By: Scott Stein, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

It’s a different communications world that we live in today. Technological advances have given us a myriad of new, faster tools to communicate on levels we never thought possible in the past.

As a result, businesses have to be more cognizant of their image or brand and must certainly be diligent in protecting its name.

As a PR firm, we advise our clients to pay attention to what’s being said about them. That used to mean checking the “Letters to the Editor” section of the local newspaper. There’s so much more to pay attention to today, but failing to do so can have serious consequences.

Consider the recent developments with Chevron Corp. Activists interested in attacking the oil company’s environmental record created an online hoax that actually pre-empted Chevron’s planned advertising campaign.

The U.S.-based oil company on Monday launched its “We Agree” ad campaign that features a down home approach with photos of people and various slogans like “oil companies need to get real” and “oil companies should support the communities they’re a part of.”

What apparently happened is that several activist groups (The Yes Men, the Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch) were tipped off about the ad campaign and created a fake website that suggested that Chevron agrees that oil companies should “fix the problems they create” and “clean up their messes.” The phony website was announced to the media through a fake news release that was designed to look like a news release from Chevron. Some news outlets were even fooled and had to post corrections.

Granted, Chevron is a corporate giant and a big target. But even small businesses need to monitor traditional and social media to see what people are saying about their operations. Harnessing the power of the Internet and social media, a disgruntled individual or organized group can do a lot of damage in a very short time.

What do you think? Does your business monitor traditional and social media to determine what others are saying?