You better be Awake: Searching for Vulnerabilities

Business vision

A major activity of reputation management is surveillance of the internal and external environment. 

That’s what journalists do to report on the news. The chief reason reputation managers need to do it is to search for areas of vulnerabilities. To search for potential issues, trends, patterns or events that might harm the organization’s reputation.

To protect your organisation’s reputation, managers need to be interested in certain kinds of information about their organization’s environment, including some of the following information:

  • What are the burning issues in your industry?
  •  Which stakeholders are in a position to help or hurt the organization? The list should include conventional stakeholders, e.g., stockholders, employers, community citizens, government officials, as well as activist groups in the so-called third sector that seek to change corporate behaviour.
  • What opinions do these stakeholders -and the general public-hold toward the organisation?
  • Are attitudes generally favourable or unfavourable? What are their expectations of the organization? Do they feel the organizations measure up to these expectations?
  • If not, how strongly do they feel about the gap between expectations and performances?
  • What actions, if any, are they likely to take?
  • What is the media saying about your organization and industry, etc? 

In addition to monitoring the external socio-political environment, reputation managers should examine data from a variety of internal feedback systems. These data may be collected by the public relations department or by a lateral staff organization such as the personnel/industrial relations, consumer affairs, or investor relations department. For example, employee relations indices could include a high number of grievances, a high turnover rate or even litigation cases.

To close the gap or feedback loop I would certainly urge Reputation managers to establish close links with the Risk Department, Internal Auditors and Compliance Officers in the organisation. Often these are the individuals that uncover areas what I would call smouldering crises – any serious business problem which is not generally known within or without the organisation, which may generate negative news coverage and reputational damage if or when it goes "public" and could result in fines, penalties or unbudgeted expenses, loss of business and destruction of relationships.

You should also create checklists of the questions you want to ask. Here is a partial checklist example:

  • Create checklists for sensitive spots where anticipation can help prepare your organization to combat trouble.
  • Do your homework on current events. Check your organization for the troubles besetting other companies in the news. 
  • j0430721Scanning online and other media aggressively, and in adversary mode, looking for areas on which your company can be attacked, including possible actions, attitudes and policies. 
  • Keep updated on, and check your vulnerability on new laws, regulations, SHE developments, BEE developments, stakeholder expectations, market trends, financial trends. I use tools such as Google’s News Alerts and various search engines especially meta search engines like Pandia Powersearch to keep myself update.
  • Use Social Media monitoring tools such as trackur and others
  • I also use a brilliant program called FeedDemon that in my mind is the best RSS Newsreader program available. It enables me to set up feeds of my interest sites so that I am always up to date with what is happening out there.

What are you doing to stay aware?

Years ago, Watts Whacker, the futurist was asked more about his profession in the Fast Company magazine (Dec & Jan 1997 issue). This is what he said:

"A traveller encounters the Buddha on the road and asks him. "Are you a deity?

Buddha says no. "Are you a saint? Buddha says no.

"Are you a prophet?" Buddha says no. Exasperated the traveller says:

"Then what are you?"

Buddha answers:" I’m awake"

How awake are you? Do you know the latest trends in your market?

What about your company’s reputation? What smouldering crises are there in your business, ready to destroy your careful crafted reputation?

You better be awake.