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Return to: Home > Comments > Corporate transparency test. Could you tell your Mum?

Corporate transparency test. Could you tell your Mum?

Social media has been highlighted across all media this week. The highly offensive, violent and some seemingly criminal tweets targeting women, have created huge coverage. Twitter now needs to clarify how it will tackle online "trolls" in order to manage its reputation.

The story resonated with me on two counts. The first is in relation to our recent CGMA survey on risk and reputation. Corporate crises now easily start online and certainly spread and amplify in cyberspace. Our research found reputational risk is an increasing concern amongst financial leaders. The rise in social media is seen as the third primary factor behind this increased focus. The first is market demand for more transparency, and the second, saliently, failure at another leading organisation or competitor.

The extractive industry as a whole certainly got queasy as it watched the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, spill out across all media, be that print, transmission or online. It also escalated to diplomatic proportions as the US government took legal action. Naturally the incident led to a high number of internal reviews right across the sector. After all, once someone gets burgled in your street, don't you check your locks?

Since 2010 social media is even more powerful with the heightened and immediate presence of facebook, Twitter and a whole host of online channels, many specialising in advocacy and social mobilisation.

CGMA research showed that assessing the impact of such attention is hard to do. Although three quarters (76%) of global financial leaders said their company was prepared to lose profit in the short term for the sake of protecting its long-term reputation and the same number (76%) place more focus on reputational risk today than in previous years this, over 95% of organisations surveyed admitted to not always using feedback from online channels to help them anticipate and manage risk to their reputation. Similarly, 62% of those surveyed had no formal processes or models in place for calculating the financial impact of not managing reputational risk. It is a challenge, but finance directors and leaders need to better understand the causes and fall out, evidencing the need for better non-financial analysis and internal reporting.

The second aspect of the Twitter story, which interested me, with the focus on "troll activity", was the response to a twenty year old male student who via Twitter had made highly offensive comments about Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor, who sadly is no stranger to anonymous online bullying. A fellow tweeter was able to relay that they knew his mother's address and Ms Beard, should she wish, could write to her. The old fashioned way. As this played out online the perpetrator responded: "I sincerely apologise for my trolling. I was wrong and very rude. Hope this can be forgotten and forgiven." He added: "I feel this had been a good lesson for me. Thanks 4 showing me the error of my ways." It made me think of one of the points in CIMA's full ethical checklist: How would you feel about your peers, family and friends knowing.

Those finance executives caught up in corporate scandals, who know their actions did not pass the integrity or objectivity test, should consider this: How would they feel if their misdeeds or omissions were reported back to their nearest and dearest? Corporate misdeeds, as recent scandals have shown, have high prices beyond the bottom line, affecting not only livelihoods but lives. So it is worth reflecting on what reputational risk strategies you have in place. Something Twitter executives may be working hard at right now, in preparation for upcoming questioning by MPs. Maybe they could practice explaining any new policy to their mums.

Tanya's previous blog post
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