In an era of companies behaving badly, a good reputation can be worth its weight in gold. These books reveal how to keep your company’s reputation bright.
The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation: Creating, Protecting and Repairing Your Most Valuable Asset
By Ronald J. Alsop
Free Press, 2004, $26
A corporation’s reputation, built through years of effort, is far too important to be left to the whims of public opinion and rumor. Reputations don’t and shouldn’t just happen, according to Ronald J. Alsop, who covers corporate branding and reputation for The Wall Street Journal. With the Internet providing both a means of evermore intense scrutiny and a machine for instantaneous rumors to spread globally, the need is greater than ever for CEOs, CIOs and other corporate leaders to nurture and reinforce their company’s reputations. In The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation, Alsop provides interesting and useful insights into how some notable companies do just that.
A company’s stakeholders play an important role in creating its public face, Alsop says, but other factors?some quantifiable, some not?also come into play: For example, is the company socially responsible? Does it perform well financially? In the light of recent company scandals and executive shenanigans, Alsop’s book is nothing if not a timely reminder that corporate America is capable of doing better.
Most of the “immutable laws” that Alsop puts forth are (or should be) common sense: Be a good corporate citizen; establish a strong vision; create an emotional connection; avoid defensiveness. Nothing earth-shattering there. The special contribution of 18 Immutable Laws is that the author reinforces his arguments with examples from companies such as FedEx and DuPont that are serious about their reputations. Some of these ideas are intriguing, such as that companies should consider creating the position of “chief reputation officer” or conducting crisis-simulation drills and having a contingency plan in the event of a reputation-damaging incident.
In the long run, however, Alsop admits that even extraordinary measures such as these won’t always be effective?and they won’t be effective at all, he asserts, unless every employee in a company accepts his individual responsibility for maintaining his employer’s reputation. One of the biggest reputation killers, as Home Depot and McDonald’s have painfully discovered, is poor customer service.
While Alsop concludes that crises are inevitable, his behind-the-scenes details of specific crisis-management incidents prove that they need not tarnish corporate reputation permanently. Crises will happen, but honesty and contrition are powerful antidotes.
CIO Best-Seller List
5. The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company
By Constance L. Hays
Random House, 2004
4. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas
By David Bornstein
Oxford University Press, 2004
3. Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide
By Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
Princeton University Press, 2003
2. The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century
By Paul Krugman
W.W. Norton, 2003
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t
By Jim Collins
HarperCollins Publishers, 2001
Source: March 1, 2004, data, compiled by WordsWorth Books, Cambridge, Mass.