Friday, October 16, 2009

Handling online issues - PRW keeps running scared

Next week PRW will publish the results of a poll of digital PR people's response to its question: • How would you have advised Neal’s Yard to act when it was faced with a barrage of negative blogger comment on the Guardian’s You Ask They Answer section?

The Neal’s Yard issue highlights how important it is for the PR professional institutions to have modern and relevant training in place for members. After all, it’s their members who should have advised the client in this case and the methods for management have been published by these institutions for years.

‘Managing Your Reputation in Cyberspace’ was quite specific about what practitioners needed to consider to both prevent and manage issues arise like the one facing Neal’s Yard. It was published in 1998. Of recent years PRW has returned to the issue of online risk management and is a complete pussy cat about it. It is time that someone broke ranks and pointed fingers. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR COMPANIES TO GET CAUGHT OUT ON LINE. EXCEPT, OF COURSE PRW IS NOT CALLING CIPR & PRCA AND THE TEACHING UNIVERSITIES TO ACCOUNT for not teaching this subject.

There is every reason that shareholders should sack CEO's that get caught out because they can't employ responsible and capable PR managers who will prevent the company being wrecked by bad mouthing online. Perhaps this is also a subject PRW could return to but it is not really a campaigning publication is it.

Ten years ago, the joint CIPR/PRCA Internet Commission, even explained the motives and methodologies that affect reputation online and Alison Clark even provided a neat diagram which I published in both editions of the CIPR in practice book ‘Online Public Relations’ published by Kogan Page.

If, in ten years, the PR industry magazine is not in a position to point the finger at the CEO of Neal's Yard, it is pretty pathetic.

The public relations sector that knows about these things is not going to be surprised or fazed by these kinds of event.

So, we will not be amazed to see the calm, considered, detailed, factual and comprehensive explication of the products and services offered by the company which be available on their site and an exemplar to all. We will not be taken aback by engagement of online ambassadors or an increase in online activity. Most companies that are well advised get their defense in first.

I admire the way Tesco deals with potential issues. Its corporate site deals with criticism before the event openly and online. It is very hard to criticize a company when the online community tells why a criticism is invalid.