InHospitable: Corporate Reputation Management

Corporate Reputation Management

Over the years, there have been a number of films created whose purpose was to shine a light on the inner workings of a company or an entire industry. These kinds of films can have a deep impact on an organization’s reputation. What can be done if your company ever finds itself in the crosshairs of this type of action - and how can you prepare, in advance, for potential attacks on your corporate reputation? We are joined today by Mike Lake, Managing Director of Communications at IRI Consultants. Here, he explains:

  • How today's unprecedented access to information magnifies the impact of corporate attacks;
  • What's at stake for targeted companies and industries;
  • The importance of being proactive, versus reactive; and
  • The critical role HR professionals play in corporate reputation management!

For even more information on corporate reputation management, check out our article on strategies to keep your organization prepared for any attack thrown your way!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


Targeted Attacks On Corporate Reputation

  • While there have been numerous documentaries targeting certain industries -- including American Factory, which targeted the manufacturing industry, Rotten which targeted the food industry, and the film Dark Waters, which specifically called out DuPont -- most organizations will not face a widely published documentary or film.
    • Even though this threat might seem small, every organization is at risk of bad publicity due to the increase in exposure these types of films have seen. 
  • There are always eyes on any controversial, bad, or even just funny behavior that occurs within an organization, and that creates risk. 
  • Social media allows for stories to spread quickly and can cause serious uproar that can and will affect an organization directly (see recent Ben & Jerry’s boycott and the 2021 relocation of MLB’s All-Star Game).


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Why Are These Attacks So Damaging?

  • A major factor in the damaging impact of these attacks is the fact that the arguments presented are one-sided. 
  • Organizations are often not given an opportunity to respond - or if they are, their response may be limited due to litigation stemming from the attack. 
  • These attacks damage the brand and reputation of the organization, and can be difficult to defend against.

What’s At Stake?

  • “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and only five minutes to destroy it.” - Warren Buffet
  • Today, information is more accessible than ever before, which allows the public to research an organization more thoroughly than ever before and develop an opinion based on that research.
  • Employees want to work for organizations that align with their own personal values and mission -- so if an organization comes under attack, it can severely hinder the efforts to attract, hire, and retain top talent. 
  • Full recovery from an attack on corporate reputation is possible, but organizations should be prepared for a significant investment of time, resources, and personnel to rebuild that reputation.

Prevention & Preparation

  • Corporate Reputation Management is an investment in the future because it allows organizations to prepare for an attack before it occurs.
  • The first step is to change the mindset from reactionary to proactionary. 
  • Reputation attacks often occur prior to union organizing campaigns -- for more information on these corporate campaigns, see Jarol B. Manheim’s book The Death of A Thousand Cuts: Corporate Campaigns and the Attack on the Corporation.
  • Implementing a corporate reputation management plan or crisis plan, an organization that has plans in place will be better equipped to avoid a widely public attack on their reputation.
  • Conducting a vulnerability assessment to examine the organization from the inside will allow for better strategies to protect corporate reputations. 
  • When it comes to brand & reputation, each must be defined.
  • Your brand is the public promises you make to the market.
  • Your reputation is how well you uphold those promises.
  • This applies internally as well.
    • As mentioned previously, people want to work for organizations that align with their own personal values and goals.
    • Employees must see, hear, and feel those values and goals being worked toward, and the organizations should show genuine appreciation and gratitude to those employees for their efforts in that cause. This appreciation can be shown in many ways, from competitive pay, benefits, and incentives to interactional appreciation in the office. 
    • Employees should feel like they’re part of the organization’s success, and they should find a sense of pride in that success.
    • At IRI, client organizations are encouraged to participate in “company brand” activities such as interviewing employees to get a glimpse into the positive experiences they’ve had at their organization.
      • These videos and quotes can then be shared with prospective hires to provide something more than just a job description and a brief summary of the company culture. 

InHospitable Healthcare Industry Preparation

  • The Inhospitable film will draw attention to healthcare practices that may have not been previously addressed.
  • Those within the industry should prepare for potential exposures of their business practices that could be spun in a negative light. 
  • Once again, organizations in the healthcare industry should look into their vulnerabilities to prepare for this attention.

Connecting With Other Organizations & Strategizing Around Communication

  • Information is valuable, and when a situation presents itself, sometimes it can be difficult to share information due to legal ramifications.
    • That being said, trade associations are a great place organizations can go to collaborate as an industry as opposed to organization to organization.
  • It is also important for organizations to have a good social media monitoring system to stay ahead of any bad publicity that may arise within the industry. 
    • From there, consolidating the content and drawing conclusions from that content is key.
    • IRI focuses on doing just that for clients and will help organizations develop their corporate reputation management plan.

The Role of HR Professionals in Corporate Reputation Management

  • HR serves as the gatekeepers for helping people understand the corporate brand -- both before they accept a position within a company, as well as reinforcing that understanding afterward. 
  • One of the most important roles an HR Professional can play is to always ensure the organization is recruiting the right people and onboarding them thoroughly.
    • This will help employees develop a sense of appreciation for their organization to where they feel comfortable sharing that appreciation with others.
  • Forrester consulting recently did a survey where they found that up to 75% of decisions customers make are tied to the executive leadership team of that organization.
    • This means that the leadership team should not only articulate the vision, mission, and values of the organization, they should also live them.
      • Living the brand is truly what corporate reputation management is; Showing that the values and mission of the organization are being practiced every day is paramount.

IRI Consultants & Support For Corporate Reputation Management

  • It is important to consult with people who have experience in corporate reputation management. IRI Consultants have been in the trenches and know what works and what doesn’t.
  • IRI Consultants employ experienced practitioners in healthcare, retail, communications, organizational development, crisis communications, and more.
  • What separates IRI from other firms is the relationship between client and their IRI seasoned practitioner, who works side-by-side with the organization.
  • You can learn more about IRI Consultants and all the services offered here

Mike Lake Background


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