The Reputation Doctor’s Top 10 List of Reputations in Crisis for 2010
It’s back! Each year, I put together my list of the top 10 reputations in crisis for the year and the following is the official Reputation Doctor’s Annual Top 10 List of Reputations in Crisis for 2010. This list is compiled by and solely the opinion of top crisis public relations and reputation management expert, Mike Paul, known globally as The Reputation Doctor.
I believe Haiti has the biggest reputation in crisis this for many reasons. To be blunt, it killed more human beings than the BP crisis and will have more lasting impact on people in general. Haiti got hit with a double whammy: the earthquake which killed over 100,000 people early in the year and then the hurricane which brought cholera and more deaths to the island in crisis killing more than 3,000 to date. Over $1.5 billion was raised and/or promised to the island, but less than 200 new homes have been built since the earthquake and many people are still living in the streets or in plastic tents for shelter! This is a disgrace! Like the entire continent of Africa, Haiti has become the latest country to be forgotten by us all when in crisis leaves the media’s attention. The media has moved on and our hearts have also moved on. People continue to die of disease in Haiti every day. Please, let’s not forget Haiti was the greatest tragedy of 2010 and, sadly, it may also make the list again in 2011. REPUTATION LESSON: Corruption is still a major problem with aid and money in politics in Haiti. The silence is also a cry for democracy and a just government to truly help Haiti’s people. When a just government is in place, the leadership will cry out more frequently for its people.
2. BP (BRITISH PETROLEUM)
Notice I spelled out the full name of this global company as British Petroleum. The longer version of the name reminds the world the company responsible for one of the greatest oil catastrophes of all time is also a British company. The saddest part of the crisis is the damage done to the American gulf region in the south and its impact on marine life, tourism and people with a hurting economy and livelihoods changed forever, especially in the fishing industry. And of course, how could we forget the antics of the now infamous former CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, who shocked the world with his classic, insensitive comment, “I want my life back!” BP eventually agreed and removed him as CEO and shipped his responsibilities to Siberia in Russia. Some believe it is a much more suitable place for his lack of communication acumen and far enough away to protect the company from future reputation crises from his now frozen lips. REPUTATION LESSON: When you spill oil and ruin a country’s coastline for generations, it requires the same humility, transparency and accountability, as if the Queen herself was the victim of the oil spill on the Royal grounds! Look for BP to continue to be in crisis in 2011, as the cameras follow the disaster on the ocean floor as the weather warms up this spring. BP tried to keep the cameras away, but we will see and learn more about the generational damage to the Gulf coast by BP in the coming months.
The perception among many is that Toyota dragged its feet over the last two years when it came to addressing safety complaints. Not only is Toyota being forced to spend billions repairing the gas pedals on millions of cars, that recall, and others, has given Toyota its own “perception gap” with American car buyers. The truth is, there are millions of Toyota models out on the road and in showrooms that are safe and well made. But, after months of stories about faulty pedals, unintended acceleration and other defects that have caused Toyota to suspend the sale of some new models, many buyers have written off even looking at Toyota. At best, Toyota has a mixed reputation right now, and safety is certainly not at the top of the list. However, the brand seems to be holding up to other car companies. Maybe because of discounted pricing and other deals Toyota has developed to stay competitive. Others say the brand equity of being positioning as the # 1 car was a safety net during the crisis. REPUTATION LESSON: No company gains a reputation over night of being one of the safest cars on the road after so many recalls. Not even if the company is spending millions more on safety like Toyota. However, if Toyota keeps its eye on safety as well as innovation, it may soon trump Volvo to own the safety mantle too.
4. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
President Barack Obama risks becoming a first in more than one way: the first Black President of the U.S. and he could also become the first Black, one-term President because of poor choices. Many believe President Obama should have kept his eye on the economy as he tackled healthcare reform and other issues first. The President says he made a mistake in not connecting with the people the past 2 years the way he did during his campaign. I disagree. He has always connected with the general public, when he speaks to us about issues we put first. We don’t want to hear more about issues that don’t affect our pocketbook. We also don’t want to hear a President who some have labeled a socialist speak like a socialist. We need a President who understands the economic crisis our country has been in for several years now. We don’t want a President who blames the past administration for our problems. He want a true leader who takes full responsibility for where his country is today and has a plan to fix it. We need job creation!! We need to see President Obama stand before a new business or revitalized corporation which are hiring hundreds and/or thousands of new people. And we need to see it soon or he will not be President for another term. REPUTATION LESSON: Don’t tell us you are different and give us the same razzle dazzle! Show us change by being that change in leadership, transparency and accountability with consistency and truth.
5. CHARLIE SHEEN
He’s one of TV’s highest-paid actors, starring in the highest-rated sitcom in America. He’s also the poster boy for celebrity preferential treatment. It was a big year for Charlie Sheen, arrested Christmas Day 2009 for allegedly threatening wife Brooke Mueller with a knife. In January, he lost his Hanes underwear endorsement deal. In February, his car was stolen and ended up going over a cliff (the same thing happened to him a few months later). The same month he and Mueller went to rehab. In April, he allegedly was seen in the company of a prostitute which, for Sheen, is sort of like seeing Britney Spears carrying around a Starbucks cup. In June, he pleaded guilty on misdemeanor assault charges and got 17 days in jail. We’re barely halfway through the year, folks. He came back big in October, trashing a New York hotel room before police found him intoxicated and naked, allegedly in the company of an “escort,” whom he allegedly locked in the bathroom. In November he filed for divorce from Mueller, which makes sense. With all those prostitutes hanging around, the pair barely had any time to themselves. Finally, in December, prosecutors decided not to file charges in connection with the October event. To which Sheen actually said, “If a guy has a bad night, everyone goes insane and panics.
REPUTATION LESSON: Enabling someone you love only gets them in more trouble. Are you listening Martin Sheen? Yes, daddy is the real reason Charlie Sheen has gotten away with all of his antics and bad behavior over the years. If you really love him, you will insist he goes to rehab for a full year in the best facility in the world with the full support of family and friends and stops acting during that time to get clean.
6. U.S. CONGRESSMAN CHARLES RANGEL
It took House investigators 2 1/2 years and a jury of congressional peers two days to conclude Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) violated House rules. Rangel’s downfall, in part, came in the way he solicited money for a New York college center designed as a monument to him, including using official Congressional stationary for his personal letters to potential donors. There also was his decade of misleading annual disclosures of his income and assets (he didn’t pay his own taxes) and his use of a subsidized New York apartment — designated for residential use — as a campaign office (oooops)! The conduct often cited by critics was his failure to report income to the IRS from a condo he owned in a Dominican Republic resort — showing the chairman in charge of tax legislation had shortchanged the IRS. Congressman Charlie Rangel, the dean of the New York congressional delegation, managed to get re-elected despite his own share of scandal, but in the end faced censure by his colleagues on the House floor. He cried like a baby and thought all was unfair to him. REPUTATION LESSON: When your hubris is so out of control you forget to take full accountability for your own fraudulent actions, you are no longer fit to govern the people.
7. MEL GIBSON
Mel Gibson already went from beloved actor to almost outcast in Hollywood in 2006 with his anti-Semitic, homophobic and sexist remarks during a drunken-driving arrest in Malibu. Just when he seemed poised for a comeback, along came accusations from Oksana Grigorieva, with whom Gibson had a child last year, then split with earlier this year. During their bitter custody battle, Grigorieva accused Gibson of striking her, threatening her, endangering their baby and deriding her with racist, abusive comments. Much of the verbal abuse was captured on tape, and it’s not pretty. Among other things, the tapes portray Gibson saying he hopes she gets raped and she deserves to be beaten. Gibson was lined up for a cameo role in the sequel to “The Hangover” until protests from cast members scuttled the idea. The same actors had no problem working with convicted rapist Mike Tyson in the first film. Ouch! To his credit, when Gibson crashed his Maserati in August in Malibu Canyon, he managed not to get a DUI or insult any cops. He’ll have at least one more shot in Hollywood, as his film “The Beaver” — in which he plays a troubled man who communicates through a hand puppet — is scheduled for release in April 2011. Director Jodie Foster and Whoopi Goldberg have been two of his few defenders, perhaps because they are the last people in Hollywood with a stake in Gibson’s behavior. REPUTATION LESSON: Men of true faith learn to reduce anger, forgive early and humbly and put women and children first. Time for Mel to re-read the Bible in this area.
8. NBC’s JAY LENO AND CONAN O’BRIEN MESS
Fans may have been pissed off that Jay Leno pushed Conan O’Brien out of a job he originally agreed to leave. But Leno was scoring top ratings, allowing him to nab a new contract guaranteeing more financial pain for NBC if they fired him than O’Brien. In the process, O’Brien’s career was hobbled and NBC removed any remaining prestige left for The Tonight Show brand. In the end, O’Brien left with an enormous settlement, rediscovered himself in a cross-country concert-hall road trip, and finally ended up with a new show at TBS. Many people believe NBC made a huge mistake with backing Jay Leno for “short-term” ratings on The Tonight Show as Conan is the future of late-night TV and is currently sucking away the younger and very important 18 through 34 year-old demographic on his new show on TBS. REPUTATION LESSON: You can back a short-term winner or make a long-term investment in what appears to be the sure thing for the future. Either way both will win, but for how long? In either situation, treating both parties more fairly would have made more sense, instead of smiling in the face of one and stabbing him in the back!
9. LINDSAY LOHAN
Lindsay continued to be a tragic story in the news with alleged drug use, drinking and the loss of movie deals, the focus moved from a troubled career to great concern for her life in general. Her many times in court and even more returns to rehab made us all pray for her well-being. This was all mixed with a Mom who seems to be more girlfriend than mother and a father who can’t find a camera he doesn’t like in his face mixed with his hired attorney who is more PR nightmare than legal adviser. Sorry Lisa, that will always be a pet peeve in my world! We all pray that Lohan’s current rehab is for real this time and she understands getting clean is the most important thing right now, before any movie deal or nightclub appearance. REPUTATION LESSON: The cameras today will see your every move, especially when you sneak alcohol and continue abusing prescription medication. Call it accountability by camera. Get the help you need now before it is too late.
10. LEBRON JAMES
Lebron James became the anti-hero of the year after making a few, major, critical mistakes with his reputation. First, he left Cleveland the town that loved him and they began burning his jersey in public. Second, he held a press announcement filed with hubris by selling his own air-time for ads and buying time on ESPN for the announcement and said the money made would go to charity, but instead the whole idea came off as too heady and too narcissistic. And third and most troubling to most, especially fans in NYC, Lebron chose to play for the Miami Heat, instead of the NY Knicks. Many still think that was the biggest mistake because NYC is basketball mecca, the largest media market and the headquarters for many global corporations, which could have become Lebron sponsors. REPUTATION LESSON: Don’t underestimate the power of NYC and keep your ego in check when you open your mouth! We can build you up and tear you down.
REPS IN CRISIS HONORABLE MENTION LIST:
* EU Financial Crisis (Continued Fallout)
* Mark Hurd (HP Scandal – Adultery or Inside Trading?)
* Tiger Woods (No Wins, Less Sponsors)
* NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Snow Removal Scandal)
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!™