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More businesses are getting the message about the importance of protecting their corporate reputations. But there is still a need for greater awareness within many organizations, according to the Conference Board. The group recently surveyed 148 risk management executives of major corporations. Eighty-two percent said their companies are making "a substantial effort" to manage reputation risk, while a similar number said they have ramped up their efforts in that area over the last three years.
Still, reputation risk has yet to be fully incorporated into many risk management programs. Just under half of the executives surveyed said that issue was "highly integrated" with their larger enterprise risk management (ERM) function, or other risk oversight programs. At the same time, 59 percent of executives believe that assessing the public perception of a company's reputation was "an extremely or very significant" issue. Efforts are under way within a select number of companies to quantify the value of reputation, aided by specialist consulting firms. At the same time, the act of media monitoring has become more sophisticated. A number of tools are available today to help companies assess the credibility of publications and whether their coverage is positive, negative or neutral.
Companies need to do a better job of managing reputation risk through the organization, the Conference Board said. "Although communication is of critical importance in responding to a risk event, a company's reputation should be considered during the preparation and execution of strategy and new projects, which hasn't been the case in most companies."
One area that demands more attention is social media. Only 34 percent of respondents said they extensively monitored blogs, online forums and social networking sites, while just 10 percent actively participated in them.
The report's authors urged corporate boards and executives to display an "active commitment" to reputation management. "While crises are sometimes inevitable," they noted, "a company's reputation when it is most vulnerable, and how the organization responds, can have an enduring impact on how it is perceived for years to come."
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