Advertising Firm Ogilvy's CEO on Corporate Responsibility: "No one has the RIGHT to a reputation"

Published: May 06, 2010

Topics: CSR       

Yesterday, I discussed the PR perspective on corporate responsibility as presented by Edelman's Edelman's EVP for CSR-New York, Michael Holland. Here now is the final post on the CSR Forum organized by the Better Business Bureau, New York. The last panel of the day was represented by advertising, marketing and public relations giant Ogilvy's Global CEO Christopher Graves, and advertising columnist from the New York Times Stuart Elliot. The issue on hand: brand management in a crisis and how companies need to include their corporate responsibility quotient to remain relevant and competitive.

Graves offered a well-analyzed perspective of how BP handled the ongoing oil spill crisis with many valuable nuggets of advice thrown in. Also touched upon was the increasing role of social media in crisis management and how it can damage your brand, corporate responsibility and the social aspect of CSR. Below are some of the highlights from the panel:

Supply Chain Complexity

Citing BP's example, Graves discussed the concept of "supply chain complexity" emphasizing that business to business relationships become irrelevant in times of crisis. "When the news came out, BP could have said that the parts/blocker responsible for the leak were the responsibility of their suppliers: Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron. But they didn't and that was the right thing to do." Calling it the scapegoat to victim scale, Graves stressed that a slight slip like that would have eroded a well-cultivated reputation that BP has enjoyed for a long time as a responsible company (Remember all the 'Beyond Petroleum' ads talking about their environmental work and sustainability initiatives?).

The Culture in CSR

I've discussed the undeniable importance of culture in the adaptation of corporate responsibility before on this blog. Graves brought this up as well using Toyota's recent recalls mess as an example. Calling their approach to corporate responsibility and brand management, "looking through the Japanese lens," he emphasized that the cultural relationship of a company and its brand underlines every aspect of its strategy and must be assimilated when discussing its approach to becoming a responsible corporate citizen.

"Liking" CSR: The Role of Social Media

Can any conference or event be complete these days without hitting social media, both as a value addition as well as a challenge? Graves made a point of differentiating between just being on social media, and being able to use it to your advantage. "It's not about being on Facebook. That doesn't mean anything. Its understanding what that involves and how they will help you build and engage your community."

What Does CSR Have To Do With Reputation?

Everything, according to Graves. "You don't have the right to a reputation. Just like you don't have the right to live," adding, "It takes a lot of hard work. All the time." And how can we not think Goldman Sachs when we think reputation. Noting their recent scuffle with the SEC, Graves emphasized that if their entire operation had been about "client first," then they wouldn't have ended up hedging against them. Underlining the need for socially responsible investments from the financial industry, he put it quite succinctly,"It's not what you do after you make the money. It's how you make the money! CSR cannot be about moral self-licensing!"

Also read the first post from the event, where I highlight key notes from Ernst & Young CEO, Jim Turley who said, "CSR is central to the issue of trust right now in the marketplace." And feel free to comment by writing in or connecting with me on Twitter @VaultCSR.