A Lesson in Reputation Management
At a time that anyone serving the public is aware of the importance of brand and reputation management. It’s still rare to see a fine example of a response to a tough situation that shows authentic, human leadership. The recent NBC / Conan O’Brien situation had so much press that millions of people were following it.
Conan O’Brien’s farewell came after what could be called an unseating, what may have felt a betrayal. His final good-bye was televised. How would he communicate with grace and dignity when a crowds of fans and lawyers are looking at him to recognize what’s been?
10 of 10 in Leadership, Reputation, and Community
Corporations, small businesses, every one of us could learn a lot from how Conan said good-bye. His words were the careful words of a leader delivered from the heart in a difficult situation. He was visible authenticity, leadership, and grace in these visible ways.
- He took control of the situation. Gently, but firmly he said …
There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can’t say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want.
- He told the truth in fair and generous context.
… between my time at Saturday Night Live, The Late Night Show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I have worked with NBC for over twenty years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we’re going to go our separate ways.
- He shared his pride and his gratitude.
But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.
- He was honest about state of mind and his feelings of loss.
Walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium.
- He celebrated the positive.
Every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second.
- He moved the focus to the future.
I’ve had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we’ll find a way to make it fun.
- He raised up and cherished all who might be his friends.
And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.
- He gave everyone’s investment meaning.
To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. .
- He invited everyone to be part of something better.
All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.
- He offered hope even to the nonparticipants.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
It took leadership, courage, a sense of humor, and trust in his audience to deliver on that message. If you saw it, you know it was real. Unfortunately, the video has been taken down at YouTube, but you can see it at the Huffington Post.
Conan won day and probably won a huge following of new fans by showing humanity, fairness, and leadership. He kept his focus on who and what mattered and left out who and what did not. He raised us all by not tearing anything down. I hope we’re never faced with such extreme circumstances. If we are, I hope we come back to this example of how to build good relationships from conflict.
Imagine if every corporation, business, and individual demonstrated that same 10 or 10 in Leadership, Reputation, and Community when conflict occurs.
What was your personal response to Conan’s last words?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!
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