The volatility in the markets, spurred by political polarization, stakeholder ownership and greater insecurity on a global scale, is leaving brands more open to reputational risk. The number of PR professionals against journalists is on the rise. In 2018, this was an estimated 6 to 1 according Muck Rack. To reduce reputational risk, however, it is not so much about how many PR experts you hire to promote all the good you do, but about well you and they can identify and manage your reputational risk.
Reputational risk is intrinsically linked to your operational risk, but goes well beyond whether you have enough people to deliver your products and services. It extends to helping your stakeholders not simply like what you do, but engage with you in how you go about solving issues. Are you open to making changes? Are you working on getting better at certain things? Do they see you as ‘alive’ and ‘responsible’? Or are you stuck in your ways, not willing to move?
The Leadership Trap
What about that reputational risk associated with your leadership team? Their personal brand? How open is it to criticism? How likely to crumble under public scrutiny? Have they been trained well, not only in terms of how to speak to media, but how to use media tools, social media?
Your Staff and Training
As we open the door to greater stakeholder ownership, we also open the door to greater scrutiny. This also means that there are tighter restrictions on staff to comply with the corporate messaging. The reason for this, more than anything, is the porous nature of social media, which has become our main source of news and information.
It is easy to assume that giving staff stricter guidelines on what and what they cannot post on social media will solve matters, but neither the ‘laissez fair’ nor the ‘we will tell you what you can post’ approach will work. Brands likely to be the most successful in managing the ever increasing reputational risk stemming from social media will focus on educating staff, rather than dictating to them. As part of your employee engagement and reputation management strategy consider implementing the following:
Regular media training – social media training
Run regular media training. No, not the traditional media training, you might be thinking of, but media training which focuses on the use of media tools and the state of both The Media and Social Media. Help employees understand where information comes from, how it is filtered, how it is used for PR and how it is used to influence customers and, that means them. Help them understand their role in the reputation of the brand which is employing them.
Invite employees in
Invite them in and make them part of your campaigns. Not only are you creating a stronger brand affiliation inwardly, but you are strengthening your brand externally.
Staff messaging concerns
Get staff to share concerns they have about brand messaging, that be your own or messaging they are seeing again your brand. Consider these concerns and do not ignore them. Compare these to your analytics and look at any trends you might be able to detect in terms of stakeholder attitudes towards your brand.
And guidelines – you do need these
And yes, finally, do have guidelines on what staff can or cannot do in relation to your brand. It is important to clarify things like “if you are unhappy in your job, do not share this on social media….do this instead, do not use our brand name unless agreed, do not criticize our competitors on your social media accounts, do not criticize our customers or any business partners on your social media accounts or in any comments… etc.. Make sure to include these points in your media training and employee manuals. Make it part of your obligatory training and refresh often.
Naval Gazing – break free from it
The greatest mistake in reputational risk management is navel gazing. Invite others in and do not assume you know all there is to know about your reputational risk. Ask stakeholders in for regular conversations around what they perceive or think about your brand. Take note. Invite external advisors in on a regular basis to challenge your team on where the reputational risk might be and whether you are ready. And when you do that, make sure you do that in collaboration with your own CMO or CCO or Head of PR. Don’t override them. That, in itself, would certainly be a bad reputational move.
To find out more about how Zeitgeist Communication Ltd. can support your Reputation Management, contact us at email@example.com or contact our CEO, Jutta Devenish via LinkedIn.