Sony Pictures, Is This The Type of Reputation Risk We Can Now Expect?

Michael D. Moberly   December 18, 2014    ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

I am frustrated about how to describe the adverse events – acts that have been perpetrated against Sony Pictures of late. To be sure, reputation risks materialize daily and will likely remain, in this instance, indeterminately active for months to come insofar as publicly releasing additional documents that produce titillating economic – competitive advantage harm. The bad actors in this instance, presumably North Korean or a confederate, are responsible for perpetrating this calamity are certainly not exhibiting the conventional, ‘smash, grab, and disappear’ MO we have become somewhat accustom.

It’s clear the extent which these events constitute a massive and criticality filled (reputation) risk and irreparable economic – competitive advantage harm at various levels, not just to Sony Pictures, but also to Sony’s personnel and management teams whose private information and communications have been exposed.

But this event has also produced substantial spillover to the film industry in general in terms of exposing the inner workings of various film studios as a whole, i.e., exposing proprietary – competitive advantage (operational) information and communications for anyone so inclined or titillated to read, interpret, and disseminate at will.

Through my lens however, the Sony Pictures’ event has far exceeded the conventional boundaries (of reputation risk) that typically affect one company at a time, to being on par with the sector wide revelations and reputation risks incurred by the financial services sector in 2006 – 2008.

It should now be evident, even for management teams unaccustomed to the operational realities of intangible assets insofar as their contributory value to company reputation, regardless how, why, where, or by whom the risks originate and their adverse affects. There is little question, these companies should be reaching out to genuine reputation risk management specialists, not merely repurposed public relations professionals.

Aside from the long assumed and now widely reported connection of the Sony Pictures’ event to the North Korean government or a surrogate, at least one aspect that distinguishes this from others before it, is it is one of the initial, if not the first large scale attack perpetrated against an enterprise in the ‘creative sector’ which unlike financial services, has some legitimate and perhaps even Constitutional grounds for doing what it did, i.e., produce a comedic motion picture that about one of the most image conscious and sensitive countries in the world with whom an expected and aggressive response exceeds a mere probability to perhaps an inevitability.

Creatively, I suspect Sony Pictures, unlike Robert Oglethorpe photographs in the 1990’s, can expect it’s response to be measured somewhat because, after all, ‘the interview’ was conceived and produced as a comedy and movie goers generally enjoy comedies often irrespective of how their laughter is designed to be achieved.


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