IPREX and corporations talk reputation management

On Friday my colleague Jaimy Lee and I attended a panel discussion that was part of the IPREX Annual Meeting in New York: "The Great Reputation...

On Friday my colleague Jaimy Lee and I attended a panel discussion that was part of the IPREX Annual Meeting in New York: "The Great Reputation Crisis—and How to Respond." Executives from major companies discussed how corporate reputations have been affected by the financial crisis, including relationships with CEOs, social media, and consumers' trust in brands.

"Our leadership has said to us that our reputation counts," said Ray Kerins, VP of worldwide communications for Pfizer, discussing the company's recent announcement to offer a year of free medication for people who lost their insurance. "Every chance we get to build our reputation, we'll take it."

Hosted by Makovsky & Co., the panel also included Gary Sheffer, executive director of corporate communications and public affairs for General Electric; Carl Folta, EVP of corporate communications for Viacom; Barbara Pierce, PR director of worldwide brand marketing and communications for Eastman Kodak; Michael McDougall, VP of corporate communications for Bausch & Lomb; Harvey Greisman, SVP and group executive of worldwide communications for MasterCard Worldwide; and Stephen Dishart, MD of corporate communications for Swiss Re.

Social media was also a big topic of the day as the communications professionals discussed how they see social media as a tactic rather than a strategy, and shared best practices for working with outlets like Twitter.

"We're finding that online has been able to help us manage our reputation," Pierce explained, mentioning a situation earlier in the year when Kodak used Twitter and other tactics to respond to an incorrect statement in a publication. (More after break)

The communicators also took a look ahead, discussing how the current economic situation has allowed companies to take a step back and reboot.

"As we move forward, in a lot of ways it's refreshing for us because we can start over," Folta said. "Everybody's in the same pile. You get a chance for a do-over."

"Since the financial crisis hit, messaging is easier," Dishart said of many companies' "back to basic" messaging. "Being able to talk about our core business and how it performs has been very helpful."

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