EMA Reputation Management Expert Describes New Online Dangers at PRSA Northeast District Conference

Peter Kapcio, director of Reputation Management Services at Eric Mower and Associates (EMA), recently presented at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) 2009 Northeast District Conference. Kapcio, who leads EMA’s crisis communications practice and executive training programs, discussed new risk factors facing public relations professionals, as well as new strategies to help prevent bad news from triggering a crisis.

“From today’s vantage point, 2008 proved to be a watershed year for American journalism. While an industry-wide financial crisis devastated traditional newsrooms, some less-than-savory developments occurred in the online world, which fundamentally changed the way we consume news,” said Kapcio. “As a result, a new set of rules for communicating during a business or organizational crisis has emerged.”

The PRSA Northeast District Conference was held Oct. 8 in Rochester, N.Y. Kapcio discussed a game-changing four-way convergence of individuals’ online behavior, eroding traditional journalism, journalists’ reliance on the Internet, and the inability to verify truth online. The risk to organizations, Kapcio said, is that people have figured out how to manipulate the news. Something labeled “news” carries strong connotations that it’s credible, particularly if it’s carried by or referenced on a known news outlet, which gives it a dangerous power to deceive.

“Today’s Internet-accelerated news cycle has created a new type of crisis. Bad news takes on a new kind of life of its own, thanks to instantaneous digital repetition. It’s critical to respond quickly in order to help protect an organization’s reputation and bottom line,” Kapcio said.

When organizational leaders and crisis managers wait too long to respond, simple bad news circulating online can compound into a complex crisis. Research has shown that the longer the duration that bad news is allowed to prevail, the greater the long-term damage. Kapcio authored a white paper that discusses this in more detail: “Just because it’s bad news doesn’t mean it’s a crisis. Yet.” It’s available for download here.

In the last decade EMA’s Reputation Management Services, part of the agency’s Public Relations and Public Affairs Group, has been retained in more than 200 crisis or emerging-crisis engagements for companies and organizations confronting difficult situations such as government investigations, regulatory problems, alleged wrongdoing, incidents of violence, environmental issues, personnel misconduct, unionization drives, zoning battles, bankruptcies, hostile takeovers, damaging rumors, accidents, strikes, layoffs, downsizings, consolidations and community opposition to operations or expansions.

For more 20 years, EMA has also been conducting formal media training, helping executives and spokespersons achieve maximum impact from media interviews, often in difficult or crisis situations.

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