‘Citizen journalism’: an emerging reputation risk

Get free weekly news by e-mailDeon Binneman looks at how Blogs are changing the rules of reputation management and protection.

The face of media is changing, and you might have seen it at the supermarket or in the office. Armed with modern technology - such as phones equipped to send video and e-mails, software technology that enables anyone to create their own personal online dairy, or Blog as it is called; average citizens can now become journalists in their own right and have a voice of their own.

This has changed the ballgame for reputation managers. In the past media relations and crisis communications was a field with certain rules and protocols. For instance there are still different roles played by traditional media staff. But now companies face having to deal with angles that citizens offer and are uncertain how to handle eager but untrained reporters. People report things as they observe it and on the move.

For citizen journalists - private individuals who contribute to gathering and producing news - technology is the enabler. Another problem to add to the equation is that technology can make short work of contributing to major media outlets. Images captured on cell phones illuminated the aftermath of the bombings this summer in London, and the unique coverage ushered in a flurry of cell phone submissions. Tools such as Blackberry now offer immediate sharing of news with a database which leaves a company with only nanoseconds to respond. Newsrooms are also soliciting content and actively ask for citizens to communicate with them.

In a number of cases individuals with a gripe has resorted to web technology to put up sites that ends in www. companynamesucks.com or have written elaborate pieces in their Blogs that reside unchallenged in cyberspace, adding insult to injury.

The danger to the organisation is that citizen journalists lack formal training and the resources of a traditional newsroom. Validity of statements may not be checked which can result in misquoting and misreporting. Some of these Blogs are highly influential and attract substantial readerships.

For reputation managers the rise of the Blog means constant scanning, preparation and quick reaction if necessary. It also means that company media policies will need to include instructions to employees that tell them in no uncertain terms what they are allowed to divulge in Blogs, Blackberry or with camera phones.

Deon Binneman, Reputation Management Speaker, Consultant and Trainer, REPUCOMM, Contact: deonbin@icon.co.za

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Date: 6th October 2005 •Region: World •Type: Article •Topic: Crisis communications
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