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Employees are talking about your brand online: How do you manage the new open dialogue?

Posted by: Heather Baillie on March 10, 2011

This year's marcus evans Corporate Reputation Risk & Management conference featured a strong social media component. SAP, Grainger, Southwest Airlines, and MWV shared how their communications have evolved from pushing controlled messages to engaging employees and external stakeholders in a dialogue to shape their company reputation. Twitter, YouTube, blog, and Facebook have provided outlets for employees to have even more influence in shaping their company reputation. But the big question on virtually everyone's mind was how should the risks of an open dialogue be best managed to truly help build your corporate reputation?

Several speakers suggested introducing new types of control measures such as social media guidelines and new positions to monitor and manage rogue messages. Interestingly, companies such as noted rule-breaker Southwest Airlines and B2B icon SAP are moving in the opposite direction with a less is more approach. Rather than try to rein in communications, they have given their employees more freedom to express themselves and quickly experienced small wins that have helped build stronger reputations for their companies. For example, rumors were self-corrected by employees, stronger connections with customers were created, and employees felt more engaged in shaping their company.

This less is more approach is only effective when you have a strong culture focused on a deep and all-encompassing employee understanding of the company's vision. For this strategy to work effectively, employees need to be aligned with the messages you want to share and need to be invested in the success of the company.

In that sense, brands considering where to focus their efforts and limited resources would do better to put less emphasis on putting more controls in place, and more effort toward helping employees better understand the CEO’s vision and what makes a company a special place to work. In the end, giving your employees the tools and freedom to spread that message and build your reputation makes more sense than reigning them in and holding them back.

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