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Finding common ground on your family's reputation management strategy

By Michael Finnigan

A frequent source of tension in family businesses is the generational gap. Yet through the burgeoning field of reputation management, with its focus on social media and digital communication, the younger generation are finding they have the tools to bridge the divide. This can help ensure a smooth intergenerational transition in the process.

Social media plays a particularly important role in this relationship, according to the latest research from Campden Wealth and Credit Suisse, A Roadmap for Generational Wealth in Asia. This new medium allows the business to leverage the next generation's familiarity with digital platforms in a way that demonstrates value to the senior leadership.

Subsequently, the next generation are often involved in long-term reputation planning, while mentorship by senior managers in the family business ensures that their contributions remain strategic and closely linked to financial success.

Matt Himsworth, managing director at Himsworth Legal, a UK-based reputation management consultancy firm with experience in Asia, says that despite the growing trend of reputation management in the region, many families are struggling to agree on common goals.

“Sometimes there is friction between the digital native and the digital immigrant members of Asian families. The younger generation, who are accustomed to digital technology, sometimes overshare information and can cause reputational risks for the families,” Himsworth says.

“The older generation, on the other hand, are often too reticent to share their success with the public. Yet as these two generations come together, more sophisticated families will reach a happy medium that allows them to exploit the digital world.”

The danger of leaving generation gaps unaddressed can have a knock-on effect on reputation. In Asia, many family businesses, including Samsung in South Korea and Reliance Industries in India, have become locked in bitter corporate battles between family members that have caused the financial elite to face increasing public scrutiny.

Ensuring family squabbles don't become the focus of public perception can be handled through reputation management, particularly by making sure corporate success is shared through social media.

“The key takeaway for reputation management is to keep 'the private' private, by keeping home addresses off databases and by not giving away location details or family or private matters. At the same time it is important to promote any public and professional achievements that the family can be proud of,” Himsworth says.

The report advises that Asian family business leaders should look to create suitable reputation measurement and management strategies that mix preventative and mitigating measures.

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