Internet jitters for Asian bosses

Published by rudy Date posted on February 19, 2009

THE internet is in this day and age such an integral part of our lives that, like it or not, we are all netizens now. But being part of this brave new world where technology has gobbled up distance does pose its own advantages—and disadvantages—in equal abundance.

In response to frequent questions from corporate leaders on how the internet is transforming business reputations worldwide, leading public relations firm Weber Shandwick conducted research among global executives on online reputation management in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The survey, Risky Business: Reputations Online (www.online-reputations.com), and released to us by its office in the Philippines, found that employee sabotage and misdirected e-mails are among the greatest concerns of executives, fueling the belief among 74 percent of top Asian executives that the reputations of own companies are threatened.

Those surveyed in other parts of the world 64 percent of Australian executives and 67 percent of executives globally—found it less likely that their companies’ reputations were vulnerable to the vagaries of the internet. 

 “Our research found online reputation management officially making it to the top of leadership agendas as executives recognize that new challenges can topple even carefully-built corporate reputations,” explains Tim Sutton, chairman of Weber Shandwick, Asia Pacific. “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.”

 Risky Business: Reputations Online was conducted among 703 senior executives within more than 20 industries in 62 countries spanning North America, Europe, Asia Pacific (including the Philippines) and other markets. Among the leading issues on the minds of global executives when it comes to steering their corporate reputations through turbulent times is employee sabatoge.

The survey found that a majority of bosses are out of touch with rogue employees online. A large two-thirds (66 percent) of global executives are either unaware or do not want to admit that employees are badmouthing their companies online. In Asia, employee criticism is considered a clear risk to the company’s reputation according to more than half (53 percent) of respondents—12 percentage points higher than the global average. But still only one-third of Asian executives know, or admit to knowing, of a fellow employee who badmouthed their company online.

Jobvent.com, a website that allows visitors to rate their employers, includes comments on more than 7,000 companies. Jobvent.com estimates that 70 percent of posted comments fall that into the “I Hate My Job” category. This presents a paradox that suggests executives are either unaware or do not want to admit that employees are badmouthing their companies online.

 The research also highlighted that far fewer global CEOs/chairmen are concerned about employee work-related discussions on social networking sites, video-sharing sites and employee grievance sites.

 “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,” states Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick which offers reputation management services.

He adds: “We commissioned this critically important research in cooperation with the EIU to surface key issues so that we can advise leaders about how they can successfully manage, monitor and safeguard reputations in an always-on and always-open marketplace.”

All levels of employees have had a hand in potentially harming their company’s reputation online. An extraordinary 87 percent of executives (with little variance among Asian responders) admit to having erroneously sent or received at least one electronic message (private e-mail, text or Twitter).

Those in the corner offices suites are not immune either: 80 percent of CEOs/chairs have mistakenly sent or received electronic messages themselves. The unintended and unexpected consequences of misdirected electronic messages can taint, sometimes permanently, company reputations in seconds.

With more than 60 billion e-mails circling the globe every day, it is hardly surprising that many leave their intended orbit, especially when research shows: people e-mail in bed (67 percent), while driving (50 percent), at bars or clubs (39 percent) and during business meetings (38 percent).

According to Gaines-Ross, 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.

So reputation management services ranging from early warning tools, online reputation monitoring and rapid response strategies could not be more timely or relevant. –Random Jottings, Manila Times

rjottings@yahoo.com

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