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Power Breakfast: Polishing your corporate image in today’s politically charged atmosphere

We asked three of our Power Breakfast panelists to give one key in keeping a company's image strong during certain economic times.


The Great Recession has hurt the bottom line for many companies. In some cases, it has caused bad press, unhappy employees and an overall negative image of certain companies. As part of the Business Record’s Feb. 28 Power Breakfast, leaders from four Greater Des Moines companies will discuss how they have tried to keep their corporate image in a positive light in what has been a challenging economic climate and an “us vs. them” political mentality in recent years.

The Business Record caught up with two of the panelists and moderator Diana Deibler to ask:

What is one key to keeping a company’s corporate image strong during uncertain economic times?

Steve Chapman
president and CEO, Ruan Transportation Management Systems

“The key is communication. When we talk communication, we’re talking both within your company and outside your company. With 2008 – I’ve been in business a long time, and I’ve never been in a recession of the magnitude of what we’ve all been through over the last couple years. The greatest challenge was not knowing what the bottom looked like.

“Communicating with your people as far as how the company is doing, decisions that needed to be made, decisions that were going to be made, reasons behind those decisions, areas of focus – those are the type of things that keep your employees at least informed and understanding. I can’t tell you that it always causes them to be motivated, because nobody likes to hear that things are challenging. But at the same time, I’d rather have somebody tell me the truth as to what’s going on, than not share with me the things the company would be doing.

“I look at corporate image, and it really has to do with our people. Our people are the face of this company. So that was one of the first things that I spent time on when I joined this company, expanding communication beyond management.”

Scott Johnson

regional president, Wells Fargo Bank N.A.

“I think what is really key as a company, one of the most important things that we can do when it comes to our reputation, is to live our vision and values. At Wells Fargo, we have a vision and values document that we give to every team member, and it’s about ensuring that we put the customer first, that we do the right things for the right reasons, and if we make a mistake, you take ownership of that, you fix it.

“It’s living that vision, that value, each and every day; also ensuring that your team knows what our vision and values are. I think in today’s environment it’s extremely important to share with your team, to share with your employees what is occurring in your industry.

“Sometimes the information they’re receiving is not accurate. We focus on our vision and values of what we’re doing, why we are doing it, and what we’ve done, so they can be your best ambassadors in the community and with your consumers.

“What’s been challenging for us is getting accurate information to our team members, when today, with social media, with the Internet, with 24-hour news, information can pop up pretty quickly. The challenge is as a company today, how do you respond to that, how do you get information to your team?”

Diana Deibler
president and CEO, Deibler & Co.

“The answer in any kind of economy or situation is the same – Teflon. Inevitably, something less than positive will happen to even the best companies led by executives with integrity and employees who care deeply. For companies with coats of Teflon, the negative event or situation won’t stick. They have earned the benefit of the doubt.

“Reactions will be, ‘That doesn’t sound like ABC Co. There must be more to the story.’ Or, ‘No doubt that was an isolated incident. I know a lot of people who work there, and they’re great.’

“For those who have not earned the benefit of the doubt through acts of good will or have unfair business practices, repeated violations or mistreat employees, the response will be ‘That doesn’t surprise me. It sounds like XYZ Co.’

“I often get the call when a company or leader is in crisis. It’s been my experience that when it comes to public opinion, the day you need customers’ trust and benefit of doubt is not the day you try and earn it.”

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