November 20, 2023
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To help the companies shaping the future prepare for the moments shaping their own.
To partner with our clients to anticipate their greatest risks, seize new opportunities and protect what makes them uniquely valuable so they can change the world.
Now, more than ever before, technology companies must invest their time and attention in managing their corporate reputations and building reputation equity. There are multiple audiences, including investors, customers, the media and regulators, who are eager to gain greater insight into the internal operations of technology companies as well as their take on industry-specific and broader social issues. This increased level of scrutiny applies to organizations at every stage of their growth, whether they’re freshly minted startups emerging from stealth mode, mid-sized organizations expanding into new markets and customer bases, or established players poised to go public. Regardless of where a tech company is on its journey, our Corporate practice partners with them to help prepare for the moments in their history that have the potential to more rapidly expand their presence and impact within their own markets and across the world.
We help our clients continue to be highly customer-centric in addressing immediate and longer term user needs, while also building equity with other significant audiences who can influence how a tech company is perceived. For instance, employees are far more likely today to behave as skeptics, critics and activists, and it’s vital that tech companies stay fully engaged in addressing the expectations of their own staff as they rapidly grow and scale their businesses.
Our Corporate practice counsels our clients about the importance of their corporate reputation and of cultivating and shaping that reputation on a daily basis rather than thinking of it as an area to focus on only when facing potentially acute issues. Should a bad situation occur, every tech company needs to know in advance that they have what will be required to withstand and weather any storm, both in terms of communications assets and mental fortitude.
In our work with clients, we stress the need to take early action far in advance of a tech company making a major move that will likely involve disruption and change. We have worked closely with clients in the run-up to going public such as Ginkgo Bioworks or in building trust in their technology like Gemini. And we’re proud to partner with companies like Canva as they build their brand and act as a force for good in the world.
<split-lines>“It’s vital that tech companies stay fully engaged in addressing the expectations of their own staff as they rapidly grow and scale their businesses.”<split-lines>
Tech companies need to carefully navigate every new stage of their growth and transformation. We are always there for our clients with advice on how to manage their reputation, deal with specific issues and prepare for an impending crisis and handle that situation in real-time. We draw on deep experience gained over many years of providing such counsel in areas including executive positioning and thought leadership, issue advocacy, particularly in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), employee engagement and internal communications, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy and reporting.
As well as raising the latest funding or heading to an IPO via the traditional route or via SPAC, our clients are busy building brand-new categories or moving into complementary or fresh markets, which may involve M&A activities. All of these major moments of strategic change involve companies managing all kinds of risks, from potential information leaks to cybersecurity incidents. They also need to ensure that they are being transparent and appropriately communicating what’s happening with their key stakeholders.
Additionally, industry giants like Salesforce have set an expectation among different groups that tech companies will have commentary on issues beyond the business of software, such as social and political concerns. We work with our clients on how to frame this kind of commentary so that it is substantive and heartfelt. It is vital that a tech company reflects the diversity of their own employees, customers and partners in how they speak to the important social issues of the day. Our work also includes helping our clients to protect and nurture what makes them uniquely valuable, from their technology to their customer base to their corporate culture, as they grow and transform.
<split-lines>“Our work includes helping our clients to protect and nurture what makes them uniquely valuable, from their technology to their customer base to their corporate culture, as they grow and transform.”<split-lines>
We expect interest to increase in where our clients and other tech companies stand on DEI, ESG and other issues. For instance, customers want to feel good not only about the products they are purchasing but also about the stance which the creators of those technologies are taking on the topics that matter most to individual buyers.
Internally, employees will want more insight into the stances their employers are taking and tech companies will need to recognize that the employee goodwill they might previously have enjoyed 10 to 20 years ago has evaporated. Today, many more employees are more skeptical about the companies they work for and there is much work that tech companies need to do to be more open with their staff around topics such as pay equity and diversity in hiring. We also encourage tech leaders to become more vulnerable in sharing more of their own work/life challenges internally to open the door to more company-wide discussions about the importance of self care and how to avoid burnout.
From a regulatory perspective, we expect the U.S. administration to be more assertive on how it views the tech industry as a whole, in terms of how to legislate on public interest issues such as data privacy and cybersecurity.
<split-lines>“Customers want to feel good not only about the products they are purchasing but also about the stance which the creators of those technologies are taking.”<split-lines>
We strongly believe in transparency, honesty, engagement and empathy, and in taking early ownership of issues. It’s all too easy to think about reputation management from a negative perspective, but we encourage our clients to take a more upbeat approach—to see the world clear-eyed, as it is, and then take action and put in the work to deliver on your vision of how it needs to be to serve everyone equally.
Disruptive companies no longer have permission to ‘move fast and break things.’ Instead, we help our clients understand, adapt to and communicate with key stakeholders who are often skeptical of new technologies, categories and innovation. We encourage our clients to have these often hard conversations and advise them on how to embrace radical candor when engaging with their own staff, members of the media and analyst communities, and with regulators. Ultimately, the goal is to build trust among stakeholders in both transformative technologies and the companies who’ve created those breakthroughs.
November 20, 2023
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