Ask the expert: Director and Head of the Client Advisory Team Jessica Shelver discusses ORM for private clients

December 2022
 by Jess Shelver

Ask the expert: Director and Head of the Client Advisory Team Jessica Shelver discusses ORM for private clients

December 2022
 By Jess Shelver

Jessica Shelver is a Director and Head of the Client Advisory Team at Digitalis, specialising in online reputation management for private clients. We ask her a few questions about her work and the challenges faced by private clients across different global markets in an ever-changing digital landscape.

  • Tell us a little about your background, how you came to work at Digitalis, and the particular areas of expertise that you bring to your clients.

I have always been a passionate communicator. For me, communication is about problem solving, asking the right questions, and connecting with people, often on an emotional and human level. That passion has served me well throughout a varied career spanning government, politics, and the private sector.

After my degree in international political studies, I embarked on a career as a strategic communications professional. I now have a decade’s worth of experience in crisis communications, reputation management, government relations, media relations, brand management, corporate reputation management, and image management. It’s been a very exciting and diverse journey. 

Joining Digitalis last year was the culmination of all that work, and my role fits with my belief that individuals, families and businesses have the right to present a narrative online that is accurate, truthful, and best supports their business and reputation. My work at Digitalis helps people and companies to do that. With our support they can maintain, improve, and safeguard their reputation online, protecting their privacy and that of their families. 

  • What type of clients do you work with, and what challenges does the online world pose for them in protecting their privacy and managing their reputation?

The online world is constantly evolving, and people need to adapt with it. We support that journey, helping clients to navigate both the upsides and the perils of a fast-moving internet. I advise governments, HNWIs, and FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, as well as their executives and boards, on privacy and online reputational risk. We also support boards in managing their digital exposure and reputational risk. 

I help clients shape their online narratives through their personal websites, philanthropic activity, social media, and third-party content. I work with them to ensure their story, perspective and message reaches the people they want to connect with, as well as a wider audience. Along with my team, I also help clients safeguard their digital narrative and online story – which is influenced by so many players and factors – by countering and displacing inaccurate or one-sided content from search results pages. 

Even before the pandemic, the digital ecosystem was radically transforming, with a massive increase in the digitisation of many daily exchanges and tasks. Every minute, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is uploaded, and this shift of information to the digital sphere has increased the security and reputational risks faced by families and companies alike. There is an ever-expanding pool of uncensored information online, which could be leveraged with malicious intent. A lack of understanding regarding the extent of the digital footprint of a family could lead to reputational damage, infringement of privacy, and threats to physical security. Every detail of our lives has become a lucrative commodity of the Information Age, and our job is to support clients as they navigate this increasingly complex online maze.

  • What global challenges do private clients face online when managing their reputation, and how have these evolved?

Every day a staggering amount of information is shared online, and the Covid-19 pandemic amplified this. It drew us closer together but also pushed us further apart, and this applied across the globe.

Through the use of technology, the world became a village during the pandemic – but therein lies the challenge. The onset of the pandemic triggered an almost overnight transition to working remotely, digitising documents, and sharing sensitive information online. This has created a huge amount of digital data that could be exploited with malintent, and it’s something that particularly affects our private clients and their advisers.

Search engines are often the first port of call in research or due diligence for analysts, journalists, employees, regulators and investors. But because of the way search engine algorithms rank content, material that is historical, irrelevant, and sometimes damaging or otherwise unhelpful can often outrank more positive, recent news. Websites do not always present a narrative in ways that help visibility or draw readers to an individual’s own site. Third-party commentary, particularly on social media, is not always marshalled in a way that supports the intended narrative.

Complex realities are simply not reflected accurately in a few paragraphs online, but what appears on those first few pages of search engine results can highly influence readers’ perceptions of an individual’s reputation, business, credibility and financial record. Great businesses nurture and protect their reputation, both online and offline. We encourage private clients to think and do the same.

  • What changes are you seeing in the digital space that affect your clients, and what do you think will be the most important issues for your clients in the near future?

Over the past decade, people’s understanding of online privacy has matured quite significantly, and regulation has underpinned a necessity to protect users from having their data harvested by big technology firms. 

The first series of lockdowns in Europe in 2020 propelled businesses and families to operate online at a scale we had not experienced before. According to a McKinsey Global Survey, companies accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years during lockdown – and the share of digital or digitally-enabled products in their portfolios accelerated by seven years. Digital adoption took a quantum leap at both the organisational and industry levels.

In the private client world, this has meant family offices and investment specialists have had to shift sensitive conversations from face-to-face to online, increasing the risk of delicate data being uncovered and exposed.

In less than 24 months, the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly and abruptly consolidated our reliance on digital services and platforms, leading to increased risk. Cybersecurity is a greater concern than ever: according to a report from Deloitte, 47% of people are more likely to fall for a phishing scam while working from home. The City of London Police reported that between January 2020 and July 2022, more than £11m was lost due to Covid-19 scams. These are critical trends to reflect on and mitigate against.

  • Finally, how can your clients make sure they remain aware of the risks to their privacy and online reputation posed by the ever-changing online world?

Every crumb becomes a cookie and adds to the amount of data we generate, which is why everyone should become savvy about and invest in managing their digital footprint. We all need to understand our exposure to protect not only ourselves and our families, including several connected layers and generations, but the providers we use and people we interact with, especially the most vulnerable amongst us. Make sure you share the same ethos you apply to your family’s privacy with your advisers and your team, and where possible, limit the amount of information you share with third parties. Digitalis can help you to understand the privacy and reputation implications of the new information age that we exist in, and advise on how best to protect yourself, your business and your family. 

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