Reputation Risk Antennae
I guess there is something for everyone and every profession. I have blogged before about reputationdefender. The company (whose slogan is “watch your back”) helps individuals and families defend their reputations by getting negative comments taken down from the Internet, lowered in the search rankings or explained more accurately. They counsel individual and organizations on strategies for removing harmful information which is ultimately a good thing. Now there is politiciandefender.com for those politicos who need to counter negative or untrue bloggerisms with truthful messages. As the site says, “The program is designed to build personal branding online and minimize harmful blog posts that would influence an election. Our company allows politicians to hire our bloggers to create posts on social media venues and blogs throughout the Internet in an effort to get the target message across.” In essence, the company will counterpunch or should I say counterpost right back when a politician’s reputation is being pummeled. I guess there truly is something for everyone and expect soon to see celebritydefender, professordefender, prdefender, lawyerdefender, doctordefender, cashierdefender, computerhelplinedefender, etc. You see where this is going.
On another subject, I am often asked what companies should do to reduce their ever-mounting reputation risk. As corruption, fraud, recalls, security breaches, tainted products and financial wrongdoing continues to escalate, one idea that deserves serious consideration is assigning reputation risk responsibilities to company boards, officers or outside firms. UBS recently announced that they would establish a stand-alone risk committee as part of their board restructuring. This committee would be responsible for assessing and being informed about management’s strategy for monitoring and managing corporate reputation threats. Financial Week has an excellent article by Jeff Nash on how companies are now in the hunt for hiring chief risk officers and fully understanding their own risk scenarios today. He quotes Spencer Stuart who told him that only 3% of S&P 500 companies had stand-alone risk committees as of 2007. That is not encouraging. Apparently Bear Stearns and Northern Rock had separate board risk committees which does not fill me with much confidence that they work as well as they should.
So what are the alternatives? I like the other ideas that surfaced in Nash’s article. Pitney Bowes reportedly has a list of 60 risk categories which are assigned to individuals who report about them to a board committee. Pitney Bowes thinks that when a particular risk or two is assigned to an individual, they are more likely to be accountable and take this oversight seriously. I agree that being able to focus on a few risks makes more sense in determining threat-levels than having to worry about 60+ risks all at once. The article also raises an idea from a governance expert who suggests that a non-board risk committee comprised of select company executives and outside risk experts could work. I definitely see value in that idea as well because outside points of view are often critical in shaking up organizations who are rightfully concentrating on the next quarter and next customer demand. It is not easy.
Risk radar is increasingly imperative today. Have no doubt about it.