The Main Reputation Risks for Brands in 2020


Reputation is an important factor for the modern business. Having a positive reputation leads to the potential for more sales, while a negative reputation can cause so much damage that a company has to close down. Reputation is a critical component of business management when everything that gets posted online can be seen by anyone. While there have always been specific risks when it comes to brands and reputation, in 2020, there are five clear areas to be more aware of. Falling into any of these reputational risks could harm your business so much that recovery is impossible. Here are the main danger areas when it comes to the reputation of your business in 2020.

The Importance of Reputation

Just what is reputation anyway? It’s important for companies to know exactly how they are perceived by their existing customers as well as any potential customers that are searching for them. Online reputation is important for both businesses, SMEs, and even private individuals. When everyone is online, information about them is easily accessible, and that can be bad news if you make a mistake that damages your reputation. Reputation management is quickly becoming a vital component of running a business because the following reputation risks could lead to a crisis that can’t be recovered from.

Risk 1: Trust Breach and Privacy Errors

Trust and credibility are vital for businesses to have in 2020. When consumers have so many options to buy any product, they research the companies that they buy from and move on if a business has a reputation that doesn’t inspire confidence. Data privacy is becoming essential, and consumers (rightly) demand that you keep their personal details and information as secure as possible. That means more than just a strong defense against cybercrime. It also means ensuring that you know exactly how to collect, store, and use data safely and legally, and have an action plan in place should hackers target the data that you have. Data privacy is one of the greatest areas of concern for brands in 2020 and looks like being a major factor for the foreseeable future.

Risk 2: Politics

The old adage about not discussing politics or religion at a dinner party is worth bearing in mind when it comes to what you say and do online. Politics is always a polarizing subject, and one mis-tweet or Facebook post about how much you hate a political figure or resent a political movement is very likely to polarize your audience. Discussing politics online is always going to be a risky business, and it can be very challenging to tread carefully enough to avoid offending. The key to discussing politics using the voice of your brand is to:

  • Avoid the insults
  • Learn more about your audience
  • Never argue
  • Only use reliable sources
  • Share facts, not opinions

It’s always a good idea to have a clearly defined boundary for your political discussions online, and that needs to extend to every member of your team.

Risk 3: The Marketing Fail

Sometimes funny, often embarrassing, occasionally deeply harmful, a marketing fail can work both ways when it comes to your reputation. The more serious your branding, the fewer benefits you will get from a marketing mistake. Even in recent years, there have been some spectacular mistimed or bad taste marketing campaigns that have caused serious damage to some of the biggest brand names in the world. Avoiding those mistakes can be hard, especially if you have a corporate structure that is designed with a silo approach. The key to avoiding those marketing blunders is to ensure that departmental collaboration is as aligned as possible and that as many people as possible get to review marketing campaigns before they go live. If you do make a mistake that you get attacked for, apologize publicly, and focus on damage limitation. Always monitor your online mentions so that you can catch any issues as quickly as possible.

Risk 4: Health and Safety Issues

It is your responsibility to keep your employees and your customers as safe as possible. There have been many cases where health and safety mismanagement, or a lack of a robust health and safety workplace, have been raised publically. When those complaints can go viral so quickly and can have long-term repercussions, it’s important that you have a health and safety strategy that keeps you safe from legal repercussions and reputational damage alike. Having a positive online reputation isn’t just about making more sales; it’s also directly tied to hiring, and if you want to attract the top talent, then your reputation, especially in terms of worker safety, needs to be exceptional.

Risk 5: Boss Behavior

The workplace can be a minefield, and every employee is placed under scrutiny more than ever. When it comes to the department heads and the CEO’s inappropriate behavior, especially if it takes place in the workplace, it can be catastrophic. Now that even the highest-ranking board members of a company are having to take responsibility for the inappropriate or illegal ways that they interact with employees, the ethical approach is vital. Misconduct in the workplace can stop a company in its tracks and will result in a public backlash that can be very difficult to recover from. Should the worst happen, the only way to start the recovery process is to make a very public apology, redefine your business and rebrand it.

Recovering from Reputation Damage

It’s not easy to recover should a business get hit by an issue that affects reputation. Sometimes, recovery will be impossible. However, apologizing when you have made a mistake is always a good step forward, and with the right steps being taken, it is possible to recover from reputational hits and start regrowing.

It can take time and hard work, but controlling, managing, and protecting the reputation of your business is more important than ever. When everything you do can be exposed to scrutiny, and mishaps can last forever on the average Google search, ensuring that you have a positive reputation should be an ongoing priority that you measure and monitor using every tool at your disposal.