The role that social media played following the Boston Marathon attacks in the way they were reported and as the police investigation unfolded, and the fake Twitter post about an attack on the White House that triggered a sell-down of millions of dollars on the US stock exchange, represent a new world for public relations practitioners, managers, and those that employ them.
The challenges seem obvious: the need perhaps now to monitor the media world continuously, which is nothing if not tiring; the requirement for rapid-response communications plans to counter spurious activities and announcements; the sense that whatever control we might once have had on how an organisation communicates with the world has gone for good.
The opportunities are exciting: that public relations, especially the establishment and nurture of trust between an organisation and a community, can now be seen as essential; that clear and accessible communications channels (and resources) are part of this process; that those organizations that create reputations for openness, authenticity and accessibility will garner a commercial differentiation and lead, as well as banking “reputation credit” against the day they might need it (which seems more possible than ever in light of the last week’s events).
Finally, responsibilities. Public relations is too important to be thought of as “mere” public relations. In times of crisis the public at large and those with more of a stake in the success of a given organization will turn to all of us for the truth, for information, context , guidance, answers and reassurance.
Public relations can no longer be considered as an adjunct to the rest of the an organization. It is a vital part of the organization.