Some three decades ago, the term "digital revolution" came into widespread use. And in the last three years, humanity has produced more information than in the period that lasted from the moment of separation of Homo Sapiens from the animal world to the second Kyiv Eurovision final.
The rapid development of technologies for the accumulation and transmission of information has dramatically changed interpersonal, social, economic relations.
The notion that the informational and technological leap would lead to dramatic progress in public relations as well took place at the stage of the emergence of personal computers and other devices that provide access to the global data network.
But today it is obvious that access to information does not guarantee "knowledge of the truth" and does not simplify, but complicates the choice. Whatever we choose – a garden tool, or the next president, the probability of error increases with each passing day. Simply because the choice range is getting wider and wider.
Having gained access to the array of information, man moved away from its original sources.
We are becoming easier to manipulate. Information manipulation has become the norm. And it's not just and not so much about the phenomenon of "fake news". Properly selected and presented information allows you to encourage both the individual and large communities to act as the manipulator needs.
Having no chance to process information from all sources, we choose those that correspond to the specifics of our perception, beliefs, emotional state. We have been reading the news on the same sites for years, together with friends and like-minded people we arrange cozy "bubbles" on social networks. And we are increasingly surprised that for someone the world may look different. Conversely, we increasingly look like weird idiots in the eyes of others.
We choose information from the channels we trust.
Those who have an impeccable reputation in our eyes. Sometimes it's a TV channel watched by millions, and sometimes it's a close person who sends links in the messenger. And all these channels form in our eyes the reputation of other entities – companies, goods, services, politicians, communities, countries. And these entities, in turn, are working on this reputation.
Countries spend billions on building a "positive image on the world stage." Big business diligently builds communication with the public by publishing promotional materials, doing charity work, training staff, and funding football clubs or show business. Resources commensurate with the budgets of some countries are invested in individual brands.
Reputation has become an asset, an economic value.
This is a new reality. Reaction to the release of information flows out of control. It is important to saturate the information space with positive evaluations of an object (goods, services, parties, groups). But there will always be negative evaluations. The question is what evaluations a particular person making a choice will trust.
One time a person can trust advertising. The second – place confidence in the opinion of an authoritative expert. The third – will be guided by an established evaluation of a society or group, which he/she shares personally and in the development of which was directly involved. That is, reputation (goods, services, companies, brand, policy).
Reputation is a systemic phenomenon.
It covers functional, social, emotional dimensions. That is, reputation is formed through the evaluation of the success of a person, community or company in the field in which he/she works, through the compliance of these activities with public expectations and through individual or group emotional perception of the process and results.
When objective criteria are blurred and interpretations become important, reputation becomes the main argument that an entity can offer to society.
Reputation has always been a significant phenomenon in public and business life. Businessmen and politicians like to brag about their ability to keep their word. But in the information age, the ability to have respect for promises is no longer enough. After all, there will always be a competitor who will say the opposite. And even if the professional community knows that such a statement is incorrect, it hardly helps. Reputation has ceased to be a "workshop" phenomenon. It has become a social phenomenon.
The economy became reputational.
If a company has an impeccable reputation at the level of society, if it enjoys the loyalty of potential consumers, if citizens are confident in the usefulness of its activities, then it receives additional competitive advantages. These advantages are manifested not only in the growth of profits, but also in the ability to have a confident dialogue with the authorities, easier to enter international markets and to attract investment.
Reputation provides additional resilience to crises and reduces vulnerability to information attacks. It becomes a "boat" in which its carrier confidently floats in information flows. The bigger this "boat", the more ambitious sailing plans the owner can build. To cross the dirty flow of the information campaign, a "raft" is enough. And to cross the Atlantic, one should think about the liner.
Reputation needs to be worked on.
Gone are the days when "just doing your job honestly" was enough to build an impeccable reputation. The information age dictates its laws. Broad media horizons do not guarantee that people will see what a subject wants to show them. Competitors can take a look at "alternative reality".
And the flow of compromising material (no matter whether real or fictional) can override many years of effort. That is why we need a "boat". Strong and adequate to potential challenges.
Volodymyr Nagirnyi, Co-founder, Head of Analytical Department