When deciding my thesis topic in early 2011, I was drawn to the notion of corporate reputation and how it is deeply influenced by social media and of course how this impacts overall on the public relations industry.
Historically, the profession of public relations has had an important impact on how people and corporate entities communicate with one another. Public relations has always been about maintaining an image but also protecting valuable status, and this notion has transcended through history from the early Greeks, to the Romans, early American leaders to our modern society – in my opinion, public relations has always been considered the mediator profession, where there have been issues on both sides and PR has come to the rescue providing a neutral response to a problem.
As public relations has become more revolutionised by the current technological environment, it is increasingly faced with challenges – moving away from traditional methods of press releases and kits, to social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and other commercial online sites. This has proven a challenge for the industry continually reinventing itself in the ever-changing technological society to steer clear from tainting its image and reputation.
Technology is not the only impact on public relations in this modern society, but also the laws of truth and idea of corporate reputation are important but have become mere concepts for consideration rather than crucial aspects of maintaining the image of a PR practitioner.
The relevance of this topic to public relations is that it impacts practitioners in their everyday practice. When I began this degree I decided that public relations would be a more suitable profession, of all the communications disciplines because of its diversity. Public relations is everywhere and controls a vast majority of industries in Australia as well as US, Asia and Europe, but the reason public relations was found appealing is due to the fact that it is a profession that is based solely on communicating key messages between individuals and organisations – a mediated profession.
Evidence proves that public relations is an ever-changing technological society, the way individuals and organisations communicate with each other is through the use of social media platforms. So in a way, public relations has been forced to adapt to change; disposing of the old traditional forms of communication and implementing newer technology friendly approaches to liaise with its publics.
The industry of public relations has undergone a series of changes in the current expanding social media landscape, and one of these prominent changes is based on how they interact with social media when their reputation is questioned. Reputation management is a crucial factor in maintaining efficient public relations communications between organisations and their clients; therefore an understanding about how a public relations professional could address issues with reputation is important to their success and credibility.
As social media has become a common communication medium among today’s public relations practitioners, it is also being used as a tool for information subsidy but also an important part of crisis communication. Therefore when it comes to using social media as part of daily public relations practice, they must consider the ethical issues that may arise where their reputation is concerned; are they overstepping a line and pushing boundaries? How far is too far?