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How to pick a bike lock with a Bic pen in 10 seconds

Last year witnessed its fair share of corporate and celebrity scandals from MPs expenses to the Tiger Woods affair. While the ingredients of most crisis PR stories are always fairly similar, the way crisis stories are broken and discussed among the general public have changed considerably with consumers now being able to post updates, share views and add new angles to high profile stories.

Welcome to the new digitally transparent world. The revolution in social media including blogs, consumer review sites and video sharing channels has ushered in a new era of online consumer power. In many ways the trend is to be welcomed. After all, being able to freely and effectively voice our opinions about important issues is a broadly positive development. However the new trend does not look so attractive to businesses and individuals whose reputations have taken a pounding on the internet.

New Media Power

Internet platforms such as blogs or consumer chat rooms and social media channels including You Tube and Trip Advisor are now the natural arenas for sharing information about people, products and brands. Perform an online search for practically any brand and youll encounter posts to user-generated content covering all shades of opinion. So on top of their existing marketing activity many businesses, both large and small, have to face the effects that unfair or inaccurate comments can have on their reputation.

Online reputation management is forming an important part of business marketing strategy. Indeed, when you consider the damage that previous online attacks and negative reviews have had on many businesses in the past its not hard to see why.

Online reputation threats

One of the most famous online brand attacks was the Kryptonite story. Kryptonite are one of the largest bike-lock companies in the world and take huge pride in the legendary security of their products. Back in 2004, the company found out the hard way about online consumer power.

A two minute You Tube video dedicated to their brand spread like a contagion through the internet. It was called How to pick a Kryptonite bike lock with a Bic pen in 10 seconds. The video went viral, was seen by hundreds of thousands of people and caused real reputational damage to the Kryptonite brand.

Its not just large product manufacturers that have been damaged by online consumer power. Small businesses ranging from restaurants to car mechanics can also encounter problems through negative online comments. The public sector is not immune either. Over the next few years online social commentary and reviews of government services will grow significantly.

The problems for individuals and companies who attract negative online publicity are also compounded by the fact that information is forever preserved on the internet. Unlike old media, online criticism is not here today, gone tomorrow but preserved on search engine such as Google and always just a few clicks away.

Strategic choices

However new challenges also bring opportunities. Marketing units across all sectors are under increased pressure to demonstrate they can incorporate online PR into their marketing mix. The evidence is clear – understanding online media and utilising it to promote and defend your brand online is fast becoming a core marketing skill.