Save Your Reputation: Get ahead of the threat

IABC Web Project International Conf NYC June 2008

Heath Applebaum

Your organization is at risk, whether you know it or not. The digital age is unleashing a mass of potential threats to your company’s reputation and communicators must prepare for battle. Enter Heath Applebaum, international crisis and reputation management expert, and speaker at this year’s World Conference.

According to Applebaum, no one is safe from assaults on reputation. Every organization, from small businesses to multinational corporations, could face a public relations challenge from anyone with a social media account and a desire to disparage a company’s name.

“Armed with smartphones and often cloaked in anonymity, vocal reputation assassins are everywhere and now have the means to spread rumors and report things instantaneously to massive audiences,” says Applebaum. This recent development has caught many organizations off-guard and too many executives and managers are not modifying their operations to address this change.

Applebaum has three basic tips for protecting your organization’s reputation:

1. Collaborate: It’s essential for everyone inside an organization to be engaged. Staying connected to marketing, PR, legal, IT, operations, sales and customer service can dramatically reduce reputational risk.
2. Monitor what is being said: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure and monitor, so invest in a technology solution that will give you the information you need to make informed decisions.”
3. Prepare for the inevitable: Understanding how your organization operates, what it needs to succeed, and industry trends will help you anticipate conflict and respond appropriately.

Gone are the days when reputation management meant choosing a message or image to associate with your organization then blasting it to the media. PR professionals no longer control the message and, as customer experience management resource InsideCXM writes on its website, “Imagery is still important, but your company’s reputation is even more important because the consumer now controls the conversation around that reputation.”

Today digital assailants are lurking at every corner, and as a communicator you are responsible for ensuring they don’t infiltrate your organization. “As the primary guardians of reputation, professional communicators are expected to provide 360-degree surveillance to effectively monitor, anticipate, prepare and respond to damaging issues and rumors before they escalate,” says Applebaum.

His session at World Conference in June, called “Reputation 360,” will discuss examples of the emergence of digital reputation threats and give communicators advice on protecting reputations on- and off-line.