Image Repair 101

Class, today we’re going to examine how and why our country’s image and reputation is so poor in most countries around the world. We’ll also be discussing how we might begin to turn our negative image around, perhaps by drawing on case study examples from the private sector. As you know, these are key discussion points in our Image Repair 101 syllabus.

Before we examine the root causes of our country’s poor image, however, let’s discuss yesterday’s Senate vote to begin regulating the detention, interrogation and treatment of prisoners held by the American military.

Despite vehement White House opposition, 90 of 99 senators passed the new measure, which is great. It’s a smart, first step in what will surely be a very long road toward restoring our country’s image abroad. With these new guidelines in place, we should see much less abuse of the type inflicted by Lynndie England  and her cohorts at Abu Ghraib prison, and much more of the caring and compassion our country had hitherto been known for.

And, class, looking at the private sector for a second, how long do you think the average CEO would hold onto her/his job by totally ignoring the organization’s image in key markets? Does anyone believe that alienating potential partners and customers is a smart way to transact business or to create positive goodwill for your institution? Hmmm, no hands are being raised. 

Now that the Senate has brought clarity to how our military should be treating prisoners of war, let’s hope that the House of Representatives follows suit so we can put this measure into effect. Then, maybe, we can move on and explore other ways to improve our country’s image abroad. One smart step might be to appoint a senior public relations executive to a post specifically designed to accomplish that goal. White House crony Karen Hughes was recently appointed to do something akin to that task, but seems to be stumbling badly in her efforts to connect with the Arab world.  That’s probably because she doesn’t possess decades of relevant experience undertaking similar image repair assignments for corporate clients.

So, does anyone have additional thoughts? What else can we do? Ah, there’s the bell. Tomorrow, let’s discuss the image and reputation implications of a CEO’s appointing senior-ranking executives with no relevant experience to highly visible posts.

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