Reputation & the digital plc

It’s day 6 of #FuturePRoof and it’s also the era of the digital plc. Reputation risk is now the biggest risk concern in the boardroom and UK businesses need five set attributes to be fit for purpose – Mary Whenman discusses reputation and the digital plc.

Let us know what you think on Twitter at @WeArePRoofed.


You’ll learn:

·         Why managing strategic risk and reputation is a key consideration for today’s business executives

·         The importance of engaging and relevant content and a seamless, multichannel experience forcustomers

·         The five attributes plcs need to be fit for purpose in today’s digital world

We are in the era of the digital plc, where reputation risk is now the biggest risk concern in the boardroom, due largelyto the rise of social media. With all the changes, is UK plc actually fit for purpose?

Reputation risk is the #1 risk concern in the boardroom

A survey, Exploring Strategic Risks, conducted by the accountancy firm Deloitte with Forbes Insights[1], revealed that 40% of executives cite reputation as the number one boardroom risk, ahead of threats to their business model (at 32%) and economic trends and competition (both at 27%). 

Technologies are having a major impact on the business and risk landscape. More than half of surveyed companies (53%) believe technology enablers and disrupters such as social, mobile and big data could threaten their established business models, and a staggering 91% have changed their business strategies since those technologies began to emerge.

It means managing strategic risk and reputation has become a high priority for executives operating in today’s digital plc.

Online presence and engagement drives reputation

Global research by Weber Shandwick conducted with Forbes Insights[2]  looked at several factors driving reputation among global executives. A staggering 68% said that online presence drives reputation, placing it closely behind social responsibility and global reach in importance.

In other research, The Company Behind the Brand[3], executives estimated that corporate reputation accounts for approximately 60% of a company’s market value and the CEO’s reputation accounts for approximately 50% of the company’s overall reputation. 

So, if online presence and engagement is driving corporate reputation, what does the digital plc look like?

Four trends facing the digital plc

There are four significant trends facing the digital plc:

1.     Changing the rules of engagement for financial disclosures

2.     The social CEO

3.     User centric content

4.     The convergence of marketing and communications

Trend 1: The digital plc & financial disclosures

In April 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States announced that it would allow publicly-traded companies to make financial disclosures via social media channels as long as companies made it clear to investors exactly what channels they would make announcements on, so as not to give competitive advantage to some investors over others. 

This means in the US at least, the rules of engagement for the digital plc have changed in terms of managing price sensitive information, which is already having an impact on market value and corporate reputation.

Trend 2: The digital plc & the social CEO

If a CEO’s reputation accounts for approximately 50% of a company’s overall reputation, having a social CEO is key to managing corporate reputation. Weber[TW1] Shandwick’s report, Socializing Your CEO III: From Marginal to Mainstream[4], reveals deep insights on CEO sociability.

The research found that 80% of CEOs from the world’s top companies are now engaged online and via social media, compared to just 36% when tracking began in 2010.

The increased use of three platforms has contributed significantly to the increase in CEO sociability overall; the research found CEOs are visible on their company website (68%), company YouTube channel (38%) and social networks (28%), taking CEO online engagement into the mainstream.

Trend 3: the digital plc and user centric content

Stakeholders and audiences want to be engaged, informed and invested in - not sold to – so an effective digital content strategy puts the user at its heart.

Companies and brands hold a wealth of information that can be transformed into engaging, shareable content occupying the ground between what your brand stands for and what your stakeholders want to read.

Designing content for mobile and especially smartphone use is a path to success. 

The University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015[5] reveals that 73% of UK adults are accessing news digitally. They seamlessly move between computers, tablets, smartphones and traditional newspapers.

Smartphones continue to grow as a tool to access news (42%) according to the Digital News Report 2015. Tablet use is growing too, but the rate of growth is weakening.

What really matters is the content itself. As three quarters (73%) of UK adults say they are very unlikely to pay for online news, this offers a significant opportunity for the digital plc if it can find relevance and the right mode of delivery.

Like news organisations, the digital plc needs to adapt and offer its stakeholders content dependent on their location, reading history, interests and social network connections.  To truly differentiate itself, the digital plc needs to deliver what its audiences expect, and do it better than any of their peer group – offering a seamless, multichannel experience that is easy to navigate, tailored to individual needs, while offering a deeper, personalised level of engagement.

Trend 4: the digital plc & the convergence of marketing and communications

The report Convergence Ahead: The Integration of Communications and Marketing[6] examines the experiences of executives who have successfully integrated the two traditionally siloed functions of communications and marketing to more fully engage all stakeholders and provides guidance to those considering convergence.

What is driving this trend towards greater convergence and integration? Digital media, content creation and the growing indivisibility between brand and corporate reputation are all factors.

Integrated roles are better aligned to meet the demands of an ever-changing and increasingly complex and data-driven media environment. Aggregating these two functions also better positions companies to develop and distribute original content.

Integration’s larger budgets and greater authority is enabling the digital plc to craft compelling stories that shape reputation through content journalism.

The five key attributesof the digital plc

Evolution is critical for organisations to thrive and agile leadership is needed to ensure resilience and adaptability in the face of change.

The UK plc’s that are operationally fit for purpose in the era of the digital plc have five key attributes:

1.     Respond to and manage crises across all social media properties

2.     Use social media to make financial disclosures [in the US]

3.     Have a highly socialised CEO

4.     Create and publish user centric content

5.     Converge the marketing and communications teams into one integrated function.

Managing strategic reputation and risk means moving towards and achieving all five.


Mary Whenman is a reputation management specialist with 25 years’ experience of leading UK, EMEA and global corporate communications and b2b programmes and advising clients at a strategic level.  Mary has spent much of her career handling complex communications issues and advising companies during periods of major corporate change, including crisis, turnaround, joint ventures, rebranding, repositioning, restructuring and closure. Mary is listed in the PR Week Powerbook 2015, is a Timewise Power Part-Time Winner 2014, President of Women in PR, a PR Week Mentoring Mentor, a Women in Sales Mentor and Runner up PR Week Young Achiever Award 1996. Mary holds a BA (Hons) in Business Studies, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma (DipCIM), Market Research Society Diploma (DipMRS) and is a Member of the CIPR and PRCA.

Twitter: @marywhenman


[1] Deloitte & Forbes Insights, Exploring Strategic Risk
[2] Weber Shandwick & Forbes Insights, Socializing Your Brand
[3] Weber Shandwick, The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust
[4] Weber Shandwick, Socializing Your CEO III: From Marginal to Mainstream
[5] The University of Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Digital News Report 2015
[6] Weber Shandwick, Convergence Ahead: The Integration of Communications and Marketin