Recently, I spoke to a college fraternity about the importance of protecting your reputation through the transition from college into career. Naturally, social media was a significant point in the conversation since these young men and their peers rely on it for what felt like their very survival. In addition to recoiling at my warnings about their unfamiliarity with privacy and the potential of being harmed unwittingly in the blink of a smart phone camera, they remained skeptical that anything terrible could possibly happen to them – the normal mindset of a 20-year-old. The digital world order that has enslaved all of us in recent years has minimized what once were very clear boundaries between fact, rumor, privacy and all that is proprietary. Twitter, Facebook and the next greatest thing that will digitally erupt before we know it, serve a generation that knows nothing of privacy or of giving serious thought to the quality and validity of information.
From cyber-bullying to strategically spreading rumors or misleading photos with disregard for consequence seem to be accepted practice now. Children use smart phones to chase other children with gossip and meanness while adult influencers appear on national news spewing information they know isn’t true continuing to remove standards for reliable information.
Admittedly, we have all loose with information we share and how we share it. The dilution of facts can be witnessed regularly on the 24-hour news programs where being first matters more than being right. Newspapers, which traditionally have provided depth and analysis based on thorough investigating tactics and elaborate editing infrastructures, haven’t been able to keep up and their own standards have been repeatedly compromised.
As others continue to have no fear or integrity about what they say and do in public, the need for reputation managers and public relations practitioners such as those of us here at Sara Brady Public Relations, Inc. will continue. And as social media outlets continue to get slicker in their ability to spread content – true and untrue – our strategic counsel and our media relations skills will matter even more.
People and organizations get hurt when untrue information is spread and done so by individuals who make themselves appear credible. Young adults working toward their first jobs, envisioning successful careers will most likely continue to disregard the potential of a much more robust and wild communications culture created by social media. Ultimately, they will probably just learn the truth the hard way.