Everyone’s a publisher today
In the “good old days” you could control the messages generated by your company and about your company. Your CEO might be quoted in the newspaper or interviewed on TV. You had a corporate brochure or maybe an annual report.
However word got out — it had the company’s seal of approval on it. Not today. Today, the kid who comes in for 10 hours a week to help with inventory or answer the phones is as likely to be a spokesperson as the well-versed CEO.
Actually, in fairness, that’s always been the case. Employees have always talked about their employer, the work they do, etc. But now, thanks to digital publishing, social media and technology — instead of talking around their dinner table to 3 other people, a single Facebook post or blog entry could go viral and be exposed to millions in a matter of hours.
As I said in my last post — this is not cause for breathing into a paper bag. It’s actually good news. Here’s how to harness the buzz your employees can create for you:
Keep them plugged in: No one likes to be kept in the dark. Talk to your people. Don’t just tell them about the past — share your vision for the future. Show them prototypes or the new delivery model. Keep them informed. Be clear about what is and is not for public consumption but be willing to share all the news, not just the good news. Be honest. Be ready to answer some tough questions. Be real.
Listen: Don’t just talk. Ask their opinion. Seek their ideas. Ask them to help you monitor what customers are saying about your brand. Tap into their insights and instincts. They may be more plugged into the social media tools than you are. So ask them how to best connect with your customers.
Set clear expectations: Be very clear about how you would like them to use social media in terms of your organization. I’ve said this before — but soon every company will have a social media policy, just like we all adopted sexual harassment policies 20 years ago. (Here are some excellent social media policy examples) Define your boundaries and the consequences for breaching them.
Celebrate them doing it well: If you have an employee who is really using their social media clout to serve a customer, sing your praises, answer consumer questions, recruit new team members — shout it out. Thank them publicly and use their behavior as a model to teach other employees.
This is one of those — lemon or lemonade kinds of choices. Your employees aren’t going to disconnect any time soon. So why not recognize the opportunity of having every single employee out there, talking about your organization and the work you do?
If that idea frightens you — you’d better ask yourself why. My guess is, it has little to do with the employees.
We members of inmedia PR are big advocates of social media. Our fearless leader, Francis Moran, has given us free reign of the social media landscape, allowing us all to use the various sites at our own discretion and post comments freely. The results have been tremendous. By building our own followers on Twitter and connections on LinkedIn and Quora, we are able to build more personal communities that benefit our business and careers. That is not to say we don’t exercise caution. We have been able to strike such a great balance between personal and professional social media use because we use a system that requires a colleague to review content that is to be posted. For instance, my colleague reviewed this comment to ensure my message is clear, accurate and free of grammar and spelling mistakes (for a PR company, this is very important). For other sites, like Twitter, we use a peer monitoring system where we follow each other’s streams. This is beneficial in two ways. First, we are able to participate in each others conversations and further discussions. Second, we are able to spot errors and comments that might spark unintended reactions. When our comments are retweeted or if our comments are replied to, we congratulate each other, effectively fostering a supportive business community.
Bravo to your team and your fearless leader! Sounds like you have developed a very simple yet doable system.
Do the same rules apply on Facebook? Do you have team members review status updates and comments there as well?
I’m curious — have you introduced this system to your clients as well? If so, how was it received?
Oh, so true, Drew! I wish more organizations got this – that their employees are their number one brand ambassadors. If they’re unhappy campers and internal customer service sucks, so too, will external service. Good reminder.
I always wonder the impact it has when a company shuts down social media outlets in the workplace — basically saying, “we don’t trust you.”
What does that do to morale, do you suppose?
In one way, Drew, I can understand some level of apprehension if staff have zero training or experience in PR or customer relations. I also think it’s important to distinguish who will officially participate as company brand ambassadors. Some staff can do more harm than good, depending on a lot of criteria.
If the company provides a social media preparedness training and employees understand the brand, key messages, and how to manage customer complaints, etc., then that’s different.
I think that’s why it is so important for businesses to actually think this stuff through and put together a plan, rather than just leaving it to chance.
Drew – excellent post. My apologies for being late with kudos. In just a few minutes, #icchat starts, and the topic is blue-sky on what our function should be — we could make a case to cast ourselves as community managers for our employees…