Corporate reputation for Professional Services firms

Brand and reputation protection is imperative for all professional services firms, and it is crucial organisations’ brand and reputation are viewed as strategic assets to be protected and managed.

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Brand and reputation protection is imperative for all professional services firms. Company integrity is paramount for maintaining brand image and standing. Safeguarding reputation as a trusted business partner is crucial for organisations seeking to secure their futures.   

Professional services firms are emerging from the pandemic at a crossroads. Moving away from viewing business through the lens of billable hours to creating long-lasting and meaningful partnerships with their clients. Public opinion is challenging business norms and forcing firms to alter working strategies to remain appealing to clients and colleagues alike. Prioritising digital transformation to automate routine tasks or to build new offerings such as consultancies using digital twins for modelling or architects using virtual reality for new designs. 

Companies are competing to differentiate from one another. People are still the heart of their business, and as such are often their competitive advantage. The current environment has shown retaining and recruiting staff to be difficult and assimilating new, tech-savvy employees - to very traditional workplaces – has also proved onerous. Updating business models while integrating new people and skills will inevitably create further reputational vulnerabilities. 

As the business environment increasingly digitalises, controlling reputation and building trust becomes a more difficult task; the social media age only exacerbates this. Firms suffering from reputational damage can consequently see their profitability diminish. Growth can decline from loss of current and future clients, event remediation, response costs, and also potential regulatory penalties. Legal litigation is another distinct possibility.

Modifying business models requires an appreciation of how the value of intangible assets has increased for professional services firms. Corporate crises can cause significant and enduring damage to a brand — eroding trust, destroying company value, and potentially inducing an organisation’s failure. Reputational damage can stem from various scenarios including environmental impact, accounting issues, cyber breaches, CEO misconduct and/or employee behaviour.    

Building a crisis-ready organisation 

As stakeholder scrutiny deepens and societal expectations rapidly shift, it is becoming easier for companies to inadvertently make mishaps. Additionally, social media, activist stakeholders, and misinformation can rapidly transform controlled incidents into crises. Such crises often have the ability to overwhelm in-house capacity and capability. 

In this environment, devising a systematic crisis response - that places reputation front and centre - is vital. The following activities support this: 

  • Developing practical crisis plans that both reflect existing working strategies and capture organisational nuances. 
  • Complementary scenario-specific playbooks provide a head start on response actions and communications, for both high likelihood and impact events. Relevant planning affords an opportunity to revise strategy and messaging without the stressors of a live crisis. 
  • Prioritising people capability development. Plans are redundant if unaccompanied with confident, trained crisis responders able to leverage their subject matter expertise. 
  • Exercises and simulations provide an opportunity to build confidence and skills. Moreover, they facilitate a transparent, risk-free forum for stress-testing processes and identifying improvements. 
  • The unique elements of crisis communications, from social media management to the roles of company spokespeople, require dedicated capability development. Organisations should consider media training, messaging workshops, and communications focussed scenario exercises. 

It is crucial organisations’ brand and reputation are viewed as strategic assets to be protected and managed. If they carefully manage and wherever possible, mitigate potential damage to their brand this can reduce costs and create opportunities for businesses to enhance both their reputations and revenue. Robust governance frameworks and professional post-crises responses have both proved effective tools for strengthening organisations’ long-term survival. 


Meet the authors

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Rory Cobb

Industry Leader, Professional and Business Services

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Amy Mason

Managing Consultant, Crisis Advisory, Marsh Advisory, UK