By Katya Beisel
Yesterday morning, seasoned public relations practitioners, communication educators and university students from across the nation’s capitol area gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for a unique three-panel event focused on a variety of issues and current events within reputation management. Organized in partnership with American University’s School of Communication, George Mason University’s Department of Communication, University of Maryland University College and the Public Relations Society of America Educators Academy, the event featured two familiar faces.
CARP founding father and frequent blog contributor Sergei Samoilenko moderated the event’s second panel, “Reputation Management in the Digital Domain,” which featured CNN National Security Analyst Shawn Turner, Edelman Senior Account Supervisor Neely Dockins, Social Driver Co-Founder and CEO Anthony Shop and others.
Serge’s panel succeeded a panel addressing industry issues in the wake #MeToo and the onslaught of sex scandals that have rocked the media industry in the last year. This all-female panel featured undergraduate and graduate communication students, including myself, CARP’s communications manager.
The final panel of the day focused on the ethics of reputation management and featured three veteran practitioners: President and Owner of Leonard and Finco Public Relations Susan Finco, Former Deputy Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve as well as Army Public Affairs Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Mari Eder and Sound Advisory Group President and NYU and Columbia faculty member Jacqueline Strayer.
All three panels shared valuable insight into current events and issues in public relations and reputation management. Without further preamble, here are a few key take aways from yesterday’s diverse array of speakers, who bridged the gap between education and practice.
Fake news, leaks, and other problematic information is virtually impossible to contain in the digital age.
In the words of CNN National Security Analyst Shawn Turner, “With the onset of digital communication and the internet, bad news spreads like a virus”. Other panelists agreed that the concept of containment no longer exists. The widespread availability of information on the internet as well as the rapid pace at which information can be shared and spread through social media have redefined the landscape of reputation management. Panelists agreed that mitigation, not containment, should be a public relations professional’s objective.
Internal Data is just as important as external data.
While monitoring and responding to social media engagements and other external data sources is important, particularly in the midst of a crisis, panelists urged attendees not to ignore internal sources. Feedback from internal avenues and direct communication, such as letters and phone calls, are just as valid and telling of the public reaction to a brand in crisis as social media engagements and news coverage. To paraphrase Social Driver’s Anthony Shop, public relations professionals cannot solely rely on social media metrics to make decisions –they must also gauge response from actual human beings.
In a crisis, generate “snackable” content
Years ago, producing a whitepaper laced with quotes from subject matter experts and steeped in authority was an effective response to a crisis. However, in the age of social media, a 24-hour news cycle and instant access to information, panelists advised abandoning this approach. Instead, they recommended generating smaller content that can be understood and spread easily by a brand’s existing followers, such as short video clips.