Web having profound influence on institutions

The Internet has created a new wave of national and international community that is likely to have long-term implications for the influence of governments, according to AOL’s head of operational planning, Andrew Bradford.

“We have now created the 5th Estate – the People through the Internet – to follow the 1st Estate (the Monarchy and Clergy); the 2nd Estate (Parliament); the 3rd Estate (the Judiciary); and the 4th Estate (Journalism and Media),” he said.

And this community has real power that can seriously affect corporate branding, he suggested, citing the example of a video demonstrating a defective Kryptonite lock, which three years later, is still number 3 in search listings for Kryptonite.

“Organisations have to understand the importance of the Net on product development and research and development pressures. That means organisations have to assign customer service representatives to respond to bloggers,” he said.

It also means being seen to be whiter than white when it comes to transparency. One example of an organisation that has already fallen foul of that mantra is Wal-Mart, which used its own PR company to try and persuade its customers that Wal Mart car parks were safe, and then found itself in the dock over the PR company’s ill-advised strategy, thus proving that organisations should never try and ‘fake’ transparency in an Internet world.

As for the likelihood of a future ‘6th Estate’, Bradford suggested that might turn out to be some future artificial intelligence world, where software would make decisions for itself, creating some form of ‘brand firewalls’ where advertising messages that don’t fit the owner’s profile would be blocked out.

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