In today’s world of instant communications, conversations, the off the cuff comment or even an email considered private can become public at the simple press of a button or the click of a camera phone.
Sally Bercow was found guilty of libel for what she considered an ‘innocent’ tweet; Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s lunchtime ‘tiff’ became front page news and William Hague was caught on TV muttering ‘stupid woman’ at Cathy Jamieson.
All subsequently led to masses of newspaper copy and media time, linking their actions to either irresponsible behaviour, the abuse of power, domestic abuse or male chauvinism in political life.
On another level, revelations about cover-ups in the NHS, US government whistle-blowers and the actions of senior police officers 20 years ago, illustrate that everything is up for scrutiny.
More than ever, the words of Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors of the 20th century, ring true: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
The current mood for exposure means that every aspect of a business or personal reputation is at stake and companies need to think about how they are perceived in public. Dealing with a crisis when it arises may not be enough, meaning that effective communication should be at the heart of all corporate activity.
At the end of the day, good reputations are nurtured through openness and integrity that stands the test of time.