I have written about various aspects of the Cyber-risk, but there is a risk which, although not necessarily part of it, is increasingly being associated with IT. I mean the “Reputational Risk”, as our reputations are important to all of us, bur especially in the business world. In 2013 we have seen lots of celebrities, politicians, and big businesses suffer from damage to their reputations.

In the case of businesses, some of the damage was caused by decisions made at the top, such as tax avoidance and price rises. However, other damage for many individuals and organisations was caused by unwise remarks made and foolish actions caught on camera.

The connection with IT is that whatever you say or do can so easily and quickly be blogged, tweeted, or otherwise spread all over the Internet and then elsewhere, and become part of a permanent record, whereas not that long ago it would have been seen and heard by only those present and could easily have been denied, or simply forgotten.  Perhaps you also remember a time when you could tell if someone was carrying a camera.  Amazingly many people who seem otherwise up to date continue to act as if these developments had not happened.

There are three ways of managing this risk:

  1. Watch what you say and do!
  2. Have a good Public Relations expert available to do damage limitation.
  3. Keep control over what your staff and other business associates say about you and your business.

This last point sounds like something easier said than done (unlike making a fool of yourself on the internet) but there are things you can do to reduce the risk.

  •  Have a policy on the use of the Internet and Social Media for your business and keep it up to date.*
  •  Put something in everyone’s contract of employment to allow you to enforce the policy.
  •  Ensure everyone is given appropriate training in it.
  •  Apply it to yourself.
  • Monitor employees’ e-mails, blogs etc.
  • Be prepared for damage limitation. Have a Public Relations expert, either in your organisation or outside it, whom you can call on.

There has been some recent publicity to the changes in the laws of Libel, which you may think will affect this risk. I am not very impressed, because the legal process is slow and expensive (even if you win sometimes you are a loser financially) and also because a victory in Court does not necessarily restore your reputation.  It is far better to prevent bad publicity in the first place, and then to respond with good counter-publicity if necessary.

(*This can be used as a means of dealing with other issues such as misuse of the Internet, online purchasing, sending personal e-mails, and texting in work.)

I will be writing on other risks to look out for in 2014 soon.