It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.’- Warren Buffett

A business’s reputation is its greatest – most intangible and vulnerable asset – yet it is frequently unprotected, it is the risk of risks. Adverse online comments are a rapidly increasing threat to this asset. Left unchecked these can spread rapidly from harmless joking banter to malicious threats, attacks or even blackmail– often costing loss of customers, trust and turnover.

The 2017 Global Risk Management Survey* of public and private companies of all sizes around the world has again identified damage to brand and reputation as the top-ranked of all 53 major areas of risk. As businesses increase their social media activity they also increase the risk of online threats or attacks. With 3.5 billion users of the internet every day – reputation loss is only one mouse-click away.

Reacting to the loss of their licence to operate in London, Uber’s CEO wrote ‘The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.’

The risk is particularly acute for Small and Medium Enterprises that have often spent years to establish a reputation for quality and reliability.

We’ve recently worked with a medium sized Day Spa, and identified that two reviews on their Facebook page were lowering their overall rating from a perfect 5 to 3.8. On investigation we revealed that both reviewers were friends with a competitor’s Spa in the same town. We were able to mitigate the risk by providing evidence to Facebook, outlining the rules broken and therefore the grounds for removal. Once removed the star rating was returned to 5.

Harm can be a single devastating event – as shown by the viral clips of United Airlines dragging off a passenger last April. This event wiped $250 million off its share value. But it can also accumulate gradually, eroded by constant belittlement on social media as online complaints are ignored or unanswered.

We are working with Aviva to offer 24/7 monitoring and assessment to detect and notify clients about online threats or attacks. This allows immediate responses that range from better customer service all the way to working with our PR and Legal experts to get inappropriate online material removed.

*AON Global risk management survey