As 2019 approaches, “business as usual” is over. Social media has been weaponized to amplify anyone who opposes your actions or opinions. The status quo is under assault from every side. And it’s worth considering that every successful business is the status quo, by definition. Our very success now guarantees we’ll be watched, tested, probed and challenged.

That’s good, since we intend to win. But it means reputation management and crisis communication planning is not just smart, but critical to a company’s very existence. We need to be prepared to respond to issues from customers, shareholders, investors, employees and the media that would otherwise take us by surprise.

The new awareness is beyond dispute. According to consulting firm Mercer, “boards are now holding executives to higher standards, looking not just at how they treat people but also how they talk to and about them.” The Wall Street Journal reported that a group of venture capitalists is pushing a standard clawback clause proposal. The clause would make it easier for big investors to extract fines from companies embattled by controversy.

A company’s reputation is its bottom line. If your company’s reputation takes a hit on social media, your very existence as a company is in mortal peril.

Hundreds of individuals and companies have been destroyed or damaged due to negative brand reputation. Over 700 high-profile executives and employees across fields and industries have been called out by the #MeToo movement in the past year. By June, 190 of those accused were fired or left their jobs. Another 122 have been put on leave, suspended or are facing investigations since December 2016.

A study from Stanford showed that the fallout from bad behavior displayed by chief executives was long-lasting. The study looked at 38 incidents, which generated an average of 250 news stories each with media attention lasting almost five years. Shares suffered and, in a third of cases, firms faced further damage, including loss of major clients, federal investigations, shareholder lawsuits or proxy battles.

Our clients are on the front line of these battles and are well prepared to answer questions about their values and how they live by them because they’ve thought through their vulnerabilities and addressed weaknesses.

We use the following reputation risk management assessment tool to identify areas of vulnerabilities and help companies develop a C-Suite level response plan that is ready to communicate to every stakeholder.

We are our reputations, in business and in life. Good risk management lets us sleep well, and not wake up to bad news.