
  • Once we see some POS and the product displayed on a promotional stand, it changes the taste.
  • Once a price is put on the product, it changes the taste.
  • When the product is on special offer, it changes the taste.
  • When a well dressed sampling person invites you to taste a thumbnail of the product, it changes the taste.
  • When we see that the brand is endorsed by a well known personality, it changes the taste.
  • When we see adverts for the product in a newspaper, it changes the taste.
  • When we see adverts for the product in a glossy magazine, it changes the taste
  • When a respected food journalist tells you the product is superb, it changes the taste.
  • When we open the pack at home and we are in a great mood, it changes the taste.

Today’s consumer is influenced by everything they see, hear and taste. We are also influenced by a lifetime of experiences, good and bad, by our peers and we all carry with us a lorry load of biases.

With great products our job and the job of everyone else in the chain that brings the product to the consumer, is to make sure that person can actually ‘taste’ the product.

The Great Taste Awards and that big round logo that you will see on products will also help!

Congratulations to two of our clients, James Whelan Butchers and Simply Better by Dunnes Stores who scooped up Great Taste Awards, once again this year.

James Whelan Butchers are Great Taste 3-star winners with their Pork Lard, a natural and clear lard made from slowly rendered back fat, with a “fabulous long lasting and clean pork flavour” – it’s all about taste!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Did you hear the one about the “Kerry” man?

July 24, 2017

Kerry

Did you hear the one about the ‘Kerry’ man?” was the joke that we heard often years ago.

We don’t hear that joke being told too much these days and maybe, that’s because “Kerry” has become worthy of respect for so many reasons including prowess on the sporting field, the most beautiful of places, links golf courses, fantastic hospitality, success in business with huge companies such as Kerry Group and FEXCO and even politicians that should never be underestimated!

There is something very special about Kerry and this is recognised in Ireland and internationally.

There is something so special about ‘Kerry’ that a huge legal dispute has been rumbling for the last few years between the food giants, Kerry Group and Ornua.

Kerry Group introduced their Kerrymaid butter product into the Spanish market a few years back and Ornua, the makers of Kerrygold have legally challenged their right to do so.

While this case is complex it looks like Kerry Group have won this battle (according to the European Court of Justice) as:

  • both have been selling in the EU already, for quite a while alongside each other (in Ireland and the UK) and
  • the word ‘Kerry’ is okay to use as it is an indication of geographical origin as long as this is true and honest

I read the legal jargon about the case and there are many subtleties to each of these points but this was the gist of it (please read the case in detail if this is an important issue for you).

Kerry!

In a way this opens up a huge can of worms for both of these brands as it implies that if you are in Kerry and you produce a product then you can use the word ‘Kerry’ as part of the name.

Kerry is obviously a fantastic brand right now with many positive attributes – there are no right or wrong answers here as the brand attributes are what each of us believes them to be.

When I think of Kerry I think of positive things such as nature, beauty, the coast, agriculture, hospitality, quality, sport, literature, music, business success, resilience but I also do think of negative things such as poor roads, too many American tourists, cute politicians and a few rough towns.

This is my version of  ‘Kerry’ but for others it will be quite different and we all carry things in our heads that make up what the brand is for us.

If Kerry suffered from a major incident such as a gigantic oil spill that contaminated the whole coastline then maybe the use of the name on products may not be as positive as it is today – while this is hard to imagine, having your brand attached to name that is largely out of your control could be risky.

Kerry – is it good for the butter?

While Kerrygold is a very successful brand, is it because it carries the name ‘Kerry’ or is it because it is a great product with great packaging and marketed really well? – I’m sure all of these elements contribute to the success.

Kerrygold and KerrymaidIn the case of the ‘butter wars’ I suspect that one part of the argument is about the ability to use the word ‘Kerry’ as it borrows all of the positive attributes of the place but for others who may not be as familiar with the place, a different argument could be that they are borrowing the positive attributes of the other product.

Would the Spanish know enough about the Kerry region to now the attributes of the location?

The Reverse Argument

In this particular case one could make a strong case against any company being able to use the name of a place in their brand and not actually producing it in that location – is this an even more serious issue for another day?

Place of Origin Branding

When we incorporate the name of a place in our brand or company name, we do automatically benefit from the positive attributes but, most importantly, if we are to use that place name, we also have a responsibility to uphold that name and not damage it in any way.

Did you hear the one about the Kerryman who thought he could sell his butter in Spain – he was right!  

If you need to chat about your brand, give us a call!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

United Airlines and the Costly Culture

April 16, 2017

United Airlines protests.

When you hear the company name “United Airlines” what comes to mind?

When you hear the company name “Volkswagen” what comes to mind?

In both cases, you probably think of the well publicised and very damaging situations that have occurred, which have caused untold damage to these monstrous brands.

At the time of writing United Airline shares had dropped significantly resulting in a market capitalisation collapse of $570 Million.

While United Airlines was a very specific incident and Volkswagen was a very deliberate campaign of deception what they both have in common is that what occurred was not something that you could blame on “a” culprit in each company.

With United Airlines could you point the finger at the security guards who removed the passenger?

With Volkswagen could you point the finger at the engineers who were able to rig the emissions performance?

In each case, the individuals involved knew that what they did was okay with their bosses – why would they do such a thing otherwise?

In each case, their bosses knew that this was what they were expected to instruct their subordinates to do – why else would they give guidance like this?

In each case, their bosses, bosses had jobs to do and targets to meet and the expectation was that these must be achieved as a priority beyond all other objectives.

And so on up the chain of command.

The huge problem in large organisations is that very often something rotten is allowed to creep into the culture resulting in management and employees behaving really badly and eventually it just bursts through and shows its ugly face in a way that is quite extraordinarily shocking to everyone.

Oscar Munoz - United Airlines

For example with United Airlines the initial reaction of Chairman Oscar Munoz was to apologise to other passengers for the “upsetting event” but went on to push the blame onto the 69-year-old victim Dr.Dao for being “disruptive and belligerent“!

If you ever wanted someone to confirm the rotten culture at the airline, Mr.Munoz did it in his next communication to his staff where he praised them and stood behind them:

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right

In a strange way, he was 100% correct – they did what was expected of them in these situations and as a result, he applauded them!!

At this point in time, the airline’s reputation was in tatters and Oscar and his team started to frantically backpaddle and within three days their tone had changed and fresh press statements included grovelling apologies to Dr.Dao for the appalling treatment and a full refund to all passengers on the flight (what difference was this ridiculous gesture going to do for anyone?).

The best PR advice when something like this occurs is to come clean and apologise immediately with complete sincerity. The word “Sorry” if people genuinely believe those that are delivering the apology can go a long way to reducing the damage caused.

However, just like in the United Airlines scenario a genuine “sorry” was not possible because the culture was too rotten to even contemplate doing such a thing – the expression ‘not being able to see the wood from the trees‘ comes to mind here.

Your reputation ultimately comes from what you do and how you behave and while good PR professionals can help to lessen the damage from a bad situation, it cannot change the culture, which can often be the reason why these things ended up happening in the first place.

Could your culture end up costing you?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Crisis PR consultancy from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland