Marketers could keep a positive spin on consumer and client perceptions when their brand visibility was managed through a combination of media advertising and news coverage. Only extreme, newsworthy activities got any other visibility beyond small numbers of people, and big brand companies had good crisis control departments geared to deal with the exceptions.

The introduction of social networking sites and consumer-generated content to the Web has dramatically altered that landscape. The means for customers, champions and critics to disseminate information about their experiences and opinions are now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and a browser-enabled PC.