Uber’s PR nightmare may not be completely over, but it’s certainly come to a turning point. The forced resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is viewed by many as as the first step in getting the company back on track and back in the public’s good graces. But there is much work to be done.
At Kith, we say that a company owns its brand, but the public owns its reputation. Uber’s reputation is seriously damaged, and as they look to rebuild they must follow a blueprint that will turn this critical moment into a reputation-building opportunity. Kith’s 4 A’s of Reputation provide leaders with such a blueprint.
The 4 A’s form the foundation of Kith’s Model for Reputation Excellence. These elements are how companies get the credit they want and deserve in critical moments. All 4 A’s must be adjusted to an organization’s unique needs if they wish to have a robust reputation management program. With a measurable, logical reputation management framework in place, companies can and will receive credit for their actions.
When it comes to embarking on the journey of the 4 A’s, companies can begin with Awareness, Assessment or Authority, but they cannot begin with Action. Beginning with Action is a fool’s errand– you cannot take action unless you understand your reputation situation via Awareness, Assessment and Authority. Based on recent news, it appears that Uber has started with Assessment. Assessment is the ongoing measurement of stakeholder needs, beliefs, and opinions about your organization. Uber is a cautionary tale about what happens when you lose sight of what is important to your stakeholders. In a quest for profit and growth, Uber cast aside its stakeholders needs and beliefs (whether this was wittingly or unwittingly is not clear). By doing this, Uber stoked outrage with its stakeholders and suffered because of it.
Uber’s first step in Assessment was the hiring of former Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation into claims of sexual harassment at the company. In a 13-page report, Holder uncovered widespread workplace culture issues in areas like senior leadership, diversity, cultural values, and employee retention policies. The report included recommendations, many of them shocking in their simplicity: “Train human resources personnel on the effective handling of complaints.” Uber must make the significant changes outlined in Holder’s report to its internal activities if it wishes to improve its external reputation. After all, employee endorsement is a critical lever in the 7 Levers of Reputation.
Beyond internal assessment, Uber must conduct thorough assessment of its external stakeholders. There have been third-study surveys indicating that damage to Uber’s potential to attract new customers has been significant. Management consultancy cg42 conducted a survey that found 13% of prospective Uber users “were very or extremely unlikely to consider doing business with the ride-hailing service” but following Uber’s surge of scandals 32% say they would not do business with Uber.
However, in the assessment phase, you’re considering much more than customer satisfaction with your company. Clients often tell us they already have customer satisfaction data. They’ve asked their customers how they feel about the brand, their experience with customer service and salespeople, all things that the company can control. That’s not enough.
In reputation management, we’re looking at the opinions of a broader set of stakeholders. These people may or may not be the consumers of the particular goods or services the company sells. A stakeholder, put simply, is anybody who is impacted by your organization. They’re your customers, the media, government officials, NGOs, competitors– all are considered stakeholders. You can learn more about how to easily categorize your stakeholders here.
Once you’ve identified who your stakeholder audiences are, you are ready to utilize the stakeholder research method of your choosing. However, finding out if your company has a good reputation isn’t as simple as asking “Do you like us?” When formatting your research, you need to ask questions related to the 7 Levers of Reputation. You can learn more about how to conduct stakeholder research here.
Uber has a long road ahead of them if they want to repair the damage to their reputation. If Uber goes through this assessment process, they can develop a deep understanding of the risks to their reputation and the changes needed to optimally develop that reputation over the long term. Reputation management doesn’t happen overnight. It requires long-term commitment. Uber must recognize the essential need for a reputation management program. It must be embedded in the DNA of the organization if it is to carry your message consistently and effectively over time.
More information about the Four A’s is available in Bill Coletti’s upcoming book Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management.