There are some really incredible examples in the news in recent days and weeks about C-suite executives not appreciating the ramifications of their decisions on corporate reputations.  Lots of PR blog chatter on the same issues, as well.

First, the issue … transparency.  Especially in the case of public companies, what the muckety-mucks do and say matters to the reputation of the company.  As we all know, corporate or brand reputation translates into stock value. 

While there are lawyers and investor relations professionals who know precisely what is required to be disclosed and when, it’s usually a disconnected corporate common sense bone that ends up causing all the ruckus.aig___r350x200

Take the news of AIG’s conference at a resort in Phoenix just two weeks on the heel of being skewered in the media for a conference at a swanky resort in California, all after reporting billions in quarterly losses and accepting billions in favorable government loans.

It was bad enough that the boss didn’t have the brains or courage to say ‘NO’ to the Phoenix event.  It was worse that there apparently was a well-considered, carefully-designed plan in effect to shield AIG’s name from the media.

Well, it didn’t work!  Check out this blistering post from Shel Holtz on his blog.

Chrysler's Nardelli and Ford's Mullaly on Capital Hill (CNN Photo)

Chrysler's Nardelli and Ford's Mullaly (CNN Photo)

Now come the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler.  In the past several days, the “big three” CEOs sat in front of various Congressional committees seeking billions of taxpayer dollars to save their troubled companies.  They were clearly struggling with their pitch, but had key congressional leaders as allies.  Even President-Elect Obama (while not directly engaging) was sending signals that Congress should do something.

Then, some pretty basic media work confirmed that each executive had flown to DC on private corporate jets.  When asked about the incongruity of seeking tax dollars and while spending lavishly on big, fancy corporate jets, they seemed incredulous.  They were unprepared. 

Of course, there are legitimate explanations for CEO private travel.  That’s not the point.  Somehow the corporate commone sense bone was disconnected on this one.  They should have either been prepared (or their people should have been prepared) or they should have flown commercial, at least just this once.

Reputations are tricky things.  They can take years to shape, form and build, and just minutes to damage or destroy.

Transparency is about valuing and respecting relationships.  Strategic communications is about developing, strengthening and building relationships.  Most of this is all about corporate commone sense.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.21.08