Author's Name: Mark Schultz
Date: Mon 12 Oct 2015

Reputation Management – the role of the board

Good reputations generally take a long time to establish, however can be tarnished and even destroyed very quickly. What role then does the board play in managing and maintaining an organisation’s good reputation?

In our new world of 24 hour news, social media that provides a platform for “every man and his dog” to have his/her say without any accountability and a rapidly changing external environment, Boards and senior management must have in place a means by which to manage events that could cause irreparable reputation and brand damage. Here are a few suggestions that should help boards to address this governance responsibility:

  • Policy: develop, implement and monitor a policy in relation to how the board and the organisation should respond to a negative event. Whilst it cannot be specific due to all the potential unknowns, such matters as authorising a company spokesperson, internal and external communication strategies and resource allocation can be addressed by the board;
  • Complaint’s management: create a culture that sees complaints as an opportunity to improve rather than one that perceived as a negative matter. The board could request that a complaint’s register is created and that the board has an opportunity to review that register at regular intervals; 
  • Reporting system: imbed in the board papers; if the board values reputation management as a key business driver, then the organisation should follow suit “what you measure, is what you treasure”;
  • Stakeholder engagement: develop and implement a stakeholder engagement plan and incorporate process and outcomes into the annual board agenda.

Effective reputation management is as much about culture as about process. Responding sooner rather than later is generally a better approach, acknowledging mistakes is generally received more positively than attempts to hide or avoid accountability and treating stakeholders with respect is recommended at all times. PR firms, lawyers and “spin doctors” will all have a position on how to manage an adverse event, however it is your clients and the community who will be the final arbiter. Good governance requires boards to take a leadership role in the establishment, management and protection of an organisations reputation and this should form part of the strategic planning and management process.

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