Tag Archives: social networks

Protecting Your Corporate Reputation

A company’s reputation, which is core to its profitability and long-term competitiveness, faces new challenges as information speeds blindly through online media and social networks. Lanny Davis, former assistant to President Clinton on crisis management and principal in Lanny J. Davis & Associates, recently noted that, in the age of the Internet, “you never get a second chance to change a first impression. Once your reputation is smeared and your character unfairly attacked, the eternal misinformation echo chamber of the search engine allows the harm to continue eternally, unless you fight back — early, with all the facts, often yourself — until the truth gets in the way of the search engine lies.”

When a corporate reputation is tarnished, a company can lose its trust factor; investor confidence is weakened; and a company’s share price can be reduced.  In extreme cases, a damaged reputation can lead to a company’s downfall. “Hackgate,” “Rupertgate,” or “Murdochgate” -– names given by the press to the News International phone-hacking scandal – led to the demise of News of the World newspaper.

Let’s make a list of some leading triggers to reputation failure: 

  • unethical behavior such as Sears’ management team’s unrealistic performance quotas for its car repair business, which led to overbilling and created a scandal in the 1990s.
  • financial irregularities, such as those that led to Enron’s bankruptcy.
  • executive misconduct, such as the conviction tied to insider trading that led to Martha Stewart’s resignation.
  • environmental violations, such as Nike’s exploitation of workers in sweatshops, failure to provide work environments that are safe and contact with cotton factories using slave labor—issues that dogged Nike through the 1990s and beyond.
  • safety & health product recalls, such as followed allegations of “unintended acceleration” in Toyota cars.
  • security breaches, such as the recent one at Target in which tens of millions of people had credit-card data stolen.

In other words, much as Murphy’s Law says:  “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” 

What should a corporation do to protect its reputation? 

  • Use your CEO: Fred Smith, FedEx’s legendary founder, is a good example.  A good CEO embodies and reiterates a company’s values, code of ethics and vision.  Your CEO regularly communicates honesty and transparency and is trusted with your corporate reputation. 
  • Perform an S.W.O.T. analysis: Identify your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 
  • Develop a corporate reputation strategy:  Johnson & Johnson is still reaping reputation benefits more than 30 years after its swift and sweeping recall of Tylenol and institution of tamper-proof packaging after some maniac laced some pills with cyanide and put them in bottles on store shelves, killing seven people.
  • Monitor your reputation online.  Constantly check social media sites and your own website. No company can afford to be reputation-blind, and no suit of armor is impenetrable.
  • Be honest, factual and open with the media. 
  • Create a plan to manage an unexpected crisis.  Execution is the cornerstone. Train everyone on identifying the crisis, what to do and who gets contacted.   Preparation is essential to managing potential and actual crises in a timely fashion.  Communication is no longer one-way; it’s now two-way. 
  • Evaluate the purchase of corporate reputation insurance. For 20 years, the insurance industry has known that how a company manages a reputation crisis will have a dramatic impact on the cost of civil litigation arising out of that crisis.  For this reason, insurance purchased for the risk of shareholder lawsuits, directors and officers insurance, has from time to time included an option to purchase, or included automatically, “crisis management” insurance. This reimburses the company for the cost of crisis management expert fees up to a set amount, usually $50,000 to $200,000.

However, since 2010, there has been an outbreak of “new and improved” reputation insurance policies from name-brand insurance carriers like Zurich (Brand Assurance), AIG (ReputationGuard), Munich Re (Reputation Insurance) and a number of Lloyds syndicates, including a standalone reputation policy produced by Steel City Re.

Some carriers emphasize reimbursement of crisis-management expenses while others are more geared toward reimbursing a company for a loss. Finding the right one, or right combination, can be challenging, but they are worth a look.

Be sure to check out Thought Leader Ty Sagalow's recent appearance on New York News!

New York News

Social Media And The Insurance Implications

Most marketing and communication departments know all too well that social media and social networking sites are a treasure trove of opportunity for elevating your personal or corporate brand. Employees use social media for personal use, but also use it as a forum to talk about their boss, their company, their products, their problems and whatever else is on their mind. There are 200 plus social media sites in English alone, Facebook recently reached one billion users, and Twitter puts out more than 170 million tweets per day. That is a lot of free advertising!

However, what many businesses fail to remember is that, despite all of the positive aspects social media brings to a firm's marketing, communication, and sales efforts, it's also ripe with opportunity to damage their brand and cause a financial loss. While it's free marketing, it's also a lot of unedited content being published online that could be about your business, about your products, or attributed to you. Could a competitor feel that your employees are slandering their people or products? Could a competitor gain inside information about your organization? Could an employee divulge information that could get them fired? Could you or your employees inadvertently offend prospects and clients? In short, yes. As social media use continues to evolve and grow, it's important to consider this exposure to your organization.

Using Social Media To Generate Business Leads
All of this can be scary, but you can't ignore the great opportunities created by social media. Any organization not taking advantage of social media sites is signaling that it is not evolving with the times, and there is nothing close to matching the immediacy of broadcasting your news through social networking sites. A well-crafted social media strategy can generate a lot of interest in your product or services and drive traffic to your website where more specific information can be provided.

“In time, the proper execution of a focused social media strategy is an efficient means of staying in front of prospects. When the prospect has a business problem, your positioning as a credible, knowledgeable resource can help you get in the door and, hopefully, close the deal,” says Randy Stoloff, Director of Marketing and Social Media at AmWINS Group Benefits in Warwick, Rhode Island.

It is critical to have all content reviewed by someone within your organization that can be responsible for stopping improper content from being released. It's also important to review applicable insurance policies such as a website media policy or cyberliability policy to be sure social media activities are covered.

Using Social Media For Crisis Response
Imagine a time down the road when your best customers follow your social media feed and you need to get news out in a hurry about something that could cause your most prized customers harm. Assuming you have or hire qualified public relations professionals that can help you craft the proper way to phrase the announcement, you can get important news out immediately to show your concern for your customers and for transparency. Social media provides the most immediate way to communicate to your target audience. There are many insurance products currently available that assist with handling the public relations aspect of a crisis response. Having your social media presence established prior to a crisis will help you deal with the crisis in a targeted fashion.

Can Social Media Sites Be A Network Security Risk?
Besides the potential for hackers to use employee information on social media sites to figure out passwords, the sites can also be used to transmit computer viruses and other dangerous malware. As a result, many corporations block employee access to social networking sites. If the corporation has a cyberliability insurance policy in place, be sure it addresses security issues emanating from social media. The coverage may be limited to networks owned or controlled by the corporation.

Should I Address Social Media In My Employee Handbook?
This is a topic that requires legal counsel with experience in employment law as well as social media. It makes sense as a business owner to establish a guideline on what social media activities are permissible for employees, but it must be carefully worded. The National Labor Relations Board has published guidelines that may help. Most companies work very hard to establish a professional image and reputation. Employees often mistakenly think that commenting in social networking sites is somehow exempt from personal responsibility. The press is full of examples of disgruntled employees commenting on working conditions, complaining about their managers or coworkers, or commenting on confidential internal activities. Employees have been terminated for their conduct and they've sued for wrongful termination. You are likely to find coverage for the wrongful termination claims on your employment practices liability (EPL) insurance policy. Working with a professional is critical for navigating this minefield. You may not be able to avoid the litigation, but you can lay the groundwork for an effective defense.

Do I Need A Social Media Component In My Employment Contracts For My Executives?
Your top executives can also make mistakes using social media. Sensitive information can be leaked out accidentally by people who see the most sensitive information. Similar to non-executive employees, managers who have been terminated due to their social media activities have sued their employers for wrongful termination. Again, look to an EPL policy for coverage for that type of claim.

Should I Review The Social Media Content Posted By Job Applicants?
Many states have enacted laws barring employers from requesting full access to an applicant's social media profile. We have all heard stories about a prospective employer seeing improper pictures or comments by the applicant which influence the decision to hire or not hire them. Some employers have taken it one step further and requested login credentials from job applicants in order to see all the content they have posted. It seems like an obvious invasion of privacy, so laws are being written to protect the rights of job seekers. The claims that can arise from this scenario could have coverage apply under the “wrongful failure to hire” coverage on an employment practices policy, as well as an “invasion of privacy” policy as part of a cyberliability policy.

Scared Yet?
There are reasons to be concerned, but the opportunities need to be investigated with a proper foundation of preparation. It is also important to remember that there are insurance products available to help protect you after missteps. If you have an employment practices liability policy, you likely have some protection from wrongful termination claims and invasion of privacy claims brought by your employees. If you have an internet media or cyberliability policy, you could have remedies for allegations of libel, slander, defamation and invasion of privacy claims brought by other parties. A strong cyberliability policy will have protection from breach of security claims if hackers use social media to access your computer network for malicious purposes. It's possible that other insurance products can offer assistance as well. AmWINS represents multiple insurers with all of these insurance products and can help you select the proper coverage for you and your clients.