Part one can be found here.
6. In your opinion, how do you distinguish between worst-case reputation loss versus expected reputation loss?
Richard Levick: One word – experience. That’s how you anticipate what’s coming next and prevent the worst-case scenario from coming to fruition. It’s all about staying one step ahead.
Today, the period of time between the gating event that alerts you to a brand crisis and the bet-the-company moment is increasingly indistinguishable. When video of two Domino’s employees defiling customers’ food was posted to YouTube earlier this year, one million people – a number greater than those who subscribe to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal – had viewed it within the first 48 hours. What that tells us is that crises now move faster than ever before and that companies have to be ready to act at moment’s notice. That means preventing and responding to reputational risks and crisis needs to be in the DNA. You don’t get that by accident. Or maybe you do, but at a terribly high price.
To do it right and prepare ahead of time means knowing what regulators, Congress, or state attorneys generals are going to do next. It means anticipating the next moves of the plaintiffs’ bar. It means monitoring the blogosphere and other social and digital media for intelligence as to where the traditional media may soon be heading. It means identifying likely company risks now and extrapolating what this means in terms of Search Engine Optimization, High Authority Bloggers, and social media. If you are reading this last sentence and don’t understand what I mean, your company is at far greater risk than you think.
To get started, build a relationship with crisis managers now – before you need them – so that you can build the trust that fast action demands. In crisis, you’ve got to see how the dominos – no pun intended – are lined up and know how they’re going to fall. It’s the only way to keep up with a news cycle that is now measured in minutes, not hours.
7. What are the key controls an information security risk analyst should take into consideration when assessing reputation loss impact (or magnitude)?
Richard Levick: With virtually every traditional journalists now regularly reading blogs for story ideas, careful monitoring of the blogosphere provides invaluable intelligence as to the scope of the reputational damage that may result from IT security breach.
That means knowing the high-authority bloggers – those with the greatest influence over perceptions – that cover your industry. And it also means being ready to engage them should a data breach occur. By bringing bloggers into the fold, companies allow themselves an opportunity to shape the narrative before it influences the traditional commentary to follow – and thus limit the reputational damage potential at play.
8. Do you have any tips for effectively communicating reputation risk to middle management and executive leadership?
Richard Levick: In today’s media environment, the C-Suite has to know that everything it does – or chooses not to do – can potentially impact the corporate brand. That means always thinking like your consumers, investors, regulators, and stakeholders that run the gamut – and taking their perceptions into consideration whenever a decision that could potentially impact these audiences is made.
I think middle managers need to own issues like understanding who the High Authority Bloggers are and having personal relationships; anticipating risks and knowing who controls those terms on the search engines; tracking YouTube, Twitter, and other sites for signs of consumer or stockholder dissatisfaction or industry unrest; and recommending instant positive intervention. Middle managers need to think differently. Today is a good day to start.
9. Do you have a favorite reputation risk engagement that you are willing to share (regardless of outcome)?
Richard Levick: I often look back to what Hasbro did during the 2007 lead-paint scare because it demonstrates how a crisis can be transformed into opportunity if a company articulates leadership in solving the problems at hand.
While Hasbro did not initiate a single recall during the lead paint crisis, the company recognized that its entire industry was under siege. Inaction could have led to guilt by association in the Court of Public Opinion. More important, remaining on the sidelines could have allowed a significant opportunity to differentiate itself from the competition to slip by.
So, rather than sit back and let the competition take the heat, Hasbro stepped up by implementing a “Total Safety Program” and making the initiative a central element of its traditional and online marketing strategies. As a result, the company became the “gold standard” around which all of its competitors were forced to rally. Though it wasn’t directly impacted by the crisis, Hasbro took action to abate it. As a result, its October 2007 earnings jumped 64 percent from the previous year.
10. Are there any good sources of information you can recommend for learning more about this subject?
Richard Levick: I would point to four such resources maintained by my firm…
Levick Strategic Communications’ Bulletproof Blog™ (www.bulletproofblog.com)…
Our e-newsletter, High Stakes™ (http://www.levick.com/resources/highstakes/)…
Our Crisis Communications Desk Reference (http://www.levick.com/crisis_communications_desktop_reference/)…
And our book, Stop The Presses (http://www.levick.com/resources/books/stop_the_presses/).
Also, I would encourage your readers to keep an eye out for our next book, on leadership during crisis in the digital age, which will be coming out in early 2010.
I intend on posting some of my thoughts on Richard’s answers in an upcoming post. I hope you found Mr. Levick’s perspective to be as useful and intriguing as I do. Regardless, thank you Richard for participating in this effort; I look forward to continued interactions.