5 Possible Threats to Your Reputation & How to Manage Them

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 20/04/2022 | 11:15

You’re only too aware of your personal reputation. It affects everything you do in your professional life, and possibly in your personal life too. You can’t escape it. Your organization isn’t any different. In fact, its reputation is arguably even more important than your own. Once that’s gone, it’s a long road to earn back your customers’ trust, to say nothing of attracting new ones.


That’s why it’s so important to stay one step ahead of potential threats to your reputation — and to know how to manage them when they become impossible to avoid. The decisions your firm makes in response to an urgent threat to its reputation could echo for years to come.

To understand the stakes, you need only to look at the divergent paths taken by firms affected by the same crisis. Take the response of Asiaciti Trust and other affected organizations to the Pandora Papers, an unauthorized data release that affected thousands of the firms’ clients. Asiaciti Trust navigated the treacherous waters of often-sensational media coverage and proactively addressed legitimate questions about its activities — emerging stronger from the ordeal. Other affected firms weren’t so deft, and many continue to struggle with reputational challenges.

It’s clear which path you should choose. Let’s review some possible threats to your firm’s standing and how you can prepare for them.


1. Unauthorized Data Releases and Intrusions

The unauthorized data release that affected Asiaciti Trust and others was just the latest in a long line of such events, including the Panama Papers and LuxLeaks. These things happen with alarming regularity despite the best efforts of “white hat” cyber security professionals to stop them.

Because it’s not possible to guarantee protection against unauthorized data intrusions, it’s important that you have a plan to address the fallout.

This requires an honest and perhaps painful inventory of your firm’s reputational vulnerabilities. In other words, what information would do the most damage to your public standing were it to get out? Build your response plan backward from there with a focus on positive messaging.


2. Personal Data Breaches That Affect the General Public

If your firm is identified as a source of financial or personal data that’s compromised or released to the public, it risks earning notoriety — deserved or not — as a firm that doesn’t take security seriously.

This is much easier to prevent than to undo. But, as with unauthorized data intrusions, you don’t always have the luxury of avoiding these events. Sophisticated threat actors tend to get their way.

The playbook here is a bit different, but the big picture is the same: You need to restore your reputation as an organization people can feel comfortable about doing business with.


3. Publicly Visible Lawsuits and Threats of Legal Action

The mere fact that you’re a party to a lawsuit does not mean that you’ve engaged in wrongdoing, or that your organization is worthy of a higher standard of scrutiny. People and corporations sue firms all the time.

That’s not how the average consumer sees things, of course. Following a few well-placed, negative-in-tone news items about the suit, your standing in the marketplace will be worse than before. You need to move quickly to tell your side of the story without jeopardizing your legal defense.


4. Public Posting by Disgruntled Current or Former Employees

This is the sort of informal threat to your reputation that you may be inclined to dismiss, even disparage.

You shouldn’t. Disgruntled current or former employees often tell compelling stories, especially if they’re willing to attach a name to their criticism. Monitor employer review websites like Glassdoor and Indeed as closely as you monitor your social media mentions; you’ll catch wind of potentially damaging criticism faster in these environments.

If you can’t resolve the issue privately, be prepared to tell your story in public, provided doing so doesn’t jeopardize ongoing litigation.


5. Social Media Gaffes by Employee or Corporate Accounts

This type of reputational threat might not relate directly to your business. Unfortunately, because your employees’ social media accounts — and certainly your corporate accounts — implicitly or explicitly represent your brand, you don’t have the luxury of ignoring them. An off-color (or worse) remark represents a serious threat to your corporate reputation, and you need to respond accordingly.


Your Reputation Is Your Most Important Asset. Protect It.

This isn’t an overstatement. Your reputation really is your organization’s most important asset. Intangible and difficult to value, yes, but absolutely irreplaceable.

Once it’s gone, there’s no guarantee it will come back. And even minor dings can harm your standing with the people responsible for your existence — your clients, customers, shareholders, employees.

You can’t guarantee that you’ll never face an urgent threat to your firm’s reputation. But you can anticipate these threats and prepare to repel them. The stakes are too high not to do everything in your power.

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