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Paddy Hintz, Senior Consultant 

As crisis communications professionals, we’re often called in to put out reputational spot fires. Like any firefighter, we pray that we are called in early enough to prevent the type of conflagration that can bring down careers and severely dent the bottom line. 

It goes without saying that, at the SAS Group, we’re well-equipped to keep everyone calm and see the leadership group through a very hot time. But it is uncomfortable to witness dangerous fires that threaten careers and board positions that could have been prevented in the first place with a little forethought and internal communication.

Many organisations keep risk registers. Often these are sophisticated enough to put a dollar impact and likelihood weighting on the potential risks to the business to guide decision-making about whether a particular company direction or association is too risky for the future financial health of the company.

Risk managers generally tend to come from an accounting or legal background and work across the business to understand and interpret risk.

Considerations of reputational risk are ordinarily part of this process. From our experience dealing with organisations large and small, it is important that department heads who often would never come in contact with the head of corporate communications or the strategic communications company working with the firm, understand the potential impacts to their division and the company from media issues that might run out of control like wildfire.

Department heads and relationship managers have close contacts with their suppliers. Sometimes relationships are so closely knit, the business might actually be blind to the potential risks of dealing with a particular business partner.

In today’s world of supply chain transparency, all businesses need to be their brothers’ keeper. What goes on at your suppliers’ business needs to be considered as part of your risk registry. 

If you are blind to potential internal problems with suppliers, one of the easiest and earliest warnings can come from a media inquiry about alleged practices. 

This should be your first warning, and the risk manager as well as the communications professionals should be advised. 

Communications professionals can put out the reputational spot fire but to prevent the cinders blowing through the rest of your business, take a risk management approach and decide the potential impacts this issue could have if the heart of the problem is not properly dealt with in and out of the business.

The SAS Group is your trusted partner for government, media and corporate engagement.

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