Crisis Insurance for Reputations: Ironically from AIG

October 12, 2011

AIG are three letters associated with the financial crisis of 2008 and the US government bailout of corporations.  AIG received billions in bailout money from the US government after it lost nearly $100 billion dollars in 2008.  In fact the US Treasury still owns a majority of AIG’s common stock.  The price of that stock is still down 95% from its pre-crisis high.  AIG rebranded AIU in Chartis in 2009.  The rebranding was seen as an effort to separate Chartis, a branch of AIG that was profitable in 2008, from AIG thus sparing it the reputational damage created by AIG’s controversial bailout.  Here is how Chartis presents itself on its web site:

Finding New Ways to Lead

We have established ourselves as a world leader in insurance by helping our partners and customers realize their own plans for the future. Our fundamental strength lies in the 40,000 employees who serve more than 70 million clients around the world.

Every day, our people deliver commercial and personal insurance offerings through hundreds of innovative products and services. By counting on us to meet their unique insurance needs, our clients are able to pursue a secure course toward their goals.

Partnering With Our Customers Along Their Way

You can be sure that you have a dedicated partner in Chartis, one who will take on your challenges as its own. By meeting straightforward needs as well as solving complex issues, we make your confidence our number one priority. Whether the need is as fundamental as insuring a home, or as nuanced as covering environmental exposures, we’re committed to delivering what matters most to you.

Commercial Insurance

Every day, our people bring a critical measure of confidence to the plans and projects of businesses like yours. We provide commercial insurance products and services to the full spectrum of enterprises all around the world—from large, multinational, and mid-sized companies to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations.

Our offerings span traditional insurance categories such as property and casualty, and extend to new areas like political risk and crisis coverage. We also offer a breadth of products designed to meet the special requirements of particular industries.

As your needs evolve, so do our offerings: We maintain an ongoing dialogue with our diverse client base in order to identify emerging risks and respond with innovative underwriting solutions. To learn more about how Chartis can help you with your commercial insurance needs, please visit www.chartisinsurance.com.

Personal Insurance

Chartis has a long history of offering personal insurance solutions to meet the particular needs of individuals, families and students worldwide. Our products and services are tailored to meet the needs of consumers around the world.

Chartis is flexible and grows alongside you and your family. We consistently create dependable new offerings that address changes in your current lifestyle as well as your plans for the future. Our personal insurance solutions encompass a wide array of products, which can be tailored to meet your current and emerging needs.

To learn more about how Chartis can help you with your personal insurance needs for all ages, life stages and lifestyles, please visit www.chartisinsurance.com.

There is no mention of its roots in AIG.  Rebranding to protect reputations is based upon distance and Chartis keeps a wide distance from AIG.

This week, Chartis began offering customers a new insurance product known as ReputationGuard.  ReputationGuard is one of many crisis-related insurance products offered by Chartis.  The novel aspect of the new product was the recognition of the need to protect reputations during a crisis.  Here is how Chartis explains ReputationGuard:

Press Release Source: Chartis On Tuesday October 11, 2011, 9:04 am EDT

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– The Chartis insurers today introduced ReputationGuard, an insurance policy that provides innovative coverage to help policyholders cope with reputational threats. Developed by Chartis’ Executive Liability division, ReputationGuard delivers the benefit of both access to world-class reputation and crisis communications professionals as well as coverage for costs associated with avoiding or minimizing the potential impact of negative publicity. The result is cutting-edge coverage against publicity that puts reputation and brand image at stake.

A recent survey of public and private board members shows that 69% of them now rank reputation risk as their primary concern.1 Another recent survey found that 79% of business decision makers believe they are only 12 months from a potential crisis.2

ReputationGuard gives policyholders access to a select panel of the internationally recognized and award winning communications firms of Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli. These firms are committed to providing strategic guidance and implementation support on critical communications issues on global, national and local scales.

Threats to reputation and brand image are more common and wide reaching today than ever before—and can impact a company’s bottom line. Events such as executive scandals, questions about product safety, data breaches, litigation and other negative publicity can become front page news and quickly impact reputation or brands. ReputationGuard combines the global reach of Chartis and its partners to increase an organization’s preparedness and access to key resources to stem the flow of damaging publicity in order to help protect its most valuable asset – its reputation.

“In today’s world, one person’s negative opinion can quickly become adverse publicity on a global scale,” said Tracie Grella, President of Chartis’ Professional Liability unit. “Public perception of the response to an event can have a lasting impact on an organization’s reputation. ReputationGuard is a unique solution to this exposure.”

Policyholders will gain access to a panel of world-renowned public relations experts and their affiliates:

Burson-Marsteller: Burson-Marsteller is a leading global public relations and communications firm operating across 96 countries. Companies engage Burson-Marsteller when the stakes are highest, during a crisis or at times of fundamental change or transition. It provides companies in crisis with strategic counsel and program development across the spectrum of public relations, public affairs, digital media, advertising and other communications services. For more than half a century, Burson-Marsteller has been selected time and again as a trusted partner to some of the world’s largest companies.

Porter Novelli: A global public relations leader, Porter Novelli has been providing issues and crisis counsel for nearly 40 years, serving clients from 90 locations around the world. Last year the agency introduced its Real-time Reputation specialty, which recognized that a world in which social media can damage hard-won reputations in just minutes requires a fundamentally different way to practice crisis communications. Porter Novelli’s Real-time Reputation Specialty is an end-to-end offering that includes everything from preemptive communications to programs that help restore corporate reputation after an incident. Its team of specialists in brand, corporate communications and social media work with senior corporate and public affairs communicators to plan for adverse events and move rapidly – within minutes – to manage these events both online and off, employing both conventional and digital means to mitigate possible damage to corporate reputation.

Analysts feel the product will be attractive to small and medium sized companies that lack in-house crisis communication capabilities. 

Burson-Marsteller is actually a link back to AIG.  Burson-Marsteller was hired by AIG to help it combat the reputational damage it was suffering from the bailout.  Critics did note that AIG used money from the US government to pay for consulting help designed to address problems from taking that same money from the government.  It was interesting that some news reports used the ReputationGuard announcement to link AIG to Chartis.  In a way, the announcement became a potential reputational threat for Chartis. 

Questions to Consider:

1.  What are the ethical implications of rebranding to escape past problems?  Is there an element of deception in this strategy that should raise ethical concerns?

2.  How much of a threat to Chartis is the revived connection between it and AIG?  Justify your evaluation of the threat?

3.  How does ReputationGuard help to validate much of the crisis communication research about crisis and reputation such as SCCT?

4.  Why was the bailout such a crisis for AIG?

5.  How does being part of ReputationGuard help of hurt the reputations of Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli?

6.  If you worked for a company, how would you justify either purchasing or not purchasing ReputationGuard?  In your answer consider the limits to ReputationGuard as a crisis management device.


Fine line of between news and promotion: Where are the ethics

September 18, 2009

Mark Penn is a fairly well known public relations executive for PR agency Burson-Marsteller.  He is known because he was dropped from Hillary Clinton’s campaign after Burson-Marsteller signed the country of Columbia to a contract—a conflict with Clinton’s position on Columbia.  Fear not, Mr. Penn stayed in the public eye.  The Wall Street Journal hired him to write a online column for them called Microtrends.  Microtrends is the name of a book published by Mark Penn.  You can find the online columns at  http://www.markpenn.com/.   So the column is by name, publicity for his book Microtrends:  The Small forces behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes.  There is a Facebook application for Microtrends as well.  But how far should a supposed news column go as promotion?  Remember on complaint against public relations is that it creates news content that people do not know is really PR.  True, public relations uses news releases and video news releases to stimulate media stories about their clients or their own organization.  Media relations has been a standard element of public relations since newspaper became popular in the early 1900s. 

Penn wrote a column about glamping.  Glamping is some glamorous form camping.  The idea is that instead of a tent and a sleeping bag.  You have a “tent” that recreates a luxury hotel room for you.  You can learn more about glamping at http://goglamping.net/.  So what is the ethical concern?  After the column was written, Burson-Marsteller used the column in efforts to generate business.  Gawker.com broke the story and their take on the events are below:

“By Monday, according to an internal email obtained by Gawker, Burson was already trying to recruit companies from the industry featured in the column as clients. Burson Executive Vice President (and former Bill Clinton speechwriter) Josh Gottheimer urged Burson’s senior staff—including Founding Chairman Harold Burson, US President & CEO Patrick Ford, and others, to use Penn’s column as a tool to approach clients in the camping industry about business. Not only that—he recommends that Mark Penn “send a note” to the CEO of these potential clients requesting a meeting.”

http://gawker.com/5346078/leak-how-mark-penn-converts-his-wall-street-journal-column-into-pr-clients?skyline=true&s=x

The main stream media picked it up from Gawker.com.  The New York Times ran a story questioning the ethicality of the column.  Here is a part of their story:

“The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that it would keep the public relations executive Mark J. Penn as a columnist, and that the paper’s ethical standards were not violated when an executive at Mr. Penn’s firm set out to use one of his columns to drum up business.

In a column published online last Saturday, Mr. Penn, president and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, extolled a kind of luxury camping (called “glamping”) that he wrote was an untapped market for hotel chains and resorts. Two days later, Josh Gottheimer, executive vice president of the firm, sent an e-mail message containing the column to colleagues, and wrote, ‘This is a great excuse to call’ sporting goods companies and other businesses, ‘this week while the column is fresh.’” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/28/business/media/28penn.html?_r=1&ref=business

The defense offered by Penn was that he did not know his company would use his column for promotion.  But he added that he saw no reason that this would not happen again in the future.  So Penn did not plan to write a column for his company’s benefit.  But his company saw a potential benefit and acted upon it.  Neither sees a problem with it and say they might do it again in the future.  The Wall Street Journal accepted this idea and Penn continues to write his column.  The Journal noted that their was an element of promotion to any guest journalist—having a column is promotion for the columnist.

Questions to Consider

  1.  Why does this situation make Penn and Burson-Marsteller look bad?
  2. What are the ethical issues in this situation?
  3. If you were management at Burson-Marsteller, what would you have said about the effort to gain clients from Penn’s column?
  4. The column was used to solicit clients.  Does it matter whether or not Penn intended the column to be used in that fashion?  Why or why not?
  5. What is the problem with letting guess columnists use the Wall Street Journal for their own promotional ends?
  6. How aware are readers that guest columns will have a promotional element to their writings?

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