The cost of reputation

“Lose dollars for the firm and I will be understanding. Lose reputation and I will be ruthless” must be one of today’s most cited business aphorisms. Given it is a comment from Warren Buffett its sentiments are incisive and speak volumes about the importance of employees as brand advocates. Economic slowdown or recovery may be the current number one risk keeping many CEOs awake at night, but reputation is another. Traditional media has always been a highly effective way for disgruntled staff to share the internal perception of an organisation’s brand with the public but with digital communication use growing exponentially, and even previously virgin social media users embracing the technology, employees can now communicate points of view at the click of a button – and to the world. Organisations of every size are all open to (and victims of) this type of brand terrorism – generated by staff from the shop floor to the top. The Domino employee shoving strands of mozzarella cheese up his nose is one example. Whilst the original damning video is no longer live and the star of the video is no longer an employee, the public was grossed out by the stunt. It’s not surprising then, that according to the Deloitte LLP Ethics and Workplace survey, 60% of business executives believe they have a right to know how employees protray themselves and their organisations in the virtual world. Conversely, 53% of employees say their social networking pages are not an employer’s concern. To end on another aphorism, there’s no point locking the stable doors after the horse has bolted. The lines between professional and private lives are now blurred. As internal communicators, it’s time we stopped the debate about whether staff’s online activity should be monitored and use the rise of social media as an opportunity to ensure that organisations foster solid values-based cultures that encourage employees to behave ethically. At the same time we must establish guidelines and policies (if you haven’t already) to ensure employees know how to use the internal social media tools we are introducing across our organisations (what’s acceptable and what’s not), what their role is and how participating in the dialogue will benefit the individual and the organisation

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