For those firms which misstep, fallout can be very damaging, both for the financial bottom-line and reputationally. However, for those which are pro-active and invest in their capability, the prizes -- both in terms of mitigating risk and seizing opportunity -- are potentially ever more significant.
Warren Buffett isn't often wrong. Yet he was when he said: 'It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.' Most reputations are severely damaged because an organisation has failed over many years to operationally live up to the high expectations set by their PR and marketing activity.
As this area of communication continues to develop we will continue to see news stories where you can't help but wonder how someone could have been so naive'? Yet, employers must also make sure that they don't end up on the wrong end of a tribunal decision (or the media) by taking a decision that could ultimately be considered unreasonable or disproportionate.
It's certainly not going to be easy for Nike to distance themselves from Pistorius. And they won't be helped by having Nike adverts appear next to editorial stories of brand ambassadors caught up in all sorts of trouble. But this is going on every single day in markets across the world. Due to the nature of online advertising, once an advert is sent out from the original advertiser, they basically give up their control of where the content lands.
Plumbing emergencies don't wait until it's convenient for you. Neither does searing toothache at 3am. When you've locked yourself out of your home, it's always the middle of the night. As much as we'd like to have a handy list of emergency service people on speed-dial, the truth is, we often turn to the internet to get hold of someone in a hurry.
Just like the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words", YOUR picture on search engines could be worth a great deal when it comes to your online reputation. If you want to do a quick check to find out what people are saying about you, or what has been written about you; you type your name into Google and the results are available in an instant.
The arrival of social media has been both an opportunity and headache for retailers. It's certainly easier to build a community of loyal fans and to work on deals and offers with them, but it is just as easy for the community to share bad news about your company - especially when rivals are offering better deals.