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.


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?


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

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?


Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?


A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]