Archive for August, 2010

Top Five Mistakes Companies Make with Reputation & Risk Management

Friday, August 20th, 2010

I interviewed Dr. David Geddes, who is Vice President of Research and Development for Evolve24 (, a business analytics and research firm specializing in the measurement of corporate reputation and risk.  David is also a member of the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission (, a thought leadership group.

Because Dr. Geddes has a strong background in both Market Research and Public Relations, I felt he would be the perfect person to describe the biggest mistakes he believes companies are making when it comes to managing risk.  Here is a summary of our discussion today:

  1. Organizational silos. Actions from all functional units – from marketing to customer service, operations, and human resources – have the power to enhance or detract from a company’s reputation. However, companies often focus on reputation during a crisis, and relegate reputation management to the PR department. Reputation and risk should be built in to a company’s shared DNA, not grafted on.
  2. Everybody “owns” reputation risk management.  Companies need to take a corporate-wide view of what their reputational strengths and weaknesses are and be prepared to act accordingly from within those areas, and not assume PR will handle it.  There needs to be a cohesive strategy, and risk management needs to be everyone’s responsibility.
  3. If you think the information doesn’t exist, you’re not looking hard enough.   Many companies today fail to understand disaggregated information, scattered across organizational silos.  There’s not a single source of data to tell you how you’re doing today, what may be looming on the horizon, or how well you performed last quarter.  News and Social Media have real-time impact on a company’s reputation, and that impact can snowball, especially if the news is bad.
  4. Companies often manage reputations looking back rather than by listening and anticipating.  Retrospective analyses and reports are fine, but you cannot manage in a Web 3.0 world by looking at the rearview mirror. Tools exist to show which way the proverbial winds are blowing, and this is especially true with product trends, issues, and risks.  By adopting an active listening program, companies can usually anticipate issues and trends that they can leverage to build reputation, or to identify trends which they should have seen coming.
  5. Reputation is not “one size fits all.” Corporate reputation encapsulates expectations by stakeholders about future behaviors of the corporation, and thus determines the relationships between the organization and its stakeholders. A company has as many reputations as it has stakeholder audiences. Sophisticated corporations routinely monitor, measure, and evaluate their reputation, risk, and the drivers of reputation and risk among all stakeholder audiences. How? They use smart listening tools built upon content analytics to target audience segments, identify opportunities and threats, develop action plans, and support the achievement of desired business outcomes.

For more of the whys and hows of corporation reputation and risk management, and the impact of Web 3.0 technologies on content analytics, come see David’s presentation at the Smart Content Conference Tuesday, October 19th.

Laurel Earhart

for Smart Content Conference

Are you a Vendor or a Solution Provider?

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

When I was at AOL, my sales mentor, Charlie Warner critiqued my sales presentation. He complimented me on my professionalism.  He said I used precise, technical terms and could perfectly articulate my company’s value proposition and how we stood against our competitors.

Then he got in my face and said words to me that have forever shaped my career:

“Your clients won’t know what the hell you’re talking about”.

Are we doing such a great job of explaining how the technology works that we forget how to find out if a client even cares?

What if a client doesn’t care about how the technology works at all?  What will that do to your presentation? In non-technical terms, can we explain how we will provide a solution to their problem? 

I once intervened when a member of my team corrected a client’s vocabulary as he described an in-house problem our technology could solve.  My teammate proceeded to explain what this problem was called and the name of the technical solution, and proceeded with her pitch.  I stopped the pitch.  “Tell us more,” I said, “about what’s not working.”  

If a client is opening up to you about a problem, take copious notes.  Learn their language instead of teaching them yours.

Charlie said “If you use terms your client doesn’t understand, it makes them feel stupid.  Do you really think they’ll open up to you and share their pain?  Using jargon is what gangs do, to separate themselves like an exclusive club.  Don’t do it.”

Lesson learned:  If you are selling your technology, you are a vendor. 

If you are learning, all over again, what problems a customer experiences and together you craft a solution that happens to use your technology, then you are a solution provider.

Laurel Earhart for Smart Content Conference


Monday, August 2nd, 2010

What is the ‘matchmaking’ component of the conference?

One of the core objectives a conference attendee has, beyond obtaining knowledge, is to receive a return on his or her investment.  As our conference is positioned to bring together vendors, customers, press, and investors, we recognize that each attendee will have different definitions of what will be the most valuable outcome.

Toward that end, we are creating a pre- and post- conference matchmaking component.  Essentially, through a ‘triage’ questionnaire, I’ll work with you to identify your needs and help you articulate them to those who can meet them.  My colleague, Seth Grimes, has a unique view of the chessboard to know which providers can meet those needs.

As content analytics technology is evolving so rapidly, there are going to be a number of solutions presented which solve a problem you may not even be aware that you’re having.  Your company may have a business process in place and have dealt with it for so long it has become routine.   

Likewise, for content analytics companies, you may have been pitching “Solution A” when in fact you really needed to get your prospect decisionmakers on the same page for diagnosis.  In other words, prospects need to dial it back a bit, bring BOTH their biz dev and technology groups to the table for collaborative ownership.

What can matchmaking do for you?

– It can help you find your next career.

– It can enable strategic alliances with other vendor solutions

– It can help diagnose problems with business processes

 – It can illuminate new revenue opportunities

Our first series of triage questionnaires will go out just after Labor Day.  In the meantime, we’ll be doing some informal questioning of processes to help determine the best way we can help.

I’d love to hear your ideas.

Laurel Earhart, for the Smart Content Conference.