In traditional communications, the avenues companies had to convey messages to the public – print media, television and radio – meant organisations were limited to only certain windows when they could reach the public. The advent of the 24-hour news cycle now means that organisations are also exposed to a 24-hour cycle of public scrutiny, requiring a reputational risk management strategy to suit.
While this has implications for every branch of a company's public image, perhaps the area where it has the greatest impact is around transparency.
Permanent, uniform transparency
In a recent report, Weber Shandwick detailed what they refer to as 'always on' transparency – the ability of a company to be constantly communicating information about the business and its performance to internal and external stakeholders.
Importantly though, Weber Shandwick emphasised that 'always on' transparency isn't just about offering large amounts of information, it's also about structuring what is communicated to members of the public in a way that actually adds value to them and is delivered on their terms. This means moving beyond statistics and focussing on conveying information that stakeholders are looking for from a business.
Building trust in a difficult communication landscape
While transparency is a benefit for reputation management in general, they have particular advantage for building trust with an organisation in an environment that is increasingly cluttered. As the rate of modern communications increases, Weber Shandwick suggested that these same tools can be used to develop a trusting relationship with the public.
For example, the company's research found that 71 per cent of respondents considered a company to be more trustworthy if its leaders are active on social media and are communicating the company's mission and core values. Likewise, those firms that have avenues for delivering feedback directly through their website were perceived to be more trustworthy among the public.
Despite this, organisations are struggling to build and maintain trust, at least according to research from Aon Risk Solutions. The company's 2015 global risk assessment revealed that reputational risk management is the top priority for organisations.
Not only is this up four places on the previous year's survey, but reputational risk is becoming increasingly intertwined with other major corporate risks that made the list, according to Aon's analysis.
The demand to become more transparent is only going to grow in the future as is the expanding risk that comes with having a significant public presence. The challenge for companies is to meet the demands of 'always on' transparency, while still developing a comprehensive reputational risk management strategy.