Michael Clayton played by George Clooney

“This is a three billion dollar class action lawsuit. In the morning, I have to call my board. I have to tell them that the architect of our defense was arrested for running naked in the street.” – Karen Crowder, Michael Clayton

You’ve heard of the “overnight success.” One thing anyone who has been labelled as such will tell you is that there’s no such thing. What about the “overnight disaster?” I would say that there’s no such thing either — yet many managers fear waking up one morning to find their company trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. In the debrief following the crisis, two questions will be asked of you: how did you let this happen, and why didn’t you catch it earlier?

Just as success doesn’t magically appear, neither does disaster.

Proactive reputation management is an essential ingredient of companies in the modern era. By following daily routine, you will ensure reputational issues are proactively managed, avoiding the “overnight disaster.” These steps will also allow you to take your place as a trusted, sought-after advisor in your organization.

1. What do you need to respond to today? In the morning, after you’ve monitored your media channels, determine what you need to respond to. It could be a letter to the editor; it could be a blog post. Since this item is already public, you will need to make this your first priority. You want your response to be polished and to have attained all the appropriate corporate approvals, so get started on it early.

2. What does your executive team need to know? The mark of an adept advisor is to see danger (or opportunity!) coming around the corner. In order to be proactive with your organization’s reputation, brainstorm what questions your executive could be asked by others in the course of the day. Draft a one-pager summarizing any risks or opportunities the company faces reputationally and what you intend to do about them. Email it to them weekly. Provide justification as to why — or why not — action is being taken. More often than not, nothing will materialize, but your executive members will know you have your finger on the pulse of public opinion and will seek out your advice in the future.

3. Know when more information is needed. The last thing your organization or your leadership wants from you is half-baked advice made based off a knee-jerk decision. A member of the media may call you out of the blue at any time, and they will probably have more information about the situation than you do. You should anticipate these calls. By gathering information on a regular basis — whether it be business updates from internal sources or insights from external research — aim to have key messages prepared before people start asking questions.

By making proactive reputation management and situational awareness a part of your daily routine, you will be well-prepared to offer advice to the highest levels of your organization. In time, your expert opinion will become valued, and you will have secured a valuable seat at the table in your organization.