According to the online reputation management professionals at Reputation Changer, public remarks made by a business owner or CEO can have dramatic effects on the public perception of the business itself. This truism is made painfully clear according to the NY Daily News on June 4th, which states in the recent controversy surrounding outgoing Ohio State University President Gordon Gee has announced his retirement amidst a flurry of scandal. His insensitive remarks have tarnished the public image of Ohio State University, to say nothing of ushering in a premature conclusion to his own career. Reputation Changer has released a new statement to the press, commenting on the OSU scandal and on the lessons that it reveals to other companies and organizations. According to a June 4 story from The Washington Post, the public remarks that landed Gee in trouble were made in December, but have only come to light in recent days. Speaking of Notre Dame University, Gee made derogatory comments about "those damn Catholics," and also used the phrase "holy hell" to characterize the behavior of the school's priests. In the same address, Gee also took shots at the SEC and other regional schools. Gee says that his retirement is intended to "refocus" and "reenergize" himself, the Post implies that his sudden retirement announcement stems from the bad PR that his Notre Dame comments have engendered.
According to Reputation Changer President Michael Zammuto, there are lessons to be learned by other company presidents and highly visible executives. "The most important takeaway here is that, when you are the public face of a company, any public statements you make ultimately reflect on that brand -- and the impact of a few careless remarks can be staggering," Zammuto explains. "This isn't just true of major colleges and universities, of course, but even for small businesses. When you are a small business owner, your own reputation and the reputation of your company are closely intertwined."
As such, insensitive or ill-conceived remarks from a company leader can drag the entire brand down -- and this is true not only of comments made in a public speech or address, Zammuto warns. "Business owners are strongly encouraged to keep their social media profiles private, or, better yet, to simply abstain from making any rude or thoughtless remarks that could possibly give offense," Zammuto says. "This includes any potentially risqué 'humor' as well as comments about religion, politics, sexuality, and the like."
Zammuto also offers some words of advice for Ohio State University. "The most important thing that the university can do right now, to undo some of the damage to its online reputation, is to flip the script and change the story," Zammuto advises. "This means sending out some news stories and other positive assets that speak to the university's many virtues, and to more positive happenings within the organization."
The fact that Gee apologized and then announced his retirement is helpful, Zammuto says. "The organization has taken responsibility for these thoughtless remarks, which is an important step toward regaining the public's trust," he notes. "However, this alone is not enough, and it is important for the company to now build on its positive foundation and to further cultivate a positive and trustworthy reputation."
ReputationChanger.com reviews the reputation management needs of numerous colleges and universities.