The future of PR

Earlier today I was contacted by a PR student at Southampton Solent University and asked to contribute with a short blog post on the future of public relations for an e-book they’re producing.
I’m a PR student as well and coincidentally, this year I’m studying a module called Reputation Management. If we were to look at this through a dessert analogy, reputation management would only constitute a wedge in the public relations pie. Traditionally, PR is meant to be about managing and directing a successful flow of information between companies or individuals and their audience. Through the cases we’ve analysed and looked at in class so far during this module, I am strongly inclined to believe that the future of public relations lies within online reputation management. Numerous cases of disastrously timed attempts of companies with their audiences are a solid proof that a great number of people take to their social media and online accounts – predominantly Twitter- to vent, rant or praise customer service or overall policies of a company they’re interested in. Companies have taken the first step towards building stronger audiences by increasing their presence on social media, but this can easily backfire if not properly managed and coordinated with their internal communication policies.Let’s take a look at this example I plan to use for my final assessment in this module, of the company I’m following – JP Morgan and Chase bank. Their involvement in the Libor scandal has gathered a great deal of media coverage (most of which is negative) and they’ve been criticized for their $13 billion settlement for mis-selling mortgage-backed securities. In the light of this, it’s not quite hard to discern that planning a Twitter Q&A with the #AskJPM is probably not a good idea. Nevertheless, JP Morgan attempted this and it completely backfired, prompting a ‘tirade of abuse’ from users asking satirical questions. Out of the 80,000 Tweets sent prior to the Q&A itself, two-thirds were reported to be negative, which led to the bank cancelling their planned Q&A through a rather embarrassing tweet.This is why I believe the future of PR will focus on online reputation management. Social media is powerful when it comes to reputation, but it’s up to individuals to decide whether this power is beneficial or damaging in the long run.
FROM MADDIE WRITES, University of the West of England, 2nd year BA Hons Journalism and Public Relations


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