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Commentary: Why reputation matters for organisations, and how they can protect it

In a time where word on the internet can spread like a wildfire in July and a brand can fall from grace in a day, reputational risk in business has become increasingly important. 

The author said that a company’s product is no longer the only component necessary for success, but also its intangible assets, such as its ethical stance.

The author said that a company’s product is no longer the only component necessary for success, but also its intangible assets, such as its ethical stance.

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In a time where word on the internet can spread like a wildfire in July and a brand can fall from grace in a day, reputational risk in business has become increasingly important. 

Before, word got around slower. 

Today, be it a cybersecurity breach or a CEO mistreating a former employee on social media, tweets populate within the hour and TikToks are filmed in moments, before the first headlines start to trickle in. 

Case in point: Mr Elon Musk, once revered for his quirky personality and lofty visions, is now viewed negatively by many. It is often joked that every time Mr Musk tweets, his communications team scrambles. 

While the tech billionaire might be an extreme example, a company’s reputation is only as strong as its spokespeople. The internet, for better or worse, has put companies up on stage for all to see and judge. 

A 2021 global reputational risk management survey revealed that 79.5 per cent of respondents believe that focus on reputational risk in business will increase in the coming years, whilst 86 per cent think that reputational risks could result in loss of income. 

It makes sense — the better a company’s reputation, the better the market believes it will perform, resulting in higher price-earnings. 


IBM CEO Arvind Krishna posits that cybersecurity will be the issue of this decade.

Even as tech layoffs sweep the globe, cybersecurity is the one sector that might be impervious — only 10 per cent of organisations are likely to cut jobs in cybersecurity, compared to an average of 20 per cent in other areas. 

Experts warn that organisations may become more vulnerable during a recession as they have fewer resources, making them an easier target. 

Facing a serious cybersecurity breach could be financially devastating. Indeed, IBM found that data breaches cost companies US$4.24 million (S$5.7 million) an incident.

Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) had faced such a struggle in December 2021, where 790 of their own customers had fallen victim to phishing scams. This resulted in the bank being slapped with an additional US$240 million capital requirement.

This financial loss of course does not take into account the reputational costs OCBC had to incur as a result of these scams and the loss of trust from existing and new clients.

According to OnePoll, 87 per cent of survey respondents said they were “not at all likely” or “not very likely” to interact with a company that had suffered a data breach involving credit or debit card details.

As more systems migrate online, companies need to fortify their cyber walls ahead of time, for the consequences stretch far beyond initial financial losses. 


A company’s product is no longer the only component necessary for success: 70 to 80 per cent of market value is attributed to intangible assets, such as a company’s ethical stance. 

Today, people are more well-informed than ever, and most want to know how their supported brands address social issues. 

An organisation taking firm ethical stances to ensure promises are kept help build trust and protect reputation. 

An Adobe 2022 Trust Report confirms that 80 per cent of people felt that if a business wants to earn the trust of its employees, it must, first and foremost, practise what they preach.

Mailchimp’s Ben Chestnut is a prime example — the company’s CEO of 21 years stepped down shortly after a controversy made headway on an internal staff address for the introduction of preferred pronouns in the workplace.

Recognising the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and clearly communicating that importance to company stakeholders is a critical element to building trust and a strong reputation. 


Reputation is truly the difference between success and failure, no matter which factors contribute to it. 

While things like cybersecurity and EDI are mostly within a company’s control, there are other, more unpredictable factors, such as public misinformation. 

Cancel culture plays a huge role in misinformation. Information can spread like wildfire and public online platforms are free-for-all. 

Every company’s online presence is subjected to scrutiny and can find itself on the wrong side of public perception on a perfectly sunny morning. 

The proliferation of viewpoints spread across various social media platforms have raised the cost of reputational attacks against companies by 500 per cent. 

While some attacks might be warranted, some content claiming to be factual can slip through and potentially mislead people. 

Companies must be equipped to tackle misinformation to prevent an unfounded full-blown communications crisis. 


Despite the biggest falls from reputation happening in the West, company reputation is equally important in the region. 

Weber Shandwick reported that globally, 63 per cent of companies tie reputation to company market value, with the Singapore statistic coming up to 53 percent. 

Being a small country with big influence on economy and business, companies hoping to have a strong presence in Singapore need to cover all aspects to ensure a positive reputation.

Singapore’s Temasek Holdings is an example of this. Following its US$275 million investment loss from crypto exchange FTX’s collapse, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong mentioned that the trading arm suffered reputational damage.

While Temasek has announced an internal audit, providing transparency in all future investments and endeavours could provide reassurance.


In a world paced by TikTok, data has to drive all decisions. 

Using data and technology to make rapid decisions in order to develop lightning speed reaction time will help immensely with reputation, and companies should capitalise on this strategy. 

In a report from Deloitte on strengthening critical competencies within a company, 58 per cent of the corporate affairs directors interviewed had indicated data and insights as their number-one competency to strengthen. 

Companies need to equip publicity personnel with the proper analytics and tools in order to be aligned with good digital marketing practices that lowers the risk of online reputational damage. 

Leaders also need to be aware of the looming economical threats. 

Our recent Economic Sentiment Index reveals that confronting a weaker labour market and higher inflation, consumer sentiment is deteriorating quickly. 

For companies to ensure their reputation is securely protected against these threats, unpredictable or not, they can work with comprehensive stakeholder solutions firms. 

Companies will benefit from data-driven solutions that combine analytics and research to help them to thrive in the riskiest environments. 


Conall McDevitt is Managing Partner of Europe and Asia for the Penta Group, a comprehensive stakeholder solutions firm that uses analytics and strategy for data-driven solutions. 

Related topics

internet Social Media cybersecurity data

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