Reputation Risk Management Not Rocket Science

Michael D. Moberly   September 24, 2014   ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

Reputation risk management is not rocket science…

Company reputation risk represents a phenomenon which I believe most would agree, seldom needs to rise to the level of ‘rocket science’! Instead, reputation risk prevention, mitigation, and management require, among other things, consistency in…

  • in product-service design, content, production, and delivery.
  • processes for monitoring and responding to consumer-stakeholder likes-dislikes, i.e., opinions and criticisms without conveying sense of superiority, condescension, or indifference.
  • anticipating origins and motives for reputation risks to materialize.

In most instances I believe, if a company’s reputation risk antenna are raised, and its radar is functioning effectively and both pointed toward customers, consumers, stakeholders, and horizontal risks, management teams can become aware of and assess various risks before or as they emerge, in other words at the earliest stages of (reputation risk) materialization.

One need not look far today…

One need not look far to observe the costly and often times irreversible remnants of fully materialized reputation risks that have gone unabated and enveloped companies, unfortunately, but frequently owing to various combinations of sight – hearing challenged management teams and occasional self-deluded wishful thinking combined with optically arrogant produced initiatives believed would improve and/or mitigate the circumstances.

Awkward and disingenuous…

Unfortunately, in numerous instances, and quite needlessly, when company reputation risks emerge, then materialize, the initial response appears awkward and disingenuous and must be ‘walked backed’ which collectively conveys to constituents whom the appeals are directed, a sense of unpreparedness, ineptness, and/or poor or non-existent counsel.

Again, when this occurs, company management teams have engaged in a substantial disservice to their cause, particularly if they assume thestakeholders, consumers, customers, and the multiple media and social media platforms whom they are endeavoring to message, are incapable of independent interpretation and assessment of a spokesperson’s artfully nuanced reputation risk mitigation language.

Did they really say that…?

With respect to the numerous (company) reputation risk events that have emerged in recent weeks and months, many have prompted me to ask…

  • did she really just say that?
  • didn’t she allow a trusted advisor to review her media language for alternative interpretations before rushing to a podium?
  • how could she and her management team not have foreseen that when ‘x’ events, acts, and/or behaviors occur, it often produces fertile ground for risks to emerge that will simultaneously produce adverse affects to reputation, image, brand, etc.

Reputation risk Watergate style…

If a company spokesperson’s initial response to a materialized reputation risk suggests the event act, or behavior which precipitated the present risk is the first, I am inclined to be suspect of that management teams’ reputation risk monitoring obligation. So, in many respects, it appears that reputation risk inquiries have often boiled down to three of the more memorable questions posed to witnesses during the U.S. Senate’s ‘Watergate’ hearings held in 1973, that is

  • what did you know?
  • when did you know it?, and
  • what did you do about it once you knew it?

Granted, with few obvious exceptions, materialized reputation risks to companies seldom draw the ire of Congress to the point of holding a hearing and subpoenaing c-suites to testify and account.

Company leadership proficiencies…

Company leadership and their designee’s are obliged now to be proficient insofar as anticipating, monitoring, and responding to reputation risks. One, among numerous reasons is that for company management teams which have had the wisdom, foresight, and good fortune to have ‘banked’ portions of constituent trust and goodwill and allow it to accumulate, all-the-while recognizing that their ‘bank balance’ can rapidly be depleted when substantial reputation risks emerge and the company’s responses to the ‘Watergate style’ questions described above prove disappointing, e.g., leadership ‘first responders’ convey…

  • indifference and awkwardness with respect to possessing the professional demeanor and fortitude to effectively and favorably articulate the situation and direct the company to favorable reputational normalcy.
  • ignorance as to the speed which reputation risks can emerge, materialize, and escalate only to claim insufficient time to conduct an investigation and respond accurately to the inevitable questions.

At minimum, the above, are preludes to commencing the costly and lengthy road to restore even partial recovery and replenish a company’s bank balance of trust, goodwill, and expectations!

C-suites should expect…

When substantial reputation risks strike a company its prudent for c-suites to expect consumers, stakeholders, the mainstream and social media respectively, to press for straight talk and transparency because each affected constituent group has become quite adept at dissecting and assessing a spokesperson’s authenticity and the validity of their responses, i.e., admissions of initial bungling, promises of future corrective action, and ‘throwing the most notorious violators farther and farther under the bus’.

Company reputations’ unraveling before our eyes…

Unfortunately, it has become far to routine to witness companies’ demise, i.e., their reputation unraveling before our eyes. And, we seldom have to wait very long to witness the next victim of usually a self-inflicted reputation risk wound. Also, many company management teams now understand the origins and costly remnants of materialized reputation risks, particularly those which have been shabbily handled through a combination of…

  • naiveté or wishful thinking
  • optically arrogant or indifferent statements.

In many respects, it appears for some company leaders, their initial action or inaction to a materialized reputation risk may ignite an already smoldering set of circumstances along with a pessimistically receptive constituent culture.

As always, reader comments are welcome.


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