08 Oktober 2010

Reputational Risks in Your Organization - Part 8

By: Peg Jackson

Relations with the Community

Organizations need to live and work harmoniously in their communities. Today's business and community environments can also contain individuals or groups that have their own political agenda which may not include living harmoniously with your organization. The actions of people and groups who might politically target your organization could also damage your brand and image.

Private sector firms such as Chiron and university researchers such as those at UCLA and UC Santa Cruz have been targets of animal rights and/or environmental activists who often break the law. These groups are some of the more extreme elements within a community, but honest, lower-key, non-violent political discord can also damage your organization's reputation.

Maintaining the organization's reputation as a good citizen can often center on simply maintaining good relationships with customers and the community at large. Strategies for effective public and media relations can be established in consultation with the organization's public relations advisor. This trusted advisor is essential in identifying those areas of your organization's relationship with the community that could trigger a reputational crisis.

Community relations checklist

  • Location of your organization's offices, buildings, garages and/or manufacturing sites.
  • Has your organization been the target of any community protest or complaints? If so, describe the nature of the complaints and/or protests.
  • Actions that your organization's public relations department could recommend to improve the quality of the community relationships.
  • Suggestions for the creation of a Community Relations Committee, task agenda and membership.

Some common problem areas include:

The organization does not handle complaints from customers and neighbors effectively.

The way in which an organization treats customers and neighbors establishes its reputation in the community. If customers and neighbors know that the only way they can get the attention of the organization is to have the media investigate, then that is precisely what will happen whenever there is a complaint. If you recognize your organization in this statement, you need to take action now!

The organization does not cultivate media relations.

If your organization does not have an ongoing positive relationship with the local media outlets, then, in the event of an emergency or crisis, your designated spokesperson will not have the advantage of working with reporters and media outlets that are familiar with the organization. Your public relations advisor can help you to establish this important set of relationships.

What are other issues that have either caused problems in the past or are causing problems now?

  • Has the organization been targeted by community/environmental activists?
  • Have these attacks created negative or adverse publicity?
  • If this has not happened to your organization, has it happened to other companies in your industry?

Recognizing and identifying the issues behind community animosity is essential to doing what is necessary to maintain a positive reputation as an organization. Sometimes dealing with community issues takes the skill of a public relations expert. If your organization is having these problems without satisfactory resolution, your organization should add a public relations professional to your team of trusted advisors.

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