New and Emerging Issues in Reputation Management

New Opportunities for Practice Areas

More and more issues are emerging that are affecting reputation. These include sexual misconduct in the workplace, state capture, diversity, inclusion, corruption, fake news, power politics, cyber risk and school safety.

The phrase ‘STATE CAPTURE’ was awarded ‘word of the year’ by eNCA who claims the phrase was used more than 20,231 times in over 11,000 South African newspapers. The saga certainly points to lobbying being taken to a new level, and the misuse of power and influence. The #GuptaLeaks scandal has resulted in widespread turmoil, annihilating and, embarrassing organisations and individuals and who knows what will emerge from the continuing investigations.

Rogue Professional Services firm Bell Pottinger certainly dented the PR Industry’s Reputation, and its demise has certainly hastened the adoption of the Helsinki Declaration.

The Helsinki Declaration is a set of principles aimed at uniting the global PR industry under a single banner of ethical behaviour. It calls on members to stand by the 10 principles including to observe the highest professional standards in the practice of public relations and communications. I hope PR companies have shared this with their staff members and will include adherence to it in performance reviews.

The fallout from the Weinstein sexual misconduct revelations has resulted in the #MeToo campaign which hit worldwide mainstream headlines with more and more people coming to the fore with facts and allegations.

Even Weber Shandwick has recruited Tai Wingfield, corporate communications chief of the Center for Talent Innovation, to run its newly formed diversity, equity and inclusion practice.

The firm says that strategies it will employ include: raising awareness and understanding around the business case for diversity; navigating culture change and transformation; communicating around complex social issues and demonstrating an organization’s commitment to advancing DEI. “We are integrating our world-class expertise in employee engagement, corporate reputation, social impact, high-impact marketing programs and the DEI landscape to help clients deliver on this important opportunity,” said WS CEO Andy Polansky.

Unfortunately getting involved in highly charged political and social issues, come with risk as this leading article “CEOs Choose Sides on Gun Control at Their Own Risk – CEOs feel pressure from younger, digitally savvy consumers and from employees to take a stand on issues, but corporate reputation can suffer” point out.

What is your take on Gun violence? And your company’s view on it? What are you saying to your clients?

Safety and Security is part of Crisis Planning, Issues Management and Compliance and can most certainly impact Reputation.

Reputation Risk research shows that reputation damage is often caused by poor leadership, lack of compliance and culture issues. Various disciplines are involved in managing these domains and a way should be found to overcome silo management and centralize reputation management. One way is to form a Reputation Risk Committee whose sole aim should be to protect trust, integrity and brand reputation. Mail me for a suggested structured agenda for such a committee to follow.

Since many reputation risks emerge in the “personality” part of an organisation – the culture of the organisation it is therefore imperative for OD and PR experts to work closely together if you want to create a robust reputation risk assurance framework for an organisation. For instance compliance to Sarbanes-Oxley and various corporate governance codes are essential but if the culture of the organisation is one of being unethical, not stakeholder focused and inward focused, then gaps will occur.

Decision-making remains a problem in South Africa. There seems to be a real lack and grasp of looking systemically at issues. The Life Esedemi court case has really exposed a lack of caring, attention and monitoring by Government officials.

The cold and ruthless behavior and lack of compassion and accepting accountability by the Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu is an example of the necessity of OD practitioners to do more work on corporate culture, coaching of leaders and internal communication.

I cannot believe that I wrote this in August 2012 but the message “Executives Need to Learn a New Style of Decision-making” certainly resonates with what is happening in the country, me thinks – What do you think?

A good read in this regard is the article What Are the Real Lessons of the Wells Fargo Case? From Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

Reputation drives sustainability not just profitability. Brands no longer have the option to be silent on divisive social issues, according to the fourth iteration of FleishmanHillard’s Authenticity Gap report, but it comes with risk and opportunity.