Top 10 List of Reputations in Crisis for 2007
NEW YORK – The following is Mike “The Reputation Doctor” Paul’s Annual Top 10 List of Reputations in Crisis for 2007. This list is compiled by and solely the opinion of global reputation management expert Mike Paul. You’ve seen him weekly as a guest TV news commentator analyzing top individual and organizational reputations in crisis.
1. Michael Vick – his fall from grace was one of the top stories of the year due to his conviction for his involvement with dogfighting, including the hanging, drowning and electrocuting of pit bulls. This crisis not only affects Vick’s own reputation, but the reputation of his NFL team, the entire NFL itself, his former sponsors, his family and some even say the Black community. This story and crisis still has legs because Vick must also deal with state charges in Virginia similar to the federal charges which now have him in prison for almost 2 years.
2. Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis – the world’s leading banks, as well as top financial firms and mortgage companies duped home buyers who could not really afford a home into buying one. However, home buyers had a responsibility to understand exactly what they were signing, especially a mortgage with payments which can go up over time based on rising interest rates. Bottom line: because of this mortgage debacle, millions of former home owners are in default of their mortgage loans and the global economy is in crisis. All of the banks, financial firms and mortgage companied involved have reputation in crisis. The Bush administration has offered a band-aid to stop some of the bleeding, but the impact on the national and global economy continues. At least one lesson was learned: don’t buy a variable rate mortgage!
3. George Bush – he is sadly considered the most hated man in the world by many, especially those living abroad. His low approval rating in the U.S. is only in the 30s. Two major factors continue to hurt his reputation: his poor leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan with many soldiers still fighting a war many think we can’t win, as many question why we are there in the first place and his reputation for not being the smartest man in the room at any time. Look for Bush’s legacy to be referred to as one of the weakest for a U.S. President in several decades.
4. Toxic Toys Made in China – tens of millions of toxic toys have been recalled containing lead paint, cadmium, arsenic and other harmful chemicals harmful to children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a level of 40 ppm of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children’s products. Some of the toxic toys imported from China by U.S. toy companies had lead levels at high as 600 ppm. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible learning disabilities and behavioral problems and, at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death. The popular craft toys, known as Aqua Dots in North America and Bindeez in Australia, were pulled from store shelves earlier this year. At least nine children in the U.S. and three in Australia became sick after swallowing the beads. The toys are coated with a chemical, which when eaten, can metabolize into the so-called date-rape drug (gamma hydroxy butyrate) – which can cause breathing problems, loss of consciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death. China is the world’s top toy exporter selling 22 billion products overseas, which is 60% of the world’s total. Both the reputation of China as a nation and the various U.S. and international toy manufacturers all took a major hit to their reputations. The solution? Build safe toys and test them often! Consumers beware and please be more diligent while shopping for kids toys this holiday season and read the fine print.
5. Britney Spears – From her battles with K-Fed, to shaving her head bald to allegedly avoid drug testing, to her horrible comeback performance on the VMA Awards with a bloated body, to losing custody of her kids, Britney Spears had a tough, tough year in 2007 and a reputation in tatters even though her new album sales are excellent. Britney needs to clean up her personal life and get back in tip-top shape to best improve her reputation. She has learned the hard way that she is not above the law and she will be held accountable for her actions. We have also seen Britney is in need of true rehabilitation for deeper problems which lie below the surface of the recent destruction in her personal life.
6. Pet Food Contamination Crisis – The Food and Drug Administration reported that hundreds of dogs and cats died nationwide after eating contaminated pet food. The FDA also discovered that some of the recalled product was exported to over 29 countries, including the European Union. Various companies recalled many varieties of dog and cat food because tests showed high levels of aflatoxin, a natural occurring toxic chemical that comes from a fungus found on corn and other grains, which causes sever liver damage and melamine when combined with cyanuric, which forms crystals that cause severe kidney damage in both dogs and cats. These companies also had difficulty recalling these products as many of these stained brands still were available on store shelves for weeks afterward. Many of these pet food companies continue to have reputations in crisis as pet owners around the world are fearful to buy any pet food under the stained brand names. However, other brands not in the crisis have stepped up their branding campaigns to be identified as safer and scandal free. A smart move from a branding and reputation perspective!
7. Paris Hilton Goes to Jail – Paris originally failed a sobriety test after police saw her weaving down a street in her car on what she said was a late-night run to a hamburger stand. She plead no contest to reckless driving and was originally sentenced to 36 months’ probation, alcohol education and $1,500 in fines. In the months following, she was stopped twice by police who discovered her driving with a suspended license. The second police stop landed her in the courtroom again, where the judge sentenced her to 45-days in jail. However, after only serving 3 days, she was released to home confinement by Sheriff Lee Baca for an unspecified medical condition that he later said was psychological. The following day Judge Michael Sauer, who originally sentenced her, called her back into court, with the global media circus watching it all, and said he had not condoned her release. Paris eventually served only 23 days of a 45-day sentence for reasons including good behavior. Ironically, Paris’ notorious reputation was only in crisis momentarily, but upon her release from jail she is the same Paris we always knew. She also continues to believe she is above the law, which is very risky.
8. D.A. Mike Nifong Convicted and Disbarred – the famous D.A. from the Duke rape case fell hard from grace in 2007. Nifong was disbarred for his “selfish” rape prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players – a political motivated act, his judges said, that he inexplicably allowed to fester for months after it was clear the defendants were innocent. The committee said Nifong manipulated the investigation to boost his chances of winning his first election for Durham County district attorney. In doing so, he committed “a clear case of intentional prosecutorial misconduct” that involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation. Williamson specifically cited Nifong’s comments in the early days of the case, which included a confident proclamation at a candidate forum that he wouldn’t allow Durham to become known for “a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl.” He also called the lacrosse team “a bunch of hooligans” at one point. Nifong’s reputation is in severe crisis and will be in permanent disrepair in the legal community. His only saving grace may be to become a better citizen in his personal life. One route to redemption is for Nifong to write a book and tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about how he railroaded the innocent Duke lacrosse playing defendants in an attempt to get reelected. Nifong learned the hard way that the truth always bubbles to the top over time and it is best to own up to the truth early yourself before others force you to admit your own lies and deceit.
9. U.S. Senator Larry Craig – An undercover police officer who arrested Senator Craig at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport said the senator participated in various gay codes for wanting gay sex. Allegedly Senator Craig moved his foot next to the officer’s foot and tapped it in a way that indicated he wanted sex. He also alleged the senator sent a signal by swiping his hand under the divider between men’s room stalls. As a result, Senator Craig’s reputation has been in crisis ever since and what makes it worse is that the married, conservative, Republican senator continues to deny he is gay and has been staunchly against same-sex marriage and gay rights for many years. The story gets even better for many who believe Craig is a liar. In December of 2007, 8 men said they had either had sex with Senator Craig or were targets of his sexual advances during the Idaho senator’s political career. Senator Craig’s denial will continue to put his reputation in crisis. His only hope to begin the reputation rehab process is to admit the truth fully, transparently and with full accountability.
10. Howard K. Stern – many blame him for the death of both Anna Nicole Smith and her son, Daniel. As a result, Howard K. Stern’s reputation continues in crisis for much more than just being Anna Nicole’s attorney and manager before her death. Allegations referenced Stern not only assisted Anna Nicole and Daniel with the taking of various drugs, but also claim Stern ordered various drugs in his own name for Anna to take, which is obviously illegal. Some have now asked the State Bar of California to remove his legal license due to these activities. The usually media hungry Stern has gone into hiding recently for many months. He also seems to have temporarily stopped his greed in selling all things Anna as media transparency of all his actions now hold him much more accountable. Stern’s lies will continue to haunt him. Look for Howard K. Stern to show his head again in 2008.
Remember, do the right thing when your reputation is in crisis and seek the counsel of an experienced reputation management expert. It will be a major challenge, but ultimately the rewards of repairing your reputation will be great. Why? Because Your Reputation Is Everything!™