Reputation management requires planning, evaluation of risks and opportunities

By Kurt Gwartney

Katherine Morales, APR (photo by George Conklin)

Communication professionals must remain vigilant about the reputation of their companies and institutions in the age of social media and ever-changing news cycles.

“Reputation management is about managing in the good times and bad times,” said Katherine Morales, APR, in her presentation during the 2018 Religion Communicators Council convention in Atlanta.

Morales said it is commonplace for institutions to be thrust into the court of public opinion on a divisive social issue. While a quality reputation can help a company or organization through the rough times, communicators also need a plan for dealing with a reputation challenge or crisis.

With 74 percent of consumers turning to social media for recommendations, Morales said, communicators need to fully engage the 24-hour digital space, “It’s now more stressful for the PR professional to know what is going on and to always be ready.”

Organizations also need to evaluate when they should offer an opinion on a divisive social issue before jumping into the controversy, she said. Research from Sprout Social indicates 78 percent of liberals want brands to take a stand while that number falls to 52 percent among conservatives.

Morales has created a Reputation Radar(SM) process for helping an organization evaluate risks and opportunities related to its reputation. The four-step model seeks to discover the presence, distance, direction and speed a reputation factor may occur.

“We are living at a time of greater diversity and organizational leaders are in this paradoxical challenge,” Morales said. “More often these leaders are making decisions for inclusion.”

Morales believes every organization needs a crisis plan because 83 percent of companies will face a crisis within five years.

While some companies have successfully turned a reputation crisis into a positive over time, Morales said, “It only takes one bad instance to ruin a reputation.”

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