It takes 20 years to build a good reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” business magnate Warren Buffet once said. With the advent of the internet, the reputation of a business is increasingly crucial to its success. We live in an era of immediacy and innovation. Information has gone from being a limited resource to a source of knowledge within everyone’s reach. In this new digital age, reputation management must be a corporate priority.

Media has not only become an integral part of everyday life, but ordinary citizens are increasingly becoming sources of information and news. With this comes one of the most significant risks for organizations: an extremely volatile state of public opinion.

New phenomena in communication can transform the perceptions of the general public about brands and their ambassadors. It can be a double-edged sword – it can take its protagonists to the highest point of heaven or the depths of hell.

The obstacle isn’t just about real news – fake news can be detrimental to reputations as well. Fake news has taken the stage in the last few years, permeating social, economic and political spheres. It has taken on a new proportion and from the highest spheres of power to regular folks, no one is exempt from its effects.

The accusations of electoral fraud in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in the United States of America generated the highest number of impacts and the most interaction on Facebook in 2017, according to Buzzfeed. In Mexico, Frida, the girl trapped in the ruins of a school after the earthquake in Mexico City moved millions but turned out to be the product of an informant’s imagination.

According to Gartner, by 2022, most individuals in mature economies will consume more false information than true information.

In this scenario, reputation management must be a priority. Companies are forced to adopt new systems and technologies to optimize their processes.

Social networks are now the second most consulted channel for information, according to a study conducted by the National Consulting Center (CNC) in Colombia. It is an urgent call for companies to monitor possible threats to their reputation.

Some companies learn this the hard way. A video of Domino’s Pizza employees vandalising customer’s pizzas went from a revolting prank to an international public relations crisis, tainting the brand for a long time. When United Airlines dragged an unruly passenger off one of their flights with surprising violence, bystanders filmed and posted the incident which then developed into a full-blown scandal. Today, nothing is hidden, and all decisions are open to public derision.

Organizations need to be aware of what is said about them by formal and informal means, both by opinion leaders and ordinary citizens. Crisis protocols must already be shaped and ready to go. Preparation is key in avoiding irreparable consequences. Reputation management shouldn’t be an issue only during times of crisis, but a constant concern that allows companies to deal with adverse conditions with grace and assertiveness.