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Column: Risk Management

Prevent Your Brand From Taking A Massive Hit

By: | May 1, 2018 • 2 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

It was more than 25 years ago when Sinéad O’ Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest. She sang a rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” as a form of protest against the Roman Catholic Church.

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SNL had no prior knowledge that O’Connor would conclude the song by holding up a photo of the Pope, tearing it to pieces and saying, “Fight the real enemy.”

The audience went silent. Within a year of her protest, O’Connor had all but vanished from the music scene.

When we look at the recent public outrage and advertiser mass exodus from Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News, I sense that Ingraham may experience a similar end. Her audience too went silent in shock after seeing her mock David Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor, for getting rejection letters from colleges.

She apologized, but I suspect little forgiveness will prevail for what is now seen as a moral failing towards a teenage victim of a horrific trauma.

These events may be deathblows. O’Connor and Ingraham damaged a specific social and moral nerve. They crossed an offensive line. And once crossed, it tends to be a brand killer.

Your brand is what connects with consumers. Ethical behavior marks your brand. When consumers no longer want to be associated with you, they reject your brand and what you stand for.

It is no surprise an effective boycott attacks a brand and not just the organization’s bottom line. This is what ethical consumerism is all about. It is not moral peacocking but a form of consumer activism that demands ‘positive moral behavior’ by an organization.

Boycotters know that when your brand is put at risk, it will force a conversation with them, and hopefully not a fight. Those who ignore this variation of ‘brandjacking’ risk potential demise.

But what specific moral behaviors, when breached, can lead to such deathblows? It is confusing as we see other celebrities or public figures survive sex scandals or crimes. In fact, often they don’t just survive the scandals, they even thrive afterwards. What is different here?

A corporation is an implied member of our moral community, and it has social responsibilities. Its words, promises, statements, even insinuations, reflect its brand character. Consumers naturally gravitate toward organizations with like values, social, moral standards or ideals.

Your brand is what connects with consumers. Ethical behavior marks your brand. When consumers no longer want to be associated with you, they reject your brand and what you stand for.

We expect companies to know right from wrong or, more importantly, what we consider to be right and wrong. This is where it gets tricky: reading your consumer and not underestimating their moral code.

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In my experience, there are certain wrongs that consumers rarely reconcile or accept. These tend to be around unfathomable social and environmental injustices, hypocrisy and irresponsibility. Injustices towards innocent children and animals are especially egregious.

This is where Ingraham’s jurors sit in social justice court. This fervent belief prevails even in the social hierarchy of prisons. Convicts who have committed crimes against children are especially reviled.

We as consumers also recoil when we our religious, spiritual, sexual orientation or cultural beliefs are openly mocked, bashed or disrespected. Playing with a person’s sense of self or dignity is wrong. No one wants to be judged, bullied or have a belief thrust upon you. This is where O’Connor sits.

If you happen to step into this brand death roll, don’t aggravate further. Take immediate responsibility, genuinely apologize and be sure you do so before any boycotts commence.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

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

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

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

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I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

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

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

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

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

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

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With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

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

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

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

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Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

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

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

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

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!




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