Archive for September, 2012

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was.”

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012


How much is your reputation worth to you, and how careful are you to protect it?

Everyone loves  just a little bit of gossip.  As it happens I am rubbish at being a purveyor of gossip, and I am always the last to hear anything that’s going on.  In an average day I probably spend less than 1% of my time on it.  But I think I am an atypical outlier here.  What would you say your average daily quotient is?  I know people who are up in the 50% plus sector.  That takes commitment.

Not many of us like being gossiped about of course.  Fortunately it is usually possible to stay blissfully unaware of it.  Except online.

Here your reputation is open to view.  And deliberate gossip about you is of course one problem, and this can be very upsetting.  Account hacking is another irritating issue.

For anyone who is worried about this there is a new way to insure that your reputation is protected online.

For just £3.99 a month you can insure your reputation here.

The company behind the scheme quotes startling figures for account hacking.  As ever with its enormous scale, Facebook leads at an average figure of 600,000 accounts hacked daily.  Twitter also receives a mention with 55,000 accounts hacked last May.

I enjoy my Twitter account (@sueu).  TV events are massively improved by seeing what the people I follow have to say about the entertainment on show.  Hearing what the Queen (not the real one) had to say about the Olympic opening ceremony on Twitter was superb entertainment.  However I notice that exactly half of all of the messages I get on Twitter are spam.  Tedious.  Bruce Daisley, if you’re reading this, I feel all our souls are diminished by messages that begin “Hello, somebody is posting really nasty things about you ….”.  Can you give me some advice on how to prevent it so that I don’t need to buy insurance?

Meanwhile Margaret Mitchell was writing, in the headline quotation, in days when your reputation was essential to social acceptability.   It is still however essential to business success, so you need to take some care to safeguard it.




As long as you’re being talked about you’re doing well.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012


At our conference this summer Dan Cobley, MD of Google said that products with one bad review online will sell more than products with no reviews at all.


This would seem to endorse the cliché that no publicity is bad publicity.  (I’m not sure that the royal family would agree with that this month, but then they probably don’t need the publicity).


It is certainly true that if you can build a relationship with your worst critics they can become your biggest fans.


As Don Peppers points out here, a single complainer now can have a disproportionate effect on your reputation.  Handled properly however, “as soon as the company does something to contradict that point of view–reaching out to handle the complaint proactively, for instance, or apologizing sincerely and trying to make things right–its action has the potential to completely reverse the customer’s mindset, violating the customer’s expectations once again, but this time in a positive manner. The more a business contradicts the customer’s own pessimistic expectations, the more noticeable and memorable its initiative will be”.


If someone bothers to complain about you, at least they are not indifferent.


I was asked the other day whether I thought you could build a career from getting yourself known rather than focussing on the work.  Of course I replied that it’s the work that you should get known for.  I was reminded of one very successful person I worked for once (who has gone on to be the global CMO of a world class organisation), let’s call him Fred, and let’s say he started his career at agency ABC.  Fred had apparently done the rounds at his first Media Week and Campaign awards season saying to anyone who looked influential “Have you heard about that new chap Fred at ABC ?  He’s taking the industry by storm”.


It didn’t do Fred any harm, but I’m not recommending it.


However it is worth remembering that most of the excellent people in our business are “Marmite”.  Don’t get crushed by the odd complaint.


Anyway, as George Carlin puts it, people who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think. 


Don’t blink…………………….wait.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012



Did you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell , and have you been operating on your gut instinct ever since?


How has that worked out for you?  If it has gone very well, and you are indeed now CEO or something equally excellent, then stop reading this now.  If on the other hand your experience has been closer to that of the Dice Man , ie a bit on the chaotic side, then there’s a new book out that might give you some useful perspective.


Wait by Frank Portnoy praises the “Useful Art of Procrastination”.  It explains why we like to make snap decisions, and how to snap out of it.  It is all about  your capacity to look at situations with some long term perspective.  Behavioural economists have found a way of calculating this.  The “discount rate” is the amount we are prepared to pay to wait.  You will have heard of the experiment with the toddlers where they are offered one marshmallow now, or two in a few minutes.  Experiments show that for long term prosperity those toddlers that can bear to wait have better chances.  This “discount rate” changes however over time.  For example if you are offered the choice of £50 today by your boss, or £100 in a month – which would you choose?  Many people, for all kinds of rational and emotional reasons, would take the £50 today. (While the offer is definitely good!)  But if your boss offered you £50 in a year, or £100 in 13 months which would you take ?  I bet you said you’d wait for the £100.  The wait is the same – it’s still one month’s delay.  But loads more people will opt to wait for another month with a year’s perspective. Interesting, but so what?


Well there is now a standard questionnaire to elicit people’s discount rates over time .  The higher your discount rate, the more miserable you’re likely to be.  So the kind of gut and instinctive decision making that many think is what Gladwell recommends in Blink is largely, and statistically, a mistake.  You know who else thinks so ?  The Snowball himself.  .  Warren Buffet says “We don’t get paid for activity, just for being right.  As to how long we’ll wait, we’ll wait indefinitely”.  Buffet is focussed on the long haul.  This is not a bad discipline to practise.  So next time don’t just act, wait.  Then act (don’t just have a meeting about it).



If so much is fake, who or what can we rely on?

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

There really isn’t much to rely on any more.  For thousands of years people have had faith in kings, gods, priests or shamans.

In the last decade we’ve heard time and again that people have lost faith in religious institutions, government, authority, and the monarchy.

We understand instead that consumers would rather trust the opinion of “someone like me” than any kind of spokesperson, senior management or professional expert.  Of course, often, that “someone like me” is found online, and can be a stranger, not just a friend, acquaintance or family.  

But headlines now abound that are revealing the huge volume of dissimulation online which can only increase public cynicism even further.

Twitter is full of parody.  Facebook has acknowledged 83 million fake accounts.  Book reviews are for sale.  Even magazines renowned for their fact checking,  like the New Yorker, get duped by their own writers

And if you thought that people out there know that they can trust what the adverts say then think again.  They don’t (they don’t accept the “legal, decent, honest and truthful” rule that I am sure I have understood for ever about TV advertising).   As readers of my earlier blog on this subject will be aware we have found that there is a massive marketing truth deficit in the UK.  

As trust disappears in the wild west of online dialogue and the traditional upholders of truth no longer have authority then people will seek certainty elsewhere.

Step forward brands.  There really is an opportunity right now to step change a brand’s image and prospects.  By focussing not on becoming famous by being entertaining, or for being cheap or being used by celebrities, or having lots of “likes” but for telling it like it is.   There is the opportunity to gain massive competitive advantage.   

My book Tell the Truth gives 8 clear techniques for delivering competitive advantage.   

High noon is approaching.  The time to stand up for something that you believe it.  To create the brand that is the truth telling sheriff in the wild west of 21st century fakery.