After the climate change congress in The Hague, any perception that all pressure groups are just fringe organisations which represent a militant minority are now as dead in the water as the oilslicked birds they campaign about.
Many of the groups are now professional and highly organised, have huge mainstream public support and have got their communications sorted. They can be more media savvy than the governments and corporations they influence.
Organisations with something to say can't be ignored by companies any longer, as the feature on the speed at which a crisis can grow out of the internet (page 13) shows. Many a corporate crisis management plan has had to be put into action after attacks on company practices or ethics, often from pressure groups, have started to circulate widely on the web.
Even the websites these groups run are usually more proactive and up-to-date than corporate sites.
Some corporations are starting to deal with this by embracing the openness of the pressure groups - BP hosts a subsite for private and public sector environmental partnership Earth's 911, and also provides links to the independent Environment News Network. This doesn't guarantee good news, but it's a smart, grown-up way of doing things. More often the power of the internet as a core part of corporate communications, let alone as a real threat to reputation, has still not been fully grasped.