Reputation management is one of the biggest issues concerning businesses, according to research released today. New statistics show that most businesses are more worried about reputational damage than a host of other serious issues.

The nationwide survey, commissioned by Speakers Corner, drew responses from 500 business owners and directors with at least 20% equity, for companies with at least 100 employees.

Surprisingly, more than half the business owners and directors surveyed say reputational damage worries them more[1] than other concerns including falling profits, high staff turnover, high inflation, the cost of living impact on their staff or rising energy costs. In addition, 50% say they are more concerned1 about reputational damage than the potential of a recession, the possibility of going back into lockdown or the green agenda including net zero targets.2

“The results of this survey are a clear indication that reputation management is a critical issue for most businesses – and it’s never been more challenging,” comments Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers Corner, the UK’s leading speaker bureau. “Alongside delivering value to shareholders and stakeholders, businesses are also expected to lead the way in corporate social responsibility and ethical practices, as well as having a positive impact on their communities. Any perceived wrongdoing or controversy can have serious repercussions, and this is obviously a huge concern for most businesses.”

Almost 9 in 10 (88%) business owners and directors surveyed said reputation management is more of a priority[2] for their business than training employees and 86% said it was more of a priority2 for them than sustainability.

The threat of reputational damage is coming from a variety of issues. 23% of directors/business owners surveyed see financial issues as the reputation issue most damaging to their business, while 16% cite toxic business culture/bullying as the most damaging reputation issue; 16% name data breach issues as the reputation issue that could be most harmful and 11% list environmental concerns as the issue likely to cause most damage to their reputation.

In today’s interconnected world a single negative incident or comment can spread rapidly, potentially causing significant harm to a reputation, making it an increasingly pressing issue for UK businesses.

The top five impacts experienced by the directors and owners surveyed in managing reputation issues are:

  1. Low staff morale (28%)
  2. Staff left (27%)
  3. Negatively impacted profits (26%)
  4. Negative impact on culture / weakened value proposition (24%)
  5. Investment withdrawn (22%)

The stress of reputation management may not be one of the topics making headlines – for example a potential recession or high energy costs are. But these survey results highlight how huge this worry is for the majority of business owners and directors.

Concern over protecting their business from reputational damage is one of the biggest issues most businesses currently face.