Posted April 7, 2011 8:07 am by with 2 comments

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Here at Marketing Pilgrim, we talk a lot about reputation and how it’s managed. Of course, we have our reasons :-).

When others talk about reputation, it peaks everyone’s interest especially when you are talking about the 150 largest companies in the US. Forbes reports on a study conducted by the Reputation Institute about just how these companies faired and for the Internet only crowd it’s good news. The three companies on that list from the Internet space are biggies: Amazon, Google and ebay. As you can see from the Top 10 below they “done us proud”.

Ebay finished 81st.

If you follow the social media space closely there is one thing that was very interesting as it relates to one of the ‘superstars’ of the industry, Frank Eliason. You probably know him from the work he did at Comcast starting their social media efforts from scratch and building them into a reputation-changing machine. He has since moved on to Citigroup to head up much of their social media efforts.

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The chart below is the bottom 10 on this list and it makes one think a bit.

First, what did all that ‘game-changing’ social media efforts do for Comcast if they are still hanging around the bottom of this list? That’s actually not a knock on the efforts because the company is arguably better in handling itself with its customers. Eliason left the company in July of last year. What it does indicate is that no matter how hard you try to remedy reputation through social channels there will always be detractors. It also shows that bad reputations leave serious scars. Or since Eliason left did their efforts fall off as well?

Secondly, probably some of the best jobs in social media exist with these reputation bottom feeders. Look at Citigroup where Eliason went in August of last year following his Comcast efforts to become the SVP of Social Media. While they are still near the bottom of the list their overall score made one of the biggest leaps on the entire list (only GM’s was higher but that’s thanks to your tax dollars being hard at work, not much else). Can that be contributed to social media? Maybe to some degree but one has to think there is a correlation in the use of the medium to change the hearts and minds of the disgruntled. it’s still very early to tell but it certainly might be part of rebound the bank is seeing. Regardless, it looks like he has some job security since they are still seen as one of the least reputable companies in the country.

So if you are looking for a career in social media and, in particular, the reputation management aspect you should go work for the bad guys. Protecting a reputation is one thing but if you can rebuild one that’s certainly another.

Your take?

  • Thanks for the kind mention. If you dig into Comcast’s reputation you will see a few key points. The first obvious one was Customer Service, which has been improving during my tenure with them and after I left. They implemented the Customer Guarantee, and provided means for Customer to find resolution. They also improved infrastructure and tools to help minimize time seeking support. I have been around improving service organizations during my career, and I do know even with improvement it does take time to show in other data, such as surveys, etc. For this aspect of their reputation, I would expect it will be noticed slowly over the next few years. There is another aspect to their reputation that I have analyzed a lot. This is more regarding net neutrality and network management. While I was there they did become much more open on the topic. When we dug into this data, the majority of those discussing it were not associated with the company. This too I think will take time.

    As you do point out regarding Citi, they experienced the greatest percentage improvement. I think this has to do with the focus on the Customer experience they have had over the past year. This focus was the reason why I joined the company in the first place.

    Social media is changing things and it is an exciting time.


    • @Frank – Thanks for checking in. Reputation obviously encompasses all efforts that any company undertakes (not just social media) to truly enact change and then change the hearts and minds of less than happy customers. One message I hear loud and clear is the need to be patient and let these efforts take root. Oftentimes publicly traded companies have less of this since the quarterly performance pressure drives many activities. Do you find it difficult to convey this reality related to any efforts taken to turn a reputation around?

      Thanks again for stopping by and best wishes in your current position!