What takes years to build but seconds to ruin?

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We live in fragile times. Anyone with a public profile or business is perhaps more vulnerable now than at any point since the first ape-like humans grunted feelings of hunger, fear or lust, thereby heralding the start of communication as we know it.

If once PRs had a top-down, dictatorial view of communications, that privilege has been swept away by technology and the democratization of the media, a process which now underway, can only gather pace.

I use the word democratization advisedly because that’s what social media has done: platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow the public to engage directly with the celebrities, brands and organisations they love or hate publicly and uncensored.

And this ability, combined with the mob mentality that accompanies online outrage, means a backlash against you or your company could escalate at hyper speed – just ask Miley.

It is a paradigm shift which presents both challenges and opportunities to those of us charged with guarding the reputations of the people we represent.

So how do we navigate this new media landscape, and if the media is now so democratic, is it necessary to employ an agency at all?

Well as someone who runs a PR firm concerned with media relations and social media strategy, you would expect me to say yes. Indeed, I believe now more than ever it is vital for people in the public eye, businesses and brands, to seek help from professionals.

Reasons for this abound. The ability to understand a client’s vision, refine it and tailor content to bring it to life is clearly upmost among them. It is a skill set in itself and one which should not be underestimated.

Just as important is the subjectivity someone from outside your organisation can bring. It is the job of a PR consultant to consult, not to be a yes person, and in my experience many clients are too close to their vision to see potential pitfalls themselves.

But when it comes to engaging with the public, tone and judgement are often the difference between effective fire fighting and reputational melt down. It is how you respond to mistakes or criticisms that will determine how intact your reputation remains.

This, more than anything else, requires the deft touch of an expert.

There is an old saying in PR which states reputations take years to build and seconds to lose, and it is truer now than ever before.

Reputation is everything. It is far too fragile to leave to chance.

By Nick Glaves, The Public Relations Company

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