Reputation crisis? What crisis?

Insight

The most striking news from SenateSHJ’s latest survey of attitudes to managing reputation in a crisis is how keen CEOs are on the issue, but how little they’ve done about it.

While nine out of 10 get that reputation is their greatest asset, only a third say they have a communication plan in place. It gets worse: only a third of these are confident their plan will work. So 90 per cent don’t have a plan that they think is fit for purpose!

We’ve been doing this survey for a decade. In 2010, most CEOs said reputation risks were rising, and six out of ten admitted that managing reputation was very difficult. There can be no doubt that managing the unknown or extremely unlikely isn’t going to float a lot of boats in the board room. At least, not until the iceberg turns up.

Back in 2010, we said it was worrying that 40 per cent of CEOs didn’t regularly discuss how to manage their reputation. Fast forward to 2019 and CEOs think it’s harder than ever and their confidence to do so is diminishing. So much for the ability to harness social media effectively.

Today, a host of technology-related trends make it almost impossible to know where to look for the next public outcry. If Donald Trump was right about one thing, it was pointing the finger at “fake news”. In truth, it is not so much fake news as the ability for anyone to make claims that will grab the attention of some pressure group, or other, and make life difficult for some organisation, or other. We expect this to get worse as people use technology to mimic and masquerade as others.

So what are CEOs doing about this?  Not much, it seems.

According to Deloitte UK figures, 40 per cent of CEOs have discussed reputation risk in the previous year. Half lack processes to identify events and signals that can damage the organisation’s reputation. And 70 per cent don’t report to senior management on “culture and conduct” risks. In other words, the situation is worse now than it was 10 years ago in New Zealand and Australia.

PwC boss John Terry reckons reputation risk is a new phenomenon. Sorry, John, this has been lying in wait for decades while management consultants looked the other way. Sadly, it seems CEOs have been doing the same thing.