Public relations is often associated with managing and maintaining the reputation of a particular organisation, cause or individual. If a crisis averts, you can be sure that there is at least one public relations practitioner on the other end, trying to do whatever they can to protect the reputation of the organisation they are representing. Even a small incident when magnified under the media microscope can become a major disaster for everyone involved, leaving nothing behind but a tarnished reputation and the distrust from various publics. Often if an organisation is part of a blunder, they will always be remembered for it. In any situation, crisis is never a good thing and it’s often very difficult to bounce back from.
Due to the prominent rise of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various blogging sites, customers and consumers have the opportunity to be able to share their opinions online. If something or someone has gained a bad reputation for whatever reason, the news always spreads like wildfire. This is why it’s important to maintain good relationships and be aware, active participants of social media. By doing this it can ensure the best the organisation you are representing. ‘The most important issue faced by public relations professionals is maintaining control of the message in the public arena’ (Howell, 2009).
A bad reputation can result in loss of trust, loyalty and credibility from various publics and stakeholders. ‘So-called greenwashing is a prime example of how this can occur. Greenwashing involves the companies proclaiming their environmental credentials while actually behaving very differently’ (De Bussy, 2009). In early 2010 Nestle set up a Facebook ‘fan’ presence, which ended up doing more harm than good. Countless visitors to the page were quick to criticise the company’s environmental, ethical and operational credentials and exploit their use of palm oil from deforested areas in Indonesia. In response to this Greenpeace posted a video on YouTube which exposed Nestle’s ‘continued use of palm oil sourced from Sinar Mas, an Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation and peatland clearance. Nestle petitioned YouTube to remove the video citing copyright infringement – Greenpeace had doctored the Kit Kat logo to read as “Killer”’(Lee, 2010). However it was too late, the word had already spread and had attracted a large number of anti-Nestle followers. The real issue commenced when these anti-Nestle followers began to boycott their products and a Facebook event was created entitled ‘An Anti-Nestle Easter’.
De Bussy, N. (2009). Reputation Management: A Driving Force For Action. J. Chia & G. Synnott, An Introduction to Public Relations: From Theory to Practice (pp. 222-248). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
Howell, G. (2009). An Issues-Crisis Perspective. J. Chia & G. Synnott, An Introduction to Public Relations: From Theory to Practice (pp. 270-299). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
Lee, J. (2010). Handling bad PR turns sticky for Nestle. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from http://www.smh.com.au/technology/enterprise/handling-bad-pr-turns-sticky-for-nestle-20100326-r0t2.html