AUTHOR: Gregory Monk
Vardags is a leading UK law firm offering world-class expertise in corporate and commercial legal issues. We recognise that companies require more than just legal advice – when it comes to scaling up, they benefit from a unique and dynamic multi-disciplinary offering which provides powerful support in all areas of their business. The Vardags multi-disciplinary offering not only includes the full ambit of private corporate work but combines the unrivalled expertise of our Reputation and Privacy and Commercial and Civil litigation teams, ensuring 360° outstanding strategic solutions for your business.
To quote Benjamin Franklin, “it takes many good deeds to build a reputation and only one bad one to lose it”. This maxim rings particularly true today where reputations are made and lost in moments online making any ‘fall from grace’ a particularly instantaneous one.
Equally important is knowing in advance who to turn to for advice should any crisis arise – very often timing is absolutely critical and often time is wasted, and damage done that could otherwise have been avoided had the company being able to act more decisively by getting the right advice quicker.
It is important to note the difference between risk and crisis management – both of which are extremely important for individuals and companies alike and can make or break a new business. As the Harvard Business Review reported: the problem with most companies is that they poorly manage their reputations by only responding to a crisis once surfaced, and not acting towards the identification of risk and prevention before. This reactive stance can prove extremely costly for new and upcoming businesses, whose lesser established reputations may well be harder to salvage. Because of this, it is extremely important to invest time and money into reputation management practices which are as proactive as they are reactive.
Start-ups and SMEs are much less likely than larger, established companies to have in-house teams dedicated to monitoring reputational risk. Carrying out these assessments on a consistent basis is, however, hugely important as a means of prevention. New businesses should therefore look into outsourcing this task, which involves the likes of:
Public opinion polls / surveys / focus groups
There are a number of reputation monitoring systems currently on the market that can be used by new companies, including Google Alerts, TalkWalker and SEMRush.
It is also crucial, in the same vein, to monitor company culture and employee satisfaction – both of which can pose a threat to company reputation should internal communications and relations sour. Like external monitoring, these assessments can also be achieved by way of consistent surveys, alongside the likes of:
Open door policies which encourage reporting of complaints
Maintaining transparency of the organisation’s goals and values, namely through internal communications
Actively celebrating the success of individuals/teams
Employing an individual who has continual oversight of the above or at the very least making sure that these issues are considered actively by management from the outset.
Online employee review sites like Glassdoor are also a useful early warning system for employee dissatisfaction.
Building and maintaining a strong reputation also involves staying above the ‘awareness threshold’. Again, businesses without the in-house support to drive positive press may well benefit from outsourcing this task, using a media agency who can scope opportunities and facilitate placements in regional, national and international news outlets depending on your needs.
Protecting against cyber risks should also be a priority for all companies, as the theft of corporate, customer and employee data will not only significantly impact business performance but also reputation – especially if handled badly Cyber security risks are becoming ever more sophisticated and can exist across a whole range of company practices - from emails to online transactions - so it is best to be agile and aware in the face of threats. This is especially the case for newer and smaller companies who may be working without formal and secure infrastructure at the beginning.
Start-ups and SMEs without established security systems should consider external companies who, with specialist intelligence, can assist your company in managing these threats and onboarding any new technology/processes to facilitate this. This includes the likes of:
Proper contracts of employment in place from the outset of a business
Company-wide procedures and IT security systems to advise and identify threats
Close monitoring of internal systems and applications
Employee encouragement to report suspicious activity
Cyber threat intelligence reports which monitor the general risk environment
Digital security training for employees
Given the ever-increasing amount of cyber-crime and fraud, it is also important to have these processes consistently reviewed and updated.
Even with preventative measures in place, sometimes the worst can and do happen so knowing what to do in advance is vital. Crises do not always have to spell disaster, and with efficient and strategic action, reputational damage can be minimised and rectified. The best businesses learn from such crises and come out with their reputation intact, if not enhanced, by quick and effective action.
It can nonetheless be overwhelming for a start-up or SME when disaster strikes, and so it is strongly recommended that businesses instruct a team who, with extensive expertise and experience in reputation crises, can take rapid and affirmative action to deal with and dispel any potential damage.
The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.