What Did That Fool Say? And How Many “Friends” Does He Have?

According to the third annual Deloitte Ethics & Workplace survey, 60 percent of business executives believe they have a right to know how employees portray themselves and their organizations in online social networks. However, employees disagree, as more than half (53 percent) say their social networking pages are not an employer’s concern.
That said, employees appear to have a clear understanding of the risks involved in using online social networks, as 74 percent of respondents believe they make it easier to damage a company’s reputation.
Sharon Allen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP, said, “While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations is personal, a single act can create far reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as employers.”
A mere 17 percent of executives surveyed say they have programs in place to monitor and mitigate the possible reputational risks related to the use of social networks.
“One-third of employees surveyed never consider what their boss or customers might think before posting material online,” Allen continued. “This fact alone reinforces how vulnerable brands are as a result of the increased use of social networks. As business leaders, it is critical that we continue to foster solid values-based cultures that encourage employees to behave ethically regardless of the venue.”
What might we conclude from these findings?
For one, reputation management is a growing concern that smart entrepreneurs will capitalize on. A brand has these choices: turn to their PR agency (provided they have one on retainer); hire a Community Manager (something Dave Allen at Nemo calls “a $55,000/year insurance policy”; keep their head buried in the sand; or outsource the job.
What else can we learn from Deloitte’s study?
You can’t control the message and no amount of money will change that. Look at what people say about Microsoft, if you need an example. The best thing a company can do is conduct itself with integrity at all times. Marketing communications, in whatever form, doesn’t alter who a company is, it amplifies who a company is.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.