Monday was a grim day for Facebook Inc, as the social media giant and its subsidiary companies, Instagram and WhatsApp, suffered a widespread global outage impacting billions of angry users. Within the space of just a few hours, Facebook’s share price – already under pressure following damaging whistle-blower allegations – had dropped by as much as 6%, according to MarketWatch. Additionally, WhatsApp enjoyed the dubious honour of becoming the number one trending topic on Twitter with over 3.1 million tweets by 10:30pm SAST, followed by #facebookdown, Mark Zuckerberg and #DeleteFacebook.
Yet amidst the frenzy, a single voice emerged once again to soothe panicked users and calm anxious nerves – the voice of public relations. Galvanising to update audiences via any and all available platforms, PR and communications professionals stepped boldly into the void to engage with disgruntled audiences, providing reassurance that the organisation’s team were aware of the issue and working hard to fix it.
In addition to dissatisfied users highlighting the benefits of using Telegram, this crisis thus serves to remind us of the continued importance of PR, even in today’s digital age. In fact, the urgency and immediacy of online news channels has only upped the ante, making a ready and prepared PR team a basic business necessity. Every minute that a company fails to issue a response or rebut any negative rumours exponentially heightens the risk of potential brand damage. This means that where many have pointed to the declining number of professional journalists and shrinking print circulation figures as the death of PR, the opposite is in fact true.
“The PR function remains critical in cultivating meaningful relationships with stakeholders, and building brand trust and influence. In the era of fake news, this function has never been as essential to businesses as it is now. And while newsrooms are under pressure, nimble and creative PR professionals have been able to pivot towards digital channels such as podcasts, webinars and vlogs to capture consumer attention and build brand reputations,” says Madelain Roscher, CEO of PR Worx.
“As any forward-thinking business leader will understand, those organisations that suddenly go silent risk losing trust, loyalty, and relevance with their consumer base. And this is precisely where PR professionals continue to step up to the plate to inform, educate, engage and entertain, keeping brands top of mind. So, while technology may come and go, and our devices may let us down, ultimately, it remains crucial to get PR that Worx,” concludes Roscher.