Reputational Risks in the business ecosystem – Is ignorance truly a bliss?

An upcoming business school in South India was facing a lot of challenges to admit students for their upcoming business management course. The college had everything in place – a sprawling campus, requisite approvals, good faculty, suitable curricula and a capable placement team who were committed to get good companies to the campus for recruitment. Still the college was not getting the critical mass of students. Even giving away good scholarships (as high as 70-80%) was not enough! Being helpless, the college had engaged a consultant. It came out during the analysis phase that the Business School was completely faded in terms of its Digital presence. Even worse, there were a number of bad comments and feedback on the college, probably in a guerrilla attack from one of its competitor, or posted by a couple of students who landed in a ‘less than expected’ salary in the previous years.

A good Tier-1 private hospital in Eastern part of India was facing significant decline in the patient inflow. It had been around for more than three decades, had all the departments fitted with the best in class equipment, had good doctors tied up, but still patients were gradually avoiding the hospital. The hospital, for a long time, kept blaming the competition, but when the occupancy rate hit the abysmally low 20%, the Hospital engaged with external agencies or consultants to find out the root cause of the problem. It was found that there were a number of negative feedback of the hospital, how the patients kept waiting in queues, the improvement opportunities at the OPD and the over-billing. These cases were only a few, but the agitated patients and their near and dear ones damaged the digital presence and brand of the Hospital.

Digital media have become a projection of who we are and even the brands are not an exception. Interesting fact is, along with the powerful communication tool, digital media may also become significant risk to the reputation of the brands. There may be different types of attacks on the image of the brand – an unhappy customer writing about negative experience or product anomaly, an employee giving bad feedback about the company in Google, Glassdoor, etc. or a competitor launching a guerrilla attack. Question is, can a Company control it? Well, it can reduce to some extent by fixing operational glitches, but it needs to be vigilant continuously. Ignorance is not a bliss in this case. Companies and brands should continuously monitor their digital persona and find out if there is any change to the perception of its image.

Is it easy to monitor the presence in digital domain continuously? The answer is Yes. However, it may not be possible by the brands or companies themselves. The work needs to be done by an expert and often companies may think that having a dedicated person for the job is expensive. In such cases, the aggregators come in the picture. They operate as digital inspectors for the companies and make sure that the positive image is maintained at an optimum level with certain SLAs. Digital branding takes time to build and hence if there is any negative image in the social media, it also takes time to nullify the effect. This builds another strong reason to be informed and vigilant of the brands digital image.

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