In the services economies of today, reputation, “the greatest treasure mortal times afford”, is the single biggest business asset. The public mirror image of every organisation’s performance, behaviour and communication, reflected in the consciousness of its constituents, it can take a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.
Underpinned by the Aristotelian concept of ethos, it is the intangible asset that attracts the best executives and customers, boosts share-price, elicits independent endorsement, and opens the pathway to free publicity. Yet it is vulnerable to a world in which the new media can no longer be relied upon as guardians of truth. A chaotic, 24-hour multimedia culture means that information now reaches the popular consciousness before it can be properly analysed or contextualised, while a ballooning network of competing information channels has loosened the modern organisation’s control over its public representation, and intensified competition for audience attention.
“User-generated content” has democratised the creation of news itself, so that information is no longer exclusively filtered through trustworthy sources, traditional media “gatekeepers” no longer hold the keys to public perception, and a lie can circumvent the globe before the truth can catch up. As apps replace algorithms and the walled world of social media replaces open browsing, the search for truth is increasingly guided by peer recommendation.
The convergence of on and offline realities and the empowerment of audiences to interact with “news” and influence reputations, offers great opportunities for expert communications practitioners.
User-generated content shared across social media platforms offers an unparalleled window into the public psyche, enables organisational messages to spread further and faster than ever before and, by replacing Google algorithms with the “power of crowds” as the principal online searchlight, provides an unprecedented opportunity for free publicity, through the “golden bullet” of peer advocacy. With Google Analytics, bounce rates and activity ratios, PR, activity can finally be crystallised into tangible results.
As news migrates online, the vacuum left by the death of investigative journalism, has been filled by a creative PR battleground in which only the most carefully-crafted “angles”, stories, and stunts can capture the news agenda.
Social media offers an opportunity for organisations to create the fundamental building blocks of reputation, the establishment of “mutual dwelling places” for stakeholder dialogue, the attraction of third-party endorsement, and support from influential opinion-formers. Reputation has never been so vulnerable or so valuable. It must be nurtured with expertise across the chaotic 21st-century array of information portals, where truth itself relies on audience participation.
About Jargon PR: Founded in 2008 by Simon Corbett, Jargon PR helps business-to-business technology companies differentiate themselves from their competitors by providing impactful, strategic communications council. Jargon PR places clients at the forefront of the media, raising awareness, communicating key corporate messages and generating interest in our client’s products and services to drive sales.
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