Archive for December, 2009

Toyota’s Reputation- The Golden Ages of the Past and the Uncertainty of the Future

December 31st, 2009

All companies have changed since their inception. Whether they succeed, and take off into a grand flurry of activity, revolutionizing their markets, or whether they fail miserably and face utter decimation at the hands of the masses, companies have, and always will, continue to change in not only the style and amount of products produced, but also the way these products are received by the consumers who would purchase them. One company that has done some changing recently, changing that isn’t great at all to the majority of its loyal consumers, is Toyota. Their latest vehicles have come under fire for their alleged endangerment of its passengers. Indeed, Toyota’s future is shaky and on unstable ground thanks to their vehicles being linked to a number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. But Toyota’s reputation has not always been so badly received.

At one time, Toyota was a marvelously received company. Though it hasn’t always been in direct competition with US car dealerships, such as General Motors, Chrysler and Ford Motors, over the past generation or so, it has become quite the nemesis to the faithful American brands. Its lineup of fuel efficient, reliable cars put the gas guzzling SUVs of American companies to shame. This time is where Toyota began to build a reputation for quality, durability, and reliability that would go practically unmatched by American auto companies for over 30 years. But now Toyota has come under fire for not assuredly keeping this record. Both to the consumers, and even to themselves as a company- last spring was the first time since its inception in the 1950s that Toyota closed a money losing fiscal year. But of course, these financial problems are far overshadowed by the safety of the consumers who still enjoy Toyota products.

The original safety issues brought forward to Toyota were about the largest recall ever made by the company; consisting of over 4 million vehicles, that have a defect in which floor mats jam the gas pedal open, and cause “unintended acceleration” for the vehicle. This problem has seen its stir of media attention, being blamed for at least 5 tragic fatalities, and over a dozen more accidents and injuries. These issues have caused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall over 100,000 vehicles of model years ranging from 2000-03. It’s perhaps because of this that Toyota’s sales are also decreasing- now reaching critical levels, as they are down over 23% through the past 11 months of 2009.

With all the tumult in Toyota’s reputation, it’s no surprise that more than just consumers are put off when dealing with the company. The head of a Washington DC Crisis Firm, Eric Dezenhall, says that Toyota’s reputation may not be repaired soon at all- “There is something cosmic that happens when a company hits the top. That’s when the Visigoths show up at the gate with slingshots and torches,” Dezenhall says. Perhaps the cosmic fate of Toyota’s reputation is to be burned completely away, with another company such as Volkswagen soon to take its place in consumer’s hearts as one of the best, safest brands of cars. Others, too, believe that Toyota’s amazing stability and success throughout the years will make it harder for the company to come to grips with its current status in consumers’ eyes.

Jeffrey Liker, famed University of Michigan professor who authored the best selling “The Toyota Way” takes a different stance, however. He believes the company has not yet seen any consumer dissension, and will continue to be well received for its past successes. He points out that though the recalls may be perceived as odd, on a personal level, few have experienced bad problems with the company, and so Toyota’s reputation will not be in dire straits for long.

Toyota, like so many other companies has worked long and hard for its reputation both in its mother nation of Japan and in America. But only time can tell if the reputation they have built up as a reliable and affordable company will allow them to stand strong and revive past the recalls and other problems, or if it will not be enough, and this blemish on their otherwise perfect record will stay with the company forever.

Will Transparency Be Enough To Repair The Reputation Of Dubai?

December 19th, 2009

Trust is a hard thing to gain back after it is lost. And no group of people know this as well as officials from Dubai, which is most recently known worldwide. Not for its splendid islands and entrancing culture, but for the debt that has been circling the emirate for too long now.

The first hint that this debt would start becoming worse before it became better are what has reduced the current reputation of the emirate to abysmal levels. These hints were in the form of a financial shock wave that rippled throughout the world in late November, when Dubai’s debt crisis reached such lows that Dubai World was forced to seek a debt stand still for itself. Fear that soon this would turn into a default on the $80 billion loans it has yet to pay back became apparent world wide, through not only people, but through the financial markets. Global stocks took a battering, and the confidence that the world as a whole had in Dubai’s ability to pay back the loan were further rattled on Monday when the state owned Dubai World asked for another hand out of $10 billion from its neighbor, Abu Dhabi. This latest loan would bring the borrowed amount up to $25 billion from Abu Dhabi alone. With so much turmoil surrounding Dubai’s financial status, it is become evident that even continuing with plans laid out by Aidan Burkitt of the accountancy firm Deloitte, Dubai would still have a long hard road to walk towards rebuilding their reputation.

Nonetheless, it is a road that the emirate has begun to tirelessly walk, even as they are weighed upon by the debt they have incurred. Two of Dubai’s senior figures, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, an uncle of Dubai’s ruler who most prominently serves as chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee, and Mohammed al-Shaibani, the chief executive of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, began to tour the UK and the US after the government of Dubai revealed its plans for handling its recent debt crisis that has shaken the world market to the core. The tours are meant to be a demonstration of the new policy of complete transparency as far as running the finances of the state go.

Normal people may not be aware of how incredible it is for these two leaders to go on a road show, but those familiar with Dubai’s government were all too aware of how grave the situation must be, especially through the eyes of the leaders, to make them tour the world. But will the meetings with political, economic, and financial leaders really help Dubai repair their reputation?

So much has happened to hurt the Dubai state, even before their latest mishap with money management. Their rapid economic growth from some time ago, spurred by debt on the heels of a property bubble, has yet to be washed away from the minds of international citizens. Indeed, their slow response to and release of this latest news have only gained the nation more disapproval. Not to mention the news was released directly before a 4-day religious holiday in the state.

Will Dubai’s government official tour really help reestablish their reputation? So far it seems to have been accosting them more harm from most. But if anything can salvage Dubai and its now dismal political and economic status, it’s a little more transparency. And their new plan is to utilize this as effectively as possible. Dubai plans to repair their reputation by becoming a more transparent nation in the way they handle both their responses to crises and repayment of debt to other nations. Nonetheless, Dubai still has a long way to go before they are truly granted the trust that they are working towards achieving.

The next stops for Sheikh Ahmed and Mohammed al-Shaibani are New York and Washington with plans to meet with more leaders there. Only time will tell if these meetings will benefit the nation or not.

Controversy Knocks on Tiger Woods’ Door

December 8th, 2009

Controversy is not a rare adjunct of anyone’s life, but controversy is even more expected when it comes to dealing with celebrities. Such is the case with the latest scandal of the year, the incident involving Tiger Woods crashing his car into a neighborhood fire hydrant. Any online news media site will no doubt have dozens of stories posted by the time you read this, and you will also probably see tabloids and paper based chronicles covering the Tiger Woods debacle for the holiday months. Indeed, the initial reporting of this just being a car crash which Woods was lucky to have survived have now been spun into several other almost amusing stories by online news media and the tabloids.

The effect that Tiger Woods’ driving mishap is obvious on these sites. So many times new sites get only a portion or a delayed recounting of the “real” story, and yet online news media is quick to spin what they receive into near libelous statements for the sake of generating controversy and interest within their own web properties. Tiger Woods’ story is only the latest of these types of sensationalized rumors started from a fairly straight forward incident.

Saturday Night Live Video

As for the effect its had on Woods himself, and his public relations staff, you can see for yourself how the many spins on the crash have been received and imagine how they must feel. One story suspects Woods’ wife of attempting to kill him in an interesting re imagining of the car crash where, instead of Woods’ wife using a golf club to break the windshield and free her husband, she attempted to break him with the club and led to the crash! Sadly, this far fetched retelling was not one of the more extravagant ones.

Statements released from Woods’ public relations staff came far too late to do anything to reduce the scandal and intrigue. Most agree that Tiger Woods’ statement came a little late- at over a day after the event took place. From the beginning fans and speculators were going off of statements released from the media and police, which is part of the reason the scandal became such a sensationalized event on a national scale. However, it was not the only part of the reason.

The reason that matters like this can get massively out of control in today’s age owes no small favor to the internet. Thanks to the marvelous world of online connectivity, entire countries can keep up with each other, so keeping things private after the 911 call itself was made was understandably difficult for Woods and his public relations staff. What’s worse for Woods and his staff is that they didn’t invest in a very capable online media monitoring software, or perhaps they didn’t use it to the fullest effect.

Tiger Woods’ public relations managerial staff would almost certainly have handled things better with Reputationobserver’s monitoring of the online world. While it would be foolhardy to expect to avoid all controversy, the scandal as it is (and will probably remain as such for a prolonged period of time) could have most definitely been avoided with adequate monitoring and statements being released to online media juggernauts; social networking sites such as the mighty MySpace and/or Facebook and regular online search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

A better monitoring with Reputationobserver is what all public relations staff need, but in this case, it’s almost lead to the ruination of an entire career. Stopping rampart rumors may be more difficult now than it was before the internet came into play, but with Reputatoinobserver’s intelligent online media monitoring software, the situations we see should be far less controversial and far more under control than this example where Tiger Woods’ staff dropped the ball. Let’s just hope others learn from the mistake of not taking enough action fast enough.

Physician Reputation Management

December 4th, 2009

At times, although a physician has taken an oath to do no harm and may do everything within his/her power to uphold that oath and make decisions that are in the patient’s best interest, a patient or the family of a patient may become displeased with their doctor’s decisions. Regardless of the reasons for the patient’s and/or family’s unhappiness or even malice toward the doctor, this discontentment (or even sometimes anger) is highly likely to be expressed through word of mouth or ratings and reviews on doctor review websites and discussion forums. Unfortunately, negative sentiments rarely go unexpressed, though positive thoughts and feelings often never see the light of day. Try as we might, it is nearly impossible to please everyone all the time while continuing to maintain a high standard of ethics, and the disgruntled tend to be much more vocal about their experiences than those who get what they want or expect.
Negative reviews and or ratings for physicians result in loss of patients, of respect among colleagues and other business and personal relationships, and possibly of business prospects, not to mention damage to personal sense of worth. When this negative publicity is online via a forum or doctor review website it can be difficult- if not impossible- to remove, and doctors may be helpless to do anything at all about it unless they enlist the help of someone with the proper specialized skills. This, in addition to the widespread use of online information by patients when making decisions or looking for personal word-of-mouth referrals to find the right doctor, means that with just a few unkind words from a disgruntled patient, a doctor’s reputation- not to mention the years spent in school, internships, and residencies gaining and developing their education credentials and skill set- can be set at naught.
The best solution to this for most physicians will be to hire the Reputationobserver  physician reputation management service. Reputationobserver can offer the necessary combination of marketing and public relations experts, together with those specialized in online promotion and search engine optimization needed to minimize negative publicity online, while generating and promoting new and existing positive reviews and ratings. This is necessary so that when a patient is using a search engine to research, the most positive feedback will be on the first page of search results, which is statistically where the vast majority of searchers will get most if not all of their information.
The process by which a doctor can improve their online reputation through one of these firms generally begins with a consultation- information is collected from both the doctor and research to identify the nature and source of the negative online publicity and the specific information behind it. Next, a plan is devised as to the best way to handle each individual issue, generally involving getting the negative search results moved down on the list so that they do not appear among the first results that come up on Google or other major search engines, and then promoting existing positive results as well as possibly generating more positive results to replace the negative. Finally the firm may also offer services to monitor the success of the process on a continual basis by tracking search engine rankings of any information, as well as physician rankings and reviews online, and adjusting results when the need arises.
Although even that Reputationobserver may not always be able to completely remove existing negative online publicity in some cases, steps can be taken to move them to a less accessible ranking within major search engines, thereby minimizing their impact. This, plus effectively advancing any and all positive publicity to the top of the list, can go a long way toward repairing the reputation, and therefore the business, esteem, and professional standing of physicians who move forward to actively repair and protect their good names.