A global crisis expert warns against the rise of online reputational attacks and calls on companies to prepare their teams, build communities and actively engage their markets to prevent losing billions of dollars over reputational attacks.
For Brian West, Global Managing Director for Crisis of FleishmanHillard, thousands of companies are now being victimized by online reputational attackers and cybercriminals. Billions are being siphoned off from online accounts and are being stolen by cybercriminals, inspite of companies installing highly sophisticated firewalls and premium anti-virus softwares.
West leads a team of over 150 certified crisis counselors in FleishmanHillard's global network spanning over 80 cities. In Manila, FleishmanHillard is run by its SVP & Partner/General Manager Cosette Romero who is also a certified crisis counselor.
West says companies can install higher firewalls, build more sophisticated anti-phising software or anti-viruses, yet, if they didn’t train against cybercriminals getting information from employees themselves, these companies risk getting caught in a crisis trap.
“There are two problems facing companies today: online reputation and cybercrimes. Companies need to train their people on how to defend themselves against these threats which are causing companies billions of dollars worth of losses. And the Philippines is no exception,” says West who recently conducted a crisis training before senior and middle-level officers of a multinational firm based in Ortigas City.
Reputational crisis outbreaks when companies failed to do brand audit. West proposes that companies should identify long-existing issues that their stakeholders previously identified. To prevent a crisis outbreak, companies must identify these issues and resolve it internally before the public knows about it, West adds.
“Most crisis outbreaks stem from unresolved corporate or business-related issues. If you do an audit, you’ll be able to identify these issues and internally, cause them to disappear,” says the Aussie PR expert who for more than 30 years, have advised top 100 companies from around the world how to deal with reputational crisis situations.
West gives a glimpse as to how modern PR crisis experts deal with crisis situations now. Traditional PR crisis puts more premium on media handling in putting out fires. Modern approaches tend to provide clients with a wider perspective, with focus on assisting clients with resolving their internal issues then, sharpening their listening skills to be able to identify what causes stakeholders to lose their trust on the company.
“Before, the frequent answer to PR crisis is we’ll handle media. Now, the modern answer is how you could talk with your audience, your stakeholders, and explain the issue before them, engage your audiences, and provide them with sufficient basis why they need to believe you rather than those who created the crisis. We are more holistic in our approach now than before.
“Companies need to see that in every crisis, there is always an opportunity. “
Another tip that West gave is companies under reputational crises should prepare for it, by making their teams immerse into media and PR crisis training. Resilience enables a company to recover faster than others.
“Resilience is about returning the company to its former strength and therefore, responding quickly and appropriately are some of the key elements of counter crisis which companies must possess.”