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ABOUT EVEREST

Everest Communications is a digital-first agency that focuses on corporate communications in high-pressure situations. Regardless of the challenge, Everest helps companies and organizations navigate through critical moments in their journeys.

About

SPECIALIZATION

We are an experienced, endurance-tested team that has helped guide well-known brands and organizations through their biggest problems and enterprise issues. Our expertise includes:

  • Executive Positioning
  • Reputation Management
  • Crisis Communications
  • Public Affairs
  • Financial Situations
  • Digital Training

Expertise

Holidays Bring Increasing Challenges for Corporate Communications

The Woke Holiday Season “G.K. Chesterton, the British author known as The Laughing Prophet, pointed out over 100 years ago that people who are secure in their beliefs need not fear mockery. It’s those with shaky doctrines who cannot tolerate laughter,” observes Kyle Mann in the Wall Street Journal recently. This quote reminded me that as communications professionals and executives face the 2021 holiday season, sending the message “Merry Christmas” to anyone could cause angst and backlash in this age of woke everything. It used to be commonplace for organizations to wish everyone connected to the organization a Merry Christmas. And as times changed and customs evolved, organizations shifted to Happy Holidays to accommodate more and more audiences. In doing so, some audiences became affronted that Merry Christmas was no longer used, and those people switched brands. Some brands with strong and publicly touted values have embraced those values and lead unapologetically with more traditional Christmas messages. Christmas Cards for Business Christmas cards, the paper type, were printed and distributed in mass to clients, prospective customers, employees, and many other targets audiences and stakeholders. In fact, getting such a Christmas card sometimes carried an implicit message that the recipient was special and important. If you didn’t receive a Christmas card, it might signal that your business relationship was not in good shape. The ritual of sending and receiving cards was a way to strengthen a business relationship with very low risks involved. Retail and consumer products companies continue to maintain this delicate balance. And let’s face it, what to say, how to say it, and where to say it at the holidays is not as simple as it used to be for organizations. Holiday Messaging Challenges Striking the right tone, balance, and appeal is being examined and filtered through so many more “lenses” than ever. And with each “lens” comes a nuance that blurs the central message and creates possible misinterpretations with audiences. For organizations, holiday messages have evolved into yet another way to promote and reinforce brand reputation. Getting that “right” is now the challenge versus in the past. As organizations grapple with what to say at the holidays, it’s probably a good idea to take a step back and ask the question, are we being authentic and committed to our values? That is the crucial question, and it could be a tough one depending on who you ask within the organization. The next consideration is making certain an organization understands and comprehends its key stakeholders and audiences.  It’s prudent to ask, “who do we really want to reach with our holiday messages?” and “is what we want to say consistent with our perceived brand reputation?” The second question is harder to answer because social activism and wokeness create many more dimensions of reputation. Or said differently, social activism and wokeness have made new benchmarks for interpreting reputation by analyzing an organization’s actions, practices, policies, and investments. Plan Your Holiday Messaging Approach Looking forward and thinking about the possible upsides and downsides of holiday messaging for your organization, here are a few things that might be helpful: Remind all employees, especially executives, that anything they say or type is public even if they think it is not. A simple text joking about a holiday message between friends can quickly be publicly reported and globally shared.Make “suggestions” of how to draft personal holiday messages on behalf of the brand. Many executives running departments and divisions can use guidance to contact and write personalized notes to employees, clients, vendors, and customers.Ask ahead of time, “who should we be concerned about when crafting our messages?” For example, a holiday message to employees may need to consider and acknowledge the overall mood and concerns of employees.Keep messaging simple and consistent. Don’t try to accomplish too much with holiday messages. Provide consistency across all media channels as much as possible.Prepare for backlash. Even with the best, most well-crafted holiday messaging, it is always wise to have a response ready if a backlash occurs. And if it happens, follow your playbook and don’t escalate the situation.Solicit feedback from a wide array of people before releasing the messaging. While these steps will reduce the overall risk to the organization’s reputation, it’s best to prepare and set expectations for a potential backlash. Enjoy the Holidays! With plans made, messaging shared, and reactions prepared for, take a deep breath. Spend time with family and friends, and have a blessed and wonderful holiday season. Have Merry Christmases, Happy Hanukkahs, Happy New Years, and joyful celebrations of any holidays you commemorate.

Messaging on Issues Getting Even More Localized

The public polling industry has suffered several major setbacks over the past five or so election cycles because of perceived inaccuracies in aligning with actual election outcomes. While public opinion polling was created back in the 1930s, it was never intended to be a "predictive" tool for elections. But as polling evolved and polling methodologies were fine-tuned, public polling became very accurate in aligning with actual voting outcomes. Since the 2004 elections, using polling data to predict the outcome of elections has been in question. Public Opinion Polling in 2021 Campaigns and politicians still rely on polling to run their campaigns.  But in the 2021 election cycle, the problem for Democrat campaigns may have been that they either paid too little attention to the public polling numbers or they simply disregarded what the polls were revealing. In addition, the media's coverage of public polling data and their sponsorship of public polls for their news coverage have called into question the validity and reliability of these public opinion polls. Since this summer, and especially after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, both state and national polls showed personal and social issues taking on even more importance and urgency for many Americans. Many polls uncovered people's frustrations and fears about their personal health and safety even as far back as the Spring of 2021 (the one-year anniversary of the pandemic). Most national polls focused on President Biden and Congress versus state and local politics. This focus explains why some experts, pundits, and Democrats did not properly forecast or predict the very strong Republican showing in Virginia and New Jersey. Public Polls vs. In-House Polls As with most political campaigns, political consultants and campaign staff use public opinion polls and internal or in-house polls. In-house polls are designed differently and measure several different variables or motivations. There is a case to be made that today, in-house polling may be revealing more about the true sentiment and intensity in various statewide and federal races. Additionally, various digital marketing metrics are making it easier to understand how digital advertising, digital fundraising, and overall digital persuasion impact campaigns' "get out the message" and "get out the vote" performance. National Issues, Local Focus Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and his campaign staff must have paid much closer attention to their state polling data and the national polls on key issues.  The campaign team, led by Kristen Davison at Axiom, crafted messages that addressed those key issues – education, the economy, and personal wellbeing (whether that was related to COVID-19 or overall health issues). The Associated Press, using its AP VoteCast methodology, conducted polling in Virginia right up to Election Day and reported that the three top issues that concerned Virginians were: The Economy and Jobs: 37% (versus 24% nationally, according to October 2021 Gallup Poll statistics Coronavirus: 19% (versus 21% from Gallup Poll related to how the government is handling the COVID-19  response)Education: 17% (versus 1% nationally according to Gallup Poll) Governor-elect Youngkin used these key issues effectively in his speeches, digital marketing, and advertising. Looking Ahead From a polling point of view, there is still room to improve heading into the 2022 Election cycle for public opinion pollsters. The two key areas public opinion polling firms are trying to address and fix as quickly as possible are (1) getting people to participate in polls – which means getting much better at target audiences for participation and (2) asking new, better, and more predictive types of questions. For example, many polling firms use standard, "tried-and-true" questions in their polls, mainly to create consistency over time. But those questions are no longer as effective, accurate, or predictive. And they certainly do not measure the frustration and anger in the electorate.

Interpreting Reputation Management Analytics

The 4 C's of Reputation Management One of the most used quotes over the past 40 years is, "You can't manage what you can't measure." Hundreds of consulting firms have formed to address this quote – and to help leaders develop metrics and measures that can then lead to systems and processes to manage towards those metrics. Regardless of the mission of your organization or its size, reputation management matters. Reputation, like brand equity, is an asset. And the statistical science of quantifying reputation as an asset continues to evolve. This evolution and advancement has made reputation management services and measurement accessible and possible for all types of clients. The REAL key in today's frantic environment is knowing what to measure and then how to use those measures. Reputation management as a practice and profession continues to see an explosion of metrics and measures aimed at helping executives and entrepreneurs better manage overall reputation. From creating reputation dashboards to building reputation equity scores, the ways and methods to measure reputation are diversifying rapidly, causing confusion among many corporate communications practitioners and C-suite executives. The 4 C's Approach to Reputation Management Analysis Strategic advisory firms, lawyers, and c-level execs of small and medium-sized businesses face significant reputation management needs requiring honed expertise without an appetite for retaining public relations industry titans like Edelman or Brunswick Group. Everest Communications meets this need, specializing in providing guidance and reputation management analysis to communications teams, law firms, and directly to c-suite execs. So many of today's reputation metrics are either volumetrics (counting things) or simple math models that try to prove cause and effect (i.e., 10% of our Twitter followers retweeted our post, which got us even more visibility.) And the nature of many of these new measures lends itself to "simple math," which makes it easy to calculate and thus easy to justify the interpretation of the measures. But the simplicity of that math frequently hides or, worse, reduces the importance of the actual measure. Everest has adopted a 4 C's Approach to Reputation Management Analysis to provide decision-makers with comprehensive reputation analysis. The 4 C's framework provides a holistic approach incorporating calculations, content, context, and conclusions into your reputation management analysis. Reputation Management: Calculations We start with calculations - the math and the statistical modeling that goes into creating your company's key reputational measures. Some of the metrics are immediately available, and some take time to develop.  These calculations are often created externally (i.e., Net Promoter Score) and used either as a stand-alone metric or in other internal models. Calculations are also (1) subject to data that is available at any point, and time and (2) on the subject it is you need to measure. For example, internal metrics show a food company and its brands have strong reputation scores as measured by a number of external benchmarking sources. A product recall occurs because of contaminated products found in three states. The stock price drops, which many executives believe signals that harm is being done to the company's reputation. But other data collected reveal that consumers are not concerned, and the company's reputation is intact at this time. The challenge is to get calculations that allow for both immediacy and define what actions (or inactions) should take place. Reputation Management: Content The second C for reputation management is content. Being prepared to amplify or defend a reputation is almost a daily endeavor. "Walk the walk, talk the talk" is one of many quotes in modern management that say your content should be on display in your words and your actions. In this age of constant posts, replies, and shares, bad content is much more prevalent than good content, and that content negatively impacts reputation. We see this with the erosion of trust in so many institutions. One reason people lose trust in these institutions is the poor management of content across multiple channels. Reputation Management: Context Context is a critical element in reputation management analysis, especially when posting to social media and talking with journalists. Today, many incidents and episodes are looked at singularly or from within a bubble.  As a result, context is almost always missing or an afterthought. And the Covid crisis has shifted the way people interpret context. For Everest, context answers the question, "Why is this important enough for us to address and explain?" And there is a difference between explanations and excuses. For example, before Covid, scientists as a profession received some of the most stellar and highest trust scores. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies rated some of the worst reputations. Today, Big Pharma's reputation is much stronger as an industry in the context of vaccinations and rising to the occasion. At the same time, scientists have suffered a blow to the profession's reputation resulting from the inconsistency of their recommendations and their research. Reputation Management: Conclusions Finally, conclusions are Everest Communications' final C to reputation management analysis. Conclusions are simply the "take-aways" we get from the data. But in almost every case with reputation management metrics, all conclusions are subjective and open for challenge and debate. The main hurdle that most corporate communications professionals face is how entrenched a mindset can be, even in the face of overwhelming measurable evidence. Consider the following quote of sociologist Diane Vaughn's on executives surrendering their mental models take from a May 2002 Fortune Magazine article called "Why Companies Fail": "They (executives) may puzzle over contradictory evidence, but usually succeed in pushing it aside – until they come across a piece of evidence too fascinating to ignore, to clear to misperceive, too painful to deny, which makes vivid still other signals they do not want to see, forcing them to alter and surrender the world-view they have so meticulously constructed." Making Reputation Management Work to Your Benefit With so many communications channels, managing reputation takes on a new scope and new urgency. To successfully maintain, grow, and preserve reputations, adopting a simple and straightforward approach like the 4 C's of Reputation Management can save time, money, and a lot of headaches. The best approach is to be clear about how YOU calculate your reputation and how others do the same. The next is to make certain that your content and the context within which it is delivered are also clear. Content and context development happens naturally and deliberately, making it essential to balance and maximize both. And a firm like Everest Communications can be a valuable resource in working through content and context challenges.  And finally, challenge your assumptions about your reputation because that will help you draw better conclusions about how to grow and preserve your reputation. The 4 C's analysis framework of reputation management is a straightforward way to assess and act in ways that will build a positive reputation.