What risks are leaders concerned about now?

In January, we looked at the risks that were top of mind for leaders in the coming year. But what are the reputational risks that comms leaders are worried about right now? 

Polpeo works with organisations from a range of industries and across the public and private sectors, and these are some of the topics we’re talking to comms leaders about right now.  

1. The influence of social movements and cancel (or accountability) culture

The spread of the internet and the rise of social media allowed socially conscious people from around the world to connect and use their collective power to pressure brands, organisations, politicians and celebrities to change. 

As social platforms and apps have proliferated and Gen Z has grown with a culture of online protest, our voices are louder than ever. From boycotting brands for their political stance or business and environmental practices, to calling out celebrities for alleged abuse and urging others to do the same, social media is now synonymous with protest and speaking out. 

You can’t always avoid a backlash, but you can minimise the risk:  

  • Look at your behaviour, not just your communications. Make sure your house is in order, before communicating. (That includes your products, services and supply chain). 
  • Live your inclusive values. If you believe in what you’re doing, stand by your values if you’re challenged.  
  • Communicate with authenticity, clarity and courage 
  • If you’ve got it wrong, own your mistakes. Apologise, sort out the problem, plan to do better, and hold yourself accountable for improvements. 

 2. The impact of deepfakes 

There’s a massive rise in concern about the impact of deepfakes, which we’re seeing affect politicians, celebrities and businesses.  

In October 2023, deepfake audio of Labour leader Keir Starmer was released on the first day of the Labour Party Conference.  

At the end of January, we saw deepfake nude images that were made to look like Taylor Swift circulating on X, prompting the US and EU to look into legislation banning nonconsensual fake sexual images from being shared online. 

In February, a finance worker in Hong Kong released $25m to fraudsters after participating in a video call where all the other attendees were fake. The worker thought they were being asked to transfer money by their CFO, and after initially being suspicious, was convinced by the video call that the request was genuine. 

This is a growing problem, and one that will only be avoided by educating people to think critically, question any behaviour that seems out of the ordinary, and speak up with concerns.  

3. Data breaches & ransomware attacks

Ransomware attacks are on the rise. IBM predicts we’ll see more cybercriminals use tools such as Generative AI, using legitimate user identities to create doppelgänger accounts and ransomware attackers adapting their tactics to stay in business. 

Business leaders know how important it is to prevent cyberattacks with stringent IT security and to prepare their teams for potential attacks. This is a core part of any organisation’s business continuity plan.  

But teams also need to be prepared for the deluge of posts from customers and clients who will be worried about the security of their personal and financial data. The organisation’s reputation could be on the line if they get it wrong, and they’ll have to work hard to rebuild trust with their audiences. (Just look at how 23andme handled one of the worst data breaches last year.) 

4. Sabotage & rogue employees

A rogue employee may not set out to sell out the organisation, but could be deeply unhappy with a situation and has found a way to feel valued. 

Creating and maintaining a healthy culture with a focus on staff development and wellbeing helps to mitigate the risk of someone inside your organisation sabotaging its success, either deliberately (by disclosing confidential information, for example) or accidentally.  

Communication is critical in mitigating this risk. The simple act of asking if someone is ok, or speaking up if you’re worried about a colleague could nip an insider threat event in the bud, and save an organisation millions.  


If any of these areas are focuses for your crisis training right now, or you have another area you’d like help in preparing your teams for, you can get in touch with the Polpeo team here. 

Featured photo by Fer Nando on Unsplash

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