Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Participatory Media and its Impact on Reputation Management

By Toivo Mvula

Participatory media has changed the way people are communicating. Communication has and is increasingly becoming more public as people share their thoughts and conversations online.

Participatory media includes weblogs, social networking sites, microblogging sites, email services, SMS (short message services, podcasts, videoblogs (or vlogs), among others.

Some of these conversations revolve around brands and are therefore having an impact on organisation and brand reputations.

People are sharing information on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, and expressing their opinions on organisations and their products and services. What they say, ultimately has an impact on the reputation of organisations considering the fact that people tend to listen and act on what their peers tell them.

Katz and Lazerfield (Fawkes in Theaker, 2006: 28) argue that people are more easily influenced by the people they know or trust, such as friends and family.

Journalists are also increasingly using participatory media as a source of news for the mainstream media.

If such negative information leaks into mainstream media as is often the case, it could even have much disastrous effects for organisations or anyone who has a reputation to uphold.

It is therefore important that public relations practitioners embrace the new media rather than viewing it as a threat.

Weaver-Lariscy et al’s (2009) research on how organisations are monitoring public opinion in cyberspace revealed a ‘large gap in the use [of participatory media] and perceived importance between practitioners and a slow awakening among even non-user reticent to adopt as they realise its potential value’.

Lariscy, Avery, & Sohn (2007) in Weaver-Lariscy et al (2009) states that ‘given the unrestrained voice social media grant publics, practitioners will face mounting pressure to monitor their organization’s presence online to keep their fingers on the pulse of public opinion and engage in “virtual environmental spanning”. Just as practitioners can’t ignore activist voices that may reach the tipping point, social media demand a new form of surveillance and monitoring on behalf of organizations, particularly given that tools such as blogs may be a vital source of information for journalists.’

A survey conducted last year by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) found that ‘mastering social media skills’ was one of the top three issues for public relations practitioners for the next two years.

All the more so for a call for the subject ‘Digital Media’, ‘New Media’ or whatever you want to call it, to be made compulsory for all public relations students.

1 comment:

  1. According to a survey carried out by Cision ( and Don Bates of the George Washington University, the 89% of journalists turn to blogs for story research, 65% to social networking sites such as Facebook, 61% to Wikipedia and 52% to microblogging services such as Twitter. All these data show us that it is very important for a company to be aware of what the people tell about them in Internet, because bad opinions could serve to produce a news to a journalist in few minutes.

    Moreover, like the cite of Katz and Lazerfield says, people is more influenciable for other people more than for newspapers, adverstiments, etc. New technologies are an important tool because people can share their opinion about products or companies in few seconds, and this action could damage or destroy the reputation of them.

    For that reason is important that the new PR practitioners use these media to know what people think about their clients and try to change it.