The Big Picture.
As I ponder what the public relations industry will be like when I graduate in 2014, two words come to mind: review websites.
It seems that we are in the middle of a cultural shift within the public relations world as we focus on not only gaining positive attention from big time reporters, but also the average joe walking down the street with his iPhone.
The power is shifting, and we need to monitor where it is going.
Recently, several review sites have emerged that allow anyone to post their personal opinions on organizations, products and services. Major sites like Yelp.com, AngiesList.com, Twitter, and the all powerful Facebook have each become hubs of consumer reviews that could potentially have major impact on an organization's reputation.
And people are following. According to a 2012 Local Consumer Review Study, "Approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business."
More information on this study can be found on a blog post by Myles Anderson on Search Engine Land: http://searchengineland.com/study-72-of-consumers-trust-online-reviews-as-much-as-personal-recommendations-114152
So, being in the business of reputation management, this trend leads me to believe that our target audiences have been greatly increased in size. We need to focus on everyone that has been a part of our organization and do what we can to keep them satisfied. A difficult task, but it will be highly beneficial to who we work for.
The Dark Side.
With all of these sites providing the option of anonymity, what's to stop a communications professional from writing reviews for their organization and manufacturing false opinion? I guess what I need to do here is call upon all of you fellow strategic communicators to adhere to our ethical codes. Be smart about what you are doing on the internet. Sure, we want positive reviews to be the foundation for positive reputations, but cheating to get them will only reduce the quality of our profession.