November 2012

Wonga's attacks on Stella Creasy MP show how some companies attempt to control rather than manage reputation

Wonga Shows Reputation Needs Managing Not Controlling

The Guardian's public shaming of payday loans firm Wonga, illustrates how some companies need to rethink their approach to protecting reputation.

The investigation showed Wonga's attempts to control reputation by deleting online content created by detractors and running fake, social media accounts to post positive reviews and to attack Stella Creasy MP for her campaigning against the activities of Payday loans companies.

While Wonga's actions would be beyond the pale for virtually all organisations, its approach of trying to hide genuine criticism and shout louder than detractors isn't so uncommon.

There are many examples of companies that offer poor service, have unhappy workers or fail to invest in innovation, that carry on regardless.  They believe that as long as they're still making money there's nothing to worry about.

A reputation-led approach to business would suggest otherwise, indicating that eventually organisations with poor reputation will be forced to improve (by customers, legislators, other stakeholders or the higher costs associated with a poor reputation) or cease to exist.

Instead, organisations like Wonga should seek to listen to stakeholders and understand how they are percieved, look at how they can evolve to better meet the standards expected of them, and then seek to engage and influence audiences to argue why the company has an important role to play in society.

Only by taking this approach can businesses enjoy sustainable success for the long-term.