Our latest eBook, A Guide to Reputation Management & Risk Communications, features an eleven-part series of articles on the topic of forecasting, analyzing, preparing for and avoiding risk of crisis-level events. Read the foreword below, written by Arvin Maskin, Partner and Practice Leader, Global Enterprise Risk & Crisis Management at Mayer Brown LLP.
How do we adapt and thrive in the “new normal,” with all of its dynamic challenges and ever-changing global threats — and to do so with your brand, reputation, goodwill, operations, finances and culture intact? That is what is expected by shareholders, investors, employees, business partners, regulators, the communities in which you operate and the public at large. Against the current backdrop of geopolitical upheaval, cyber and ransomware attacks, data breaches, global pandemics and natural disasters, severe supply chain disruption, the emergence of ESG and the rise of stakeholder (investor, employee and consumer) activism, economic uncertainty and labor unrest, the spread and persistence of disinformation and the participation of various social media platforms, among others, as accelerants, it has become a fundamental notion and expectation of corporate governance and stewardship for business managers to be less reactive, and more predictive, preventative and proactive.
The fact is, all companies are vulnerable to crisis-level events, which can present all of a sudden, with or without warning, on multiple fronts, often simultaneously. Key facts surrounding such events may be unknown, uncertain or rapidly evolving; compounded by the potential loss of control, and the risk of operational, financial and reputational harm — worldwide. And, besides the “fallout” from the event itself, all of the related decisions by management before, during and since the event, will be subject to intense scrutiny by those inside and outside the company, including the media, regulators, shareholders, customers and competitors.
The articles which follow present many of the fundamentals of reputation management, and the process of building a culture of risk avoidance and institutional resilience. They reveal more than salient approaches to forecasting, analyzing, preparing for and avoiding risk of a crisis-level event. They illustrate how you can leverage the lessons of history, as well as recent events, to help visualize and contextualize the likelihood and scope of potential threats, and to help generate options for evidence-based decision-making, which is the key to weathering any threat scenario.
Reputation management is comprised of sophisticated communications expertise, of course; but it also encompasses educating and mobilizing relevant stakeholders, including senior management, coalition building, thoughtful public outreach, taking into account the risks and opportunities presented by social media and global digital connectivity, prevention of operational knowledge gaps, particularly in global corporations, listening for “signals” which might portend near, mid and long term threats, a recognition that the company is making its record everyday by its conduct and communications, achieving a level of self-awareness and avoiding denial, alignment of internal structural incentives, ensuring that the communications strategy is consistent with, and supportive of, the company’s legal strategies, a commitment of necessary resources, training and reinforcement, “buy-in” from leadership and so on.
The point is, reputation management should be viewed within the broader framework of overall enterprise threat management, including optimizing crisis preparedness and mitigation — consistent with the company’s culture, organizational structure, risk appetite, resources and priorities.
In sum, these articles instruct us that effective reputational management requires thoughtful, holistic, strategic, innovative and advanced preparation. Informing such judgment requires a multidisciplined approach, drawing upon politics, history, the regulatory environment, economics, geography, demographics, psychology, an understanding of digital culture, advancements in technology, shifting human nature — all set against inherent unknowns and rapidly unfolding or escalating events, and unavoidable second-guessing. It all points to how we will ultimately adapt and thrive in the “new normal.”
Partner and Practice Leader, Global Enterprise Risk & Crisis Management at Mayer Brown LLP