Social media has changed everything and these changes apply just as much to journalistic and media brands as they do to consumer, corporate or governmental brands.
I was reminded of this when I visited Washington, DC this week for a PRWeek/Fleishman-Hillard roundtable on public affairs. I don't want to spoil your anticipation of our coverage - a full breakfast and roundtable write-up will appear in the November edition of PRWeek.
But it was fascinating to hear CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry talking at the breakfast about trends in journalism and the impact these have on communications.
I was struck by how many more demands are being placed on people like Henry, who is expected to blog, tweet, and social network on top of all his normal day-job responsibilities such as grabbing the president's attention and trying to nick a sound bite that will make his network stand out above the rest of the massed ranks of the press corps.
Henry noted the recent experience of another high-profile DC journalist that shows in social media-land a brand can be sullied in quick time and it can be very difficult to recover.
Veteran Washington Post sports journalist Mike Wise wanted to test out a theory that any piece of information could be appropriated – or misappropriated – in the blogosphere/Twittersphere and translated into news without any checks and balances associated with traditional journalistic endeavor.
He decided, extremely unwisely of course, to post some hoax stories via his Twitter account. Surprise, surprise, Wise's hunch turned out to be true – the stories were picked up by numerous bloggers, and one “reputable” news organization.
Point proved and let's move on…? Well, not really. For one thing Wise was breaking his company's rules on use of social media. For another, he was bringing his own brand, and by extension the brand of the Washington Post, into disrepute – all in just 140 characters.
So Wise got suspended. Brands are fragile things and the same rules about maintaining and protecting brand equity apply equally to journalists as they do to big consumer and corporate brands.