A passenger brutally dragged off a United flight. Volkswagen, using software to manipulate emissions. Wells Fargo, creating fake customer accounts.

In each case, it didn’t take long for stock prices to plummet, customers to turn away in droves, and each company to earn a big black eye. Whether it’s over 20 minutes or 20 months, a brand’s reputation can take a crippling hit after a scandal. While much of the focus lies on short term threats to the enterprise, just as much emphasis should be placed on protecting the brand from strategic threats that affect the company over a longer period of time.

Each of these events illustrates the direct line-of-sight correlation between brand reputation and the valuation of the company. However, some crises are slow burns: for instance, fast food brands have faced a steady decline over the past decade as obesity concerns are on the rise – and it shows in their valuations. It’s not just changing customer preferences that can put your business at risk – brands also face threats from things like leaks, corruption violations or a poorly-timed, impolitic quote from the CEO.

The mandate to protect brand reputation comes from the top down. Because brand and reputation risk are often tied to emotions, trust and gut reactions towards an organization, damage to a brand’s perception can pose the largest potential for value destruction. A corporate board’s main concern is their company’s market value — 25% of which is made up by brand reputation, according to a study by World Economics.

But how to measure?

In the past, enterprises were forced to measure their brand’s health through focus groups and surveys. These were costly to conduct and generated results that were out of date by the time of publishing. Today’s digital-first world allows brands to measure reputation in real-time, with social media providing the best insight we’ve ever had into the perception of a brand.

But who’s in charge?

The responsibility of protecting the brand is a cross-functional effort involving the board and executive team, as well as the corporate communications, marketing, strategy, risk and crisis management departments. With so many stakeholders involved in the process, it is essential that everyone involved is working from the same, centralized dataset. Yet so far, departments have all been working from their own individual datasets, based on their specific needs. This fragmented approach — and slightly different approaches to data collection — created a certain level of skepticism towards data, as different departments gravitated toward their particular collection method. A centralized approach to media data negates this issue — corporate communications, marketing PR, digital strategy and risk teams can all leverage the same trusted dataset.

Having access to this data in a centralized location is only half the battle. The trickiest part is assembling the right team (involving all the relevant departments), as well as establishing the framework and internal inertia to ensure the program gets off the ground. What’s more, the Internet is a noisy place. Enterprises need to know what data to look for and how to measure it. One way many other enterprises have overcome this problem is by creating a “true north” for their brand — a set of core values that guide the perception of the company, attached with metrics to measure the performance of each. Without the measurement portion, there is no way to see where weaknesses in brand reputation lie or identify any external threats that could damage perception down the road.

Enterprises can now get more real-time insights into the health of their brand than ever before. Yet for this to happen, executives need a clear plan that involves a cross-functional team all working from the same dataset with a clear idea of how they will go about measuring the brand’s reputation.

If you’d like to learn more about how to protect your brand reputation, register for Zignal’s webinar — How to build an intelligent risk blueprint that protects your company’s brand.