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Reputation and Brand Management

Situation

Faced with fierce competition from traditional rivals, as well as discount brokerage firms like Charles Schwab & Co., Paine Webber Group Inc. sought to reinforce the vital role of sound investment advice for wealthy individuals — the cornerstone of its business strategy and operating model.

Strategy

  • Articulate the value of working with financial professionals and employing a consultative investing process to achieve financial goals.
  • Promote the concept of “personal CFOs” to demonstrate how PaineWebber advisors work with clients to develop customized solutions based on their individual needs and goals, rather than specializing in sales of specific products and services.
  • Conduct ongoing opportunistic media relations to reinforce the advantages of PaineWebber’s strategic focus on delivering financial advice and related services to high net worth and affluent individuals through highly trained investment professionals.

Results

PaineWebber’s “personal CFO” approach was featured widely in The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones News Service and other national, regional and trade media publications.

Targeted media coverage in the Houston Business Journal and other regional publications supported market-specific recruiting efforts to hire non-traditional candidates, such as attorneys, accountants, teachers and other professionals who cultivate deep trust-based relationships, and train them as financial advisors.

This reputation and brand management public relations program also generated prominent coverage of Paine Webber Group Inc. and its various businesses in national, regional and financial industry media, including Fortune magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Bond Buyer, Wall Street & Technology (web archive and PDF) and other national publications.

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Reputation: The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something; A widespread belief that someone or something has a particular habit or characteristic.

trust

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‘Risk’ your way to your ambitions

If you want to be a CEO or lead a communications, marketing or branding function in a big company, get comfortable with managing risk – even if nothing obvious about your job involves “formal” risk management beyond reputation risk.

Everyone who works in a business or professional setting is a risk manager since the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing fallout. That task can longer be delegated to financial managers, actuaries and other specialists.

This is particularly true for corporate communications and public relations professionals, who in today’s lean, flat firms are often the only mid- to senior-level people with horizontal views of their firm’s businesses, operations, IT and other functions – and how those groups work together to serve customers and generate profits.

Controlling risk may be out of our hands, but recognizing potential gaps and escalating concerns to the decision-makers who can effect necessary change distinguish leaders of companies and businesses from leaders of communications functions.

In this environment, ambitious corporate communications and public relations professionals must embrace risk as entrepreneurs and other business leaders do if their goal is to truly lead companies, influence boards and executives, and build businesses.

According to Reduce Risk By Seeming Risky by Dileep Rao, “Risk is a four letter word.” Though he explores the subject from the perspective of entrepreneurs, Rao’s article on Forbes.com is relevant to anyone who doesn’t “have the resources in time or capacity or money” to diversify – or delegate – financial and operational risk as banks, insurers, investors and executives can.

That sure sounds like my professional experience, as well as those of my fellow corporate communications and PR colleagues.

What do you think?

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Booty from l’affaire Lefevre a ‘Liar’s Jackpot’

In today’s edition, The New York Times weighed in on l’affaire John Lefevre, taking a significant swat at the self-proclaimed fly on the walls of Wall Street’s most admired or reviled elevators. As reported here in All that Twitters is not Goldman, Lefevre was outed earlier this week as the author of Twitter’s GS Elevator Gossip, @GSElevator, which chronicles “things heard in Goldman Sachs elevators.”

GS Elevator Gossip Profile (GSElevator) on TwitterDeclaring Mr. Lefevre’s lucrative six-figure book contract a “Liar’s Jackpot,” The Grey Lady’s Editorial Board likened the booty from Mr. Lefevre’s fictitious tweets “about the tasteless, boorish, smug and reliably funny things he overhears from rich bankers” to The Wolf of Wall Street, which it described as the “most debauched – and highest grossing – movie of Martin Scorsese’s career.”

Sparing no question of approval, the Board concluded: “Who needs truth when there’s a cultural moment to cash in on?”

Since Tuesday, media coverage of Mr. Lefevre and @GSElevator helped attract 9,000 new Twitter followers. Otherwise it remains to be seen how this new twist affects him, Simon & Schuster and other interested parties.

But there is no doubt that there are lessons to be learned for communications professionals who counsel clients, companies and individual executives on how to build and protect their reputations.

Interestingly, Mr. Lefevre’s book, titled Straight to Hell: True and Glorious Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion Dollar Deals will be labeled nonfiction, The Times reports.

What do you think?

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“The ideal leader was the one who was trying to make himself dispensable.”

— John Cleese, Harvard Business Review, March 2014