How did headline writers miss that one as Ellen Pao lost a second highly visible battle this year?
The latest came this month as Pao was forced out as CEO of Reddit amid a vitriolic online campaign, including sexist and racist postings by users on Reddit’s own social media message boards, after the company fired a popular employee without soliciting input from its users.
(Pao’s first loss came in March in a gender discrimination and retaliation suit against prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.)
What’s really important isn’t scorekeeping. Rather, two fundamental questions arise.
- Who’s in charge of social media — companies that own it or individuals who use it?
- What is its purpose?
The concepts are intertwined. So are the answers — and they have significant ramifications for Crisis & Reputation Management, both on how facts and rumors flow and how tools are used.
When the internet was in its infancy not that long ago, it was hailed as a force for good because it democratized access to knowledge. What wasn’t foreseen was the rise of interactive social media that would create for users a sense of ownership and demand for control, as well as threats to personal privacy, government secrecy and cyber security.
Is this the new normal? Is it desired? Should it be embraced?
Or has democratization run amok? If so, are anarchy and chaos far behind?
History has lessons galore about the effect of this cycle on societies. But it’s uncertain how those lessons apply to the internet and social media. If they apply at all.
What about purpose? Is social media all about cat videos? Or young (often drunk) tourists posing for naked videos amid ancient ruins, or climbing and breaking historic statues? Or people checking in at faraway places, letting the world know their house is free for the looting? All for the sake of a photo or video to post online.
Or is social media the newest conduit to quickly reach your desired audience and tell your story when allegations are made and your reputation is on the line?
Answers to those questions aren’t academic. They go to the root of who you are, what you hope to achieve, and how you adapt to tools at your disposal.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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