Managing organisational risk as the social stakes increase.

Since the introduction of email to the workplace, the line between the personal and professional has become increasingly blurred.  Not only does business communication have the ability to find you no matter how far you are from the office, but conversations that may have once been considered of a personal nature can now have significant repercussions to a consumer brand, an employee brand and potentially your employment contract.

This has been an ongoing concern for organisations and continues to develop in its complexity. As social media becomes increasingly prolific in our day-to-day lives and its search engines more powerful, the potential of a private comment being unearthed and evolving into a serious organisational or even legal issue becomes a  norm.

With this in mind, what do organisations need to consider when trying to mitigate these risks?

1. Remember this is a human issue, not a technology one.

Historically, organisations have invested heavily in firewall warfare to manage inappropriate online behaviour: suspect emails are quarantined, social media sites blocked and internet usage scrutinised.  Besides the fact that today everyone can bypass these mechanisms via the smartphone sitting next to their work computer, a much more important issue remains; it is not the technology that is causing the concern –  it is your staff.  Focus only on the technical, and these issues can have serious non-technical consequences including;

  • reputation damage
  • bullying
  • sexual harassment
  • crisis management
  • discrimination
  • share price impacts

2. Understand that every employee is a potential member of your communications team and treat them accordingly.

When I first began to educate organisations about social media and its ability to blur the demarcation of the inside and outside of an organisation there were significantly less statistics, case studies and all the other things that people like to see when being introduced a new concept.  However in the case of one very large international client, they soon grasped these new ideas when they saw a number of photos of the partnership on Facebook that didn’t particularly support their brand.
It is important for everyone across the organisation to have an understanding of the pervasiveness of these channels and their rights and responsibilities as an employee. Ideally this should always link back to the organisation’s cultural and business objectives – people generally do not comply to a list of rules that have no context.  All staff should be made aware of;

  • The organisation’s social media channels, their objectives, who looks after them and how they can participate (directly or indirectly)
  • The organisation’s social media guidelines and how they look in action
  • What to do if they come across something online from another staff member that concerns them
  • What to do if they come across something online from someone outside the organisation that concerns them (remember an employee does not have to intend to create havoc for their organisation – think Nestlé)

3. Ensure that social media awareness is integrated into all aspects of the organisation.

We all need to hear about a new concept more than once to begin to register it and employees need to hear about something considerably more times to believe that their organisation is serious about it. Ensure that guidelines are in place, rolling educational workshops available and the messages are reinforced across the spectrum of your employee communications plan from induction to newsletters.

Finding some time for teams to explore these issues more broadly will develop a greater understanding around their complexity and positively impact behaviour.

4. Use technology.

Wisely.  Social media monitoring tools and analysis provide the ability for organisations to monitor and identify risks to brand and reputation.  They do not replace the approach outlined above, but offer an organisation another avenue to listen to the conversations about their brand – positive and negative.

At Ellis Jones we can help you create an online presence using engagement strategies to take your ideas, products and services online, attracting people and holding them over time. Read more in the Social Media section of our website.

image credit : ahmad al homaid