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Security risk assessment

Global Security Threats: Find out about the threat of media intrusion and reputational damage around the world.

Find out about security threats around the world, from terrorism, serious crime and kidnap to natural disasters, overseas emergencies and cybercrime.

Global Security Threats

Media Intrusion & Reputational Damage

Media intrusion
  • Media intrusion can come in many forms and it can devastate personal lives and can cause a great deal of distress for those involved. It can also be of serious concern to organisations and businesses trying to maintain good public relations. 

  • Reputational damage can also be a serious concern, catastrophic reputational damage to organisations, businesses and individuals can happen within a very short period of time and can be devastating to businesses and individuals alike.

  • Many organisations and high-profile individuals often neglect the importance of protecting their organisations and themselves from these threats. Planning for these eventualities is also extremely important to be able to quickly recover, should the worst happen. 

Media intrusion and reputational damage can affect any individual, family, company or organisation negatively, regardless of the realities of the situation presented, or the cause of the media attention. This causes unquantifiable harm, distress and irreversible damage to individuals, reputations and businesses in general.​

There is often considerable public debate about the conduct of the press in many countries around the world and in particular, about the conduct of investigative journalism. Whilst the media is very important and necessary and the vast majority of journalism is conducted in the correct way, certain areas of the media are often identified and accused of conducting their trade in an unacceptable way. People’s lives have been and continue to be, ruined by the disclosure, by the press, of matters regarding their private lives, including incorrect harmful information being disseminated. Additionally, there are numerous examples of investigative journalists, activist journalists, or agenda-driven groups or persons, targeting companies for particular attention, which can have an extremely damaging effect in itself.

Due to this, there is considerable activity around the world in relation to media intrusion, however, in many countries, the regulation of the press is carried out by voluntary, industry-led bodies, which often lack independence and power and can be unable to act to deal with complaints with sufficient speed. Additionally, there are established bodies that exist of high-level groups regulating media freedom, these bodies make recommendations for the protection of the media. If the law and the balance of press freedom and privacy are not maintained or high standards of practice are not met, this can leave targets of media attention with uncertainty regarding how well, they can presume, that they will be protected by the law and the industry.

There have been recent problems in certain countries regarding the law and the effectiveness of injunctions, or similar, that is, injunctions which restrain a person or media outlet from publishing information which concerns the applicant or target, that is considered confidential or private and which also restrains a person from publicising or informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings. If the press intrudes into someone’s private life and publishes things that the public is not entitled to know, there is a huge problem of containing the damage. The material can be republished on the internet and individuals may not be able to recall all the material. This can lead to untold damage to an individual whose privacy is wrongly breached. With the advent of the internet, technology and the growing number of independent media outlets and reporters, the protection of sensitive information can be difficult to control, even through the courts.

There are also serious concerns about the relationship between authorities, the police and the press, in several countries around the world, including western democratic countries. Which can potentially be of serious concern and an issue for organisations and individuals alike. This has made the subject of media intrusion extremely topical in several countries and a persisting issue elsewhere around the world.

Media intrusion can come in many forms, from physical intrusion into personal space, or into personal property, the use of recording devices, to the hacking of electronic devices, notably email correspondence and 'phone hacking', which has been prevalent within press circles and serious allegations have been made after an unacceptable intrusion has taken place. To deal with this, appropriate cross-sections of the entire profession, including those from the broadcast media may be necessary, to identify the issues concerning media practises and intrusion. It is down to individual governments to set up inquiries with objectives to make recommendations for new, more effective policy and regulatory regimes designed to encourage the highest ethical and professional standards, without stifling the independence or freedom of the media.

Future concerns about press behaviour, media policy, regulation and cross-media ownership should also be dealt with to take care of these issues. Also, authorities, in particular, need to evaluate whether intervention is either required or desirable. Which may help to curtail potentially illegal media intrusion and activity.

Incidents of reputational damage can significantly harm organisations or individuals alike, often financially. However, the importance of reputational damage is too frequently overlooked. This can cause catastrophic damage if an issue is not properly handled or the protection and security of an organisation or high-profile person are not addressed. Even if the subject in question is conducting business or correctly projecting themselves, hostile groups may attempt to portray them or their organisation in a bad light, to the media, partners, the public in general, or other.

Additionally, mistakes can be made that can cause damage if it is brought to light and not handled correctly, covering up an incident or error may have repercussions further along if the acknowledgement of failure is not forthcoming. This can lead to substantial financial compensation being paid, or mistrust being associated with an organisation or person in question.

Reputational damage to an organisation can be caused by many different factors, but more often than not, it is how an organisation responds to disruption. Organisations in the public eye must be seen, to be honest, and transparent to the public and their organisation, showing that each individual customer is valued and consideration is made for the welfare of their staff whilst equally, being seen to handle internal and external issues in an acceptable and ethical way at all times. If any of these elements fail, the company could face a huge reputational backlash.

The effects of reputational damage can be far-reaching. Firstly, there can be a loss of business, customers or clients, if an organisation’s customers feel that they have been lied to, or inconvenienced by a disruption that wasn’t dealt with appropriately, they are likely to take their business to a competitor. Additionally, mistrust may set in and partners or clients may withdraw their business. Customers may also share their anger on social media platforms, which may further damage the reputation of the organisation in question and will require a proactive damage limitation process to be implemented. 

Secondly, organisations may be obliged to provide compensation for the loss of products, services, or inconvenience to customers. This can turn a negative experience into a more positive one for the customer and may improve the reputation of the company and customer feedback, however, the financial impacts of this can be substantial. Loss of sales and customers as well as expenses due to compensation payments could, in the worst case, lead to catastrophic organisational failure.

The effects on an individual can be equally as damaging but can be considerably worse as well as extremely traumatic for that person, whether they are high-profile or not. If evidence of inappropriate behaviour has been highlighted, whether credible or not, or there is an issue of trust, this can lead to breakdowns in business or personal relationships, affect the person's family, cause regrettable financial implications and can have overall negative impact on their family and social life.

Minimising the risk of both media intrusion and reputational damage to organisations will depend on the type, complexity and size of the organisation, there are some broad responses which should be considered by all. Practical steps can be taken, including, comprehensive planning for a variety of eventualities, good risk management, risk assessments conducted and good crisis management procedures should be in place, as well as appropriate security of staff, premises and venues. This can also include relevant staff training and procedural advice. This type of response builds confidence.

Individuals wishing to minimise the risk of these threats can also take practical steps towards protecting themselves, their family and their business. These include seeking professional advice, considering the use of risk and crisis management professionals and adopting a more proactive attitude towards personal security and the security of their families, including the security of the residence, property, estates and assets at home and abroad.   

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