“He who controls the past controls the future.
He who controls the present controls the past.”
- George Orwell, 1984
In the old days, journalists and the media had complete control over the flow of information (with it being a one-way conversation) and were also considered an absolute authority for reporting the news to the public.
This may have been because mass communication tools were restricted by technology and resources, such as the printing press or radio/broadcast stations being accessible solely by those who work in the media industry and the public, therefore, remained passive consumers.
With the innovation of disruptive technology such as the internet, smart phones and social media channels, the monopoly over mass communications ended. Previously passive consumers were now empowered to record and share (what they consider newsworthy or controversial) with the world and achieve a similar amount of influence especially if the content was to go viral.
New citizen journalism indicates that people are now playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information. This was highlighted in the recent controversial incident when United Airlines forcibly ejected a passenger from their flight after he refused to leave the aircraft upon the request of management.
The controversy was sparked due to a video of the incident recorded by passengers which went viral on social media and resulted in public outrage. This incident has famously caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the airline and made other brands more aware of how new citizen journalism can sometimes be detrimental.
This new trend is having a great impact to not only empower the consumer, but to affect business strategy as a whole. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber was forced to leave the company over several allegations, one of which was his mistreatment of an Uber driver which was caught on camera.
This not only affected Uber’s senior management but also their share prices and stakeholders. Brands now have a greater responsibility towards managing and respecting the age old key to success: The customer comes first!
This new trend has made sure that brands are alert and watchful of how they treat their customers and employees, structure their senior management and manage their social media and marketing activities.
Over time, this increased pressure on brands to adapt and evolve to conditions and improve their performance will pay fruitful dividends. The road forward may have become treacherous, but the extra vigilance is a positive step towards growth and the role of public relations and reputation management is of greater importance now than ever before.