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Column: Risk Management

A Brand, Cracked but Intact

By: | December 1, 2013 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, is having issues. His situation raises an interesting point about appearances versus actions and how they affect reputation and job performance. Apart from Ford’s foibles, we know that public figures have a tough life. Politicians, celebrities, athletes and business leaders are examined, analyzed, hailed and demonized — sometimes all on the same day.  Every image, every statement, every gesture is under a microscope every day. Any sudden change in behavior could be interpreted positively or negatively. A disheveled appearance may give us less confidence in that person’s ability to run a government, let alone run their own life.

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With the plethora of media websites, social media and 24-hour news channels, everyone in the public eye is under continuous scrutiny. It is a daunting tightrope to walk, for sure. Teetering and risking their personal reputations and brand daily. I am amazed so few implode under such pressure.

But perhaps all of the above is what led Ford to crack, if you’ll pardon the double entendre. In early November, he admitted to smoking crack cocaine. This comes after a long cat-and-mouse game with the press and police. Initially, he adamantly denied doing so, but in the end he was seen on video smoking crack cocaine. Throughout the whole media carnival, he’s been the butt of endless jokes on late-night talk shows around the world.

Ford’s missteps don’t end with crack-cocaine use. In three short years, he was fired as a public high school football coach because he brought disgrace to the school. He has been asked to leave public events for being excessively drunk. He was caught in his office at city hall with a bottle of alcohol, visibly intoxicated.  And now, he admits publicly that he has smoked crack cocaine.

Yet, as a city councilor, he defended the honor of his constituents. He railed against the fiscally irresponsible. He pounded his fist to get the attention of the media to bring the mismanagement of the city to light. He championed the over-taxed electorate. In those moments, he appeared to be a genuine defender of the taxpayer.

Through all of these more recent events, he maintains a steady approval rating as mayor. He has held that he has been true to his core values and takes his duties as mayor seriously.

Should we be concerned then? Perhaps we should ignore his missteps and trust that — at his core — he means well. Perhaps he struggled with addiction even before he became mayor. Perhaps he knows he is troubled. If so, I hope he gets the counseling and support he truly needs.

But the question stands, does tripping over yourself mean that you are not adhering to your core values? Is the only risk mitigation to walk-the-talk in a saint-like manner in order for people to trust your value system?

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If we think of corporate brands, your brand should define what your organization stands for. Your brand understands what an organization is, not what the organization does. By being yourself, you are true to your core values.

But what if being yourself involves behaviors that are not perfect? What impact does this have on management of your image and to what end result?

There is a delta between Ford’s approval rating and what we would expect would happen to the approval ratings of a public figure caught smoking crack.

Perhaps there is something to note here in our study of reputational risk.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]