10 reputational risks your business is probably not prepared for (and what to do about them).

Once upon a time, a lightning strike fatally injuring a staff member might be considered, well, as unlikely as being struck by lightning.

Now though lightning protection systems to keep people walking around during a thunder storm safe are commonplace at any number of industrial sites across WA, and lightning-related fatalities appear on risk registers as not just a possibility, but with a rating and a management plan.

Identifying risks to your organisation is important but in an increasingly complicated world, the biggest risk to your company might seem to come out of left field.

Here are our top 10 risks that could damage your business reputation that you probably don’t have a communications plan for.

Bribery and corruption
Australians don’t often turn their attention to bribery, considering it largely non-existent in our business culture. However it comes in many forms from overtime payments, cash jobs, local deals and collusion. If something doesn’t pass the “pub test” – particularly if it lands in court – you can expect it will impact your reputation.

Court cases
Disputes and disagreements happen – with former employees, customers and sometimes might not directly involve your business at all. Managing your brand and reputation during a court case, whether you are directly involved or not, is important.

Data breaches happen every day, and increasingly so. It’s hard to quantify the actual figure given most hacking attempts are stymied by off-the-shelf cyber security software but all business – particularly small business that relies on outside IT support – are at risk, so it’s important to have a plan.

Employee behaviour
Making a sexist remark to a customer, blackface at a Christmas party, or posting a racist tweet online all constitute potential reputational risks. The human resources process for dealing with it might be well defined, but are you ready to deal with the public fallout?

Employee suicide
A great deal of work within industry and Government has gone in to bringing workplace mental health and wellness into public discourse. Companies – particularly those with a FIFO workforce – may have new mental health and wellness policies and see it as a potential employee risk, but don’t necessarily consider how it could extend to reputational risk.

Falling out-of-step with public opinion
Activist groups like Mad F*cking Witches target organisations who advertise with radio shock-jocks. Investors shun companies with no diversity at board level. Green groups list businesses on their environmental credentials. Human rights organisations advise where people should buy clothes most ethically made. Falling out of step with changing public opinion can risk backlash and boycott in an increasingly clicktivist and angry online environment.

Health issues
If your chief executive or key leader has a health crisis, it’s important to have a plan in place. Announcements about a health crisis need to go to board members, employees and stakeholders, and it can impact sales, share price and the future of the business.

Negative workplace reviews
Seek.com.au accounts for about a third of all job placements in Australia, and its website also hosts reviews of what businesses are like to work for. Having a running public commentary on the culture of your organisation does not constitute a crisis, but if you’re already under siege poor reviews can create easy sharable fodder to fuel a fire.

Police raids
The ABC was a high-profile and public instance when Australian Federal Police entered a workplace to conduct a raid. Police raids may occur for any number of reasons, from a former employee potentially hiding contraband on site to computers being used for illegal activity. They can cause embarrassment for a business and clear, transparent communications backed by a solid plan can make all the difference.

Think pins in strawberries. Now that it’s happened, it feels like an obvious reputational risk, and one that encompasses unknown people tampering with medical packaging. On a more direct scale, sabotage – and even corporate espionage – might include people actively working against your business. Having a good Crisis Communication Plan can go a long way to protecting your reputation when someone seeks to undo it.

If you had an a-ha moment reading this, perhaps give us a call. (You knew this bit was coming, didn’t you?)

At Clarity we have a defined issues management process that helps our clients identify the parameters of an issue, assess and prioritise the potential risks and impacts, and work out the best possible response and the communications process required.

And when the lightning does strike, we have a tried and tested crisis communications process that will support your crisis management or emergency response teams. This means your communications will be timely, effective and help you get back on track more quickly.

To prepare for the unexpected, click here.


Peta Rule
Senior Media Consultant

Peta is a seasoned corporate communications and media strategist, having worked in WA for almost 20 years both in industry and Government. She developed crisis communications and brand strategy as the in-house communications lead at newly-created Government Trading Enterprise Southern Ports, after six years working with a range of ministers and portfolios in the Western Australian State Government.