As I am studying a degree in Communication and Media with a minor in Journalism, though-out my studies I have learnt a lot about social media in relation to public relations and journalism. I find this aspect of today’s society quite interesting and I have noticed that social media has many positive and negative effects in these professions and have noticed how it affects public relations procedures. From this weeks readings I have specifically looked at how social media affects issues and crisis management, especially in terms of a specific crises type called “reputational”. Reputational damage refers to “events that threaten the reputation of the organisation” (McLean, 2014, p. 319). McLean (2014, p. 319) explains that this type of reputational damage may not have an immediate affect on production and business but not many organisations can survive when their reputation has been damaged.
An organisations reputation can literally be damaged with the click of a button. If someone posts about a negative experience with an organisation, it can essentially be seen by millions of people around the globe and just one post can influence and shape a persons opinion on the organisation. This reputational damage can occur online via “viral videos, rumours, mis-information and gossip” (McLean, 2014, 316). I have seen this occur many times when I am just simply scrolling through my Facebook news feed. An example of an incident of reputational damage I have seen online is when an unhappy customer sent a public message (a “wall post” if you will) to the Facebook page of a large supermarket chain. The post included text describing what the supermarket chain had done to severely displease the customer and was accompanied by a photo of the product that the customer had an issue with. So, not only did this post allow quite a few thousand people to see what the supermarket chain had done to displease the customer, social media platforms allow people to “like”, “comment” and “share” such content. This allows people to voice their negative opinion of the organisation and enables the damaging post to appear on the newsfeeds of thousands of other people. Negative talk about an organisation on social media can be extremely damaging as McLean (2014, p. 323) says, “Twitter has emerged as one of the leading threats to corporate reputations”. An angry customer posting online can be more damaging than an angry mob of protestors.
I find it interesting that a complaint via social media can be so damaging to a reputation and how one post has the power to put an organisation out of business. Other crises types include sudden, emerging and bizarre or unusual, and any of these crises threaten the survival of an organisation, but social media has a prominent affect on reputational damage. I enjoyed this week’s readings and truly look forward to researching and learning more about the effects that social media has on crisis management and Public Relations in general. From the beginning of the social media craze to now, public relations and journalism has been affected in prominent areas of the professions. I think it will be interesting to see how much else about these professions will change and grow within the next ten years due to social media because, as McLean (2014, p. 323) says, “social media platforms breathe life into issues” and I could not agree more.
Reference: McLean, H 2014, Public Relations Theory and Practice, Crisis and Issues Management, chapter 13, pp. 315-344, 4th edition, Allen and Unwin