Public relations describes how others perceive a company or individual. Managed
properly, public relations can be more effective than traditional advertising, as
people tend to believe PR more than a paid for advertisement. The importance of
public opinion cannot be overemphasized; it has the power to make or break a
business or a career.
Social media has a huge impact on public perception, and it is paramount to manage
the traffic. Although conversations can be directed, some develop organically.
Posts, tweets, and comments should be vigilantly followed. As it is only a point of
view, public opinion can be swayed by facts, images, and rumors. Simply because
something is not true does not mean that people will not believe it.
If a post gets traction, it can have a powerful long-term impact. Although people
talking about a brand demonstrate interest, it does not mean that this free
advertisement will yield positive results. Allowed to fester, a negative image can
become fixed in the public mind and devastate a business or a career. These
negative perceptions are difficult to be shifted to positive. Maintaining a positive
public image is essential, causing reputation management to be the cornerstone of
every public relations program.
Examples of these social media disasters are seen frequently, and many could have
been diffused by some constructive action or knowledge by the company. Hashtags
are an effective way to get a conversation going about a product, company, or
service, but they can be easily misconstrued and take on lives of their own. A little
topic sensitivity could have prevented the recent hashtag jacking of a pizza company
of #WhyIStayed, originally developed for a discussion on domestic violence. A
different approach to help improve the public image of the New York Police
Department would have been better than creating #myNYPD and asking for pictures
with NYPD officers. The request soon devolved into photos depicting arrests and
From Reddit to Facebook to Twitter, it is vital to be aware of the chatter about your
brand. Social Media is a powerful tool and can have far reaching effects on a brand.
If a company is not the one driving the content, at least it should have a positive
response to redirect any negative comments.