Global executives warned of online reputation danger

Global executives warned of online reputation danger

Nearly three-quarters of Asia Pacific business executives regard their company's reputation as vulnerable and nearly all of them use the internet to assess other firms.

While 99 per cent of executives in Asia use the internet to assess company reputation, only 50 per cent rate the web as useful in such evaluations. About 12 per cent still believe that traditional media plays a greater role in deciding company reputations.

These are just some of the results of new research entitled Risky Business: Reputations Online conducted by public relations and communications firm Weber Shandwick, in cooperation with the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU). The landmark online survey canvassed more than 700 senior executives (including 62 from Singapore) within more than 20 industries in 62 countries spanning North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and other markets.

Weber Shandwick said the research indicated that Asia business leaders 'are either unaware or do not want to admit that employees are bad mouthing their companies online'. Risks that did not exist a decade ago are now on full display--internal e-mails going astray, negative online campaigns by dissatisfied customers, and online grumblings from disenchanted employees, bloggers and anyone else who has an opinion to voice.

The research also highlighted that far fewer global CEOs -- chairmen (21 per cent) are concerned than non-CEOs -- chairmen (43 per cent) about employee work-related discussions on social networking sites, video-sharing sites and employee grievance sites.

In Asia, employee criticism is considered a clear risk to the company's reputation, according to more than half (53 per cent) of respondents.

Underestimating employee sabotage

"Global CEOs - chairmen may be fooling themselves if they think that employee sabotage

and hearsay is not taking place online every day," said Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick.

"Leaders' short-sightedness about employees going online to complain about their bosses,

discuss salaries and leak confidential information highlights one of the most dangerous threats to corporate and professional reputations now and in the years ahead."

Respondents reported that the best uses of the internet are for investigating business rivals (64 per cent) and partners (60 per cent), capturing customer feedback (63 per cent) and exploring new employment opportunities (60 per cent).

Notably, global executives believe that only one-half (49 per cent) of information in corporate blogs is accurate and much fewer (14 per cent) trust them as a good source for assessing reputation.

The research found that all levels of employees have had a hand in potentially harming their company's reputation online. A high 87 per cent of executives admit to having erroneously sent or received at least one electronic message (private e-mail, text or Twitter). Those in the corner office are not immune either: 80 per cent of CEOs - chairs have mistakenly sent or received electronic messages themselves.

"Our research found online reputation management (ORM) officially making it to the top of leadership agendas as executives recognise that new challenges can topple even carefully-built corporate reputations," said Weber Shandwick, Asia Pacific chairman Tim Sutton. "As the internet's influence sweeps through corporate corridors, cubicles and boardrooms, the research identifies the reputation-building and reputation-busting forces online and offline dramatically shaping corporate reputations and what can be done about them."

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