A Nanos poll conducted for Signal Leadership Communication has found that in the hierarchy of media platforms, social media is the clear winner with respect to doing the most damage to the reputation of a personality or brand, at 84%, with “online news” tied with broadcast news in the second position at 71%, print newspapers at 51%, and radio at 48%.
Not only did 84% of Canadians find social media the most “damaging”, defined as having “the capacity to do a great deal of damage to the image of an individual or organization”, but they also rated the potency of the damage as 9.1 out of 10, making a blunder on social media the most efficient career killer available.
By contrast, broadcast news was given a rating of 8.3 out of 10 for damaging potency.
“The danger of social media to inflict image damage is real, so leaders need to take this powerful PR threat to their reputation seriously,” said Bob Pickard, Principal of SLC. “Social media is not just about selling to a mass audience; it’s about relationships with real individuals who experience and share a wide range of emotions with their online communities. Corporate communicators – not just brand marketers – need to design social media presence accordingly and invest the necessary resources. It all starts with the leaders, with whom an often-demanding public increasingly seeks to have a direct personal connection through online networks.”
Nanos conducted the poll of 1,000 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, as an RDD dual frame (both landlines and cell phones) hybrid telephone and online random survey, between March 31 and April 4, 2016, statistically checked and weighted by age, gender and geography, using the latest available census information, with a ±3.1% margin of error 19 times out of 20.
Not too surprisingly, when Millennials are sorted out from the general population, they regard social media gaffes as being even more severe than everyone else, at 88% compared to 84% for the population at large.
Also not surprising is that Millennials give less weight to radio, at least its terrestrial form, with only 36% finding it a medium capable of damaging a reputation, compared to 48% of the total population.
Although podcasts aren’t covered in the survey, it calls to mind the old joke that if you want to share something with the world at large and ensure that it remains a secret forever, just say it out loud in the 23rd minute of a 30 minute podcast.
“Social media increasingly shapes the way that news is produced and perceived, so it is crucial for leaders to carefully plan their approach to both traditional and new mediums,” said SLC Principal Janice Mandel. “There is very little time today for public relations storytelling. Instead, there is a need to be nimble and respond appropriately as a story plays out. Good judgment and digital savvy are key to managing reputation. There’s far more risk for something to go wrong and explode virally. If it does, the public’s attention is on the leaders online — so they themselves need to understand this new digital dynamic.”
The power of social media to take down professional careers became evident during Canada’s recent federal election, with candidates from all three major parties seeing their dreams of a life in politics suddenly dashed against the rocks of something they’d tweeted or written on social media, sometimes years earlier.
The poll also asked Canadians to rate the “timeliness” of the various platforms for delivering information, with 71% viewing online news as “extremely timely”, followed by radio (60%), broadcast television (59%), social media (41%) and print newspapers (27%).