Reputation Management in the Age of 24/7 Media and Viral Social Media Transmissions

The Media Deluge and the Cacophony of Crowds calls for Reputation Management

We live in times when hundreds and even thousands of media outlets scan the happenings and events all around us and report and disseminate information and news about them. In addition, Facebook posts, Twitter updates, and WhatsApp videos and messages go viral in no time adding to the “cacophony” and the “noise” around us.

Indeed, the power of such viral messages is so pervasive that even reputed firms, individuals, politicians, and business leaders are routinely disparaged and abuse for both alleged as well as real misbehavior.

Moreover, with the proliferation of Fake News and Alternative Facts, it is just a “free for all” where anyone with a Smartphone and an internet connection can make or break the reputations of anyone and everyone.

Indeed, the power of the crowd is such that anytime and every time viral transmission of hate news, lies, and innuendos, spread by anyone and everyone to anybody and everybody means that reputation management becomes crucial and even critical to the wellbeing of those who can be at the receiving end of such news.

This is the reason why reputation management has become big business in recent years among corporates, politicians, political parties, business leaders, sports personalities, and celebrities.

Even the average person on the street who is not connected to any prominent event or celebrity finds themselves at the center of attention, both wanted and unwanted and hence, can become infamous in no time.

How Reputation Management Works

Many leading corporates and political parties as well as celebrities have armies of media consultants, professional media management agencies, lobbyists, public relations and corporate communications departments, as well as even lawyers who interact with the media on their behalf.

In addition, they have well paid social media teams who scan the sources of all news to find and check if their clients are being defamed and in case so, ensure that prompt damage management is done.

Indeed, this is the reason why for every allegation that is hurled at corporates and other entities, their media teams promptly issue statements and put out press releases so that the fallout from such news is limited and contained.

This has implications for all stakeholders including the very real aspect of decision making and making statements without regard to consequences.

Indeed, in our increasingly breakneck speed world, there is no way in which well earned and hard fought reputations can be protected from those with malicious intent and on the other hand, there is no way in which even allegations with substance in them can touch the powerful.

Media Manipulation and Power Imbalances

This contradiction is mainly because some entities that have well oiled media teams can promptly respond by denials or with rebuttals, whereas those without the means or the resources simply have to grin and bear it.

Indeed, this imbalance which is at the heart of the media landscape is what is bothering regulators and activists in the United States and Europe who are now turning their attention to the way in which Facebook was alleged to have played a part in the disinformation campaign during the 2016 Presidential Elections in the United States.

Moreover, it is also a fact that powerful entities and corporates as well as famous celebrities often indulge in media manipulation where supposedly friendly media outlets propagate or black out news that is favorable or unfavorable to them respectively.

Indeed, many leading corporates and political figures are successful in the contemporary times mainly because they have mastered the art of media messaging and information dissemination as well as image and reputation management.

A Case for Reputation Management

Having said that, there is a vital need for reputation management in the present times especially for those corporates and business entities that have well earned reputations and whose decision making systems are with a longer term focus rather than based on purely short term events.

For instance, during the Infosys saga between the founders and the then board members in 2017, the whole media reporting was so intensive that one of the astute founders, Nandan Nilekani, remarked that the whole story acquired a “Reality TV” show rather than a discussion on the serious matters that were at the heart of the conflict.

Indeed, if not anything corporates have to be on the lookout for stories and viral content that can be damaging to their business interests mainly because their whole business models would be at stake in case someone somewhere attempts to sully their reputation based on half truths and lies.

This is the reason why there was a report last week that pointed out to how Infosys has made the erstwhile board members sign a “non disparaging” agreement wherein they would desist from going public with their view of the unfortunate events.

Indeed, this is also the reason why many corporates are insisting that the employees who leave them sign non disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements in addition to non compete clauses so that there is no scope for them to malign the organization later.


However, this response can also be interpreted as “buying silence” and ensuring that there is a “lid on wrongdoings” wherein even allegations with merit in them are buried and forgotten.

Hence, there is more the reason for media watchdogs and regulators as well as policymakers to address how favorable as well as unfavorable media coverage has to be handled as a well as a way to combat the dangerous menace of viral content that can make or mar the reputations of corporates and celebrities.

To conclude, unless we take the issue head on and address it with honesty and courage, reputation management would become more fraught in the coming years.

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