Did you know that Facebook is the second largest “country” inthe world? With more than 310 million members, it recentlysurpassed the U.S. in total “population.” Let’s not forget thatthere are also more than 200 million bloggers in the world andmore than 20 million Twitter users, two numbers that growexponentially each year. As corporate counsel, you can bet that many of your employeesare among that group. You can also assume that your employeesare communicating to large audiences via social media even asyou read this column.Do you know what they’re saying?Social media holds extraordinary promise for corporatereputation management, but it also holds great peril forcorporate counsel who ignore it. Consider this: A year ago,an executive from Ketchum Public Relations posted insultingcomments about the city of Memphis on Twitter. The problem?He was hours away from pitching Memphis-based FedExfor new business. FedEx caught wind of the comments andpublicly denounced the executive, putting a prestigious PR
rm in the unenviable position of apologizing for its ownPR gaffe. Yet for every gaffe, there are countless examples of companiesand employees using social media to improve their corporatereputations and best practices. So how do you as corporatecounsel weigh the promise of social media with the perils itpresents to your company’s reputation?The answer may lie in drafting social media guidelines foryour employees. It’s no different than your company standardsof conduct, and leading companies are now channelingtheir employees’ use of social media through clearly-statedguidelines. Here are some tips to get you started:
Many of your employees have never used social media.So give them a primer. Host a presentation to educatethem on common social media tools – Linkedin, Twitter,Facebook – and how they in
uence corporate reputation. Whenyour employees understand the challenges and opportunitiessocial media presents, they’re more likely to see the value incorporate guidelines.
ne acceptable employee conduct in social mediacommunities. It’s appropriate to use social media to inform thepublic about your product or to correct inaccurate informationabout your company. It’s not appropriate to post content thatre
ects poorly on the employee or the company. Call it thenewspaper test: Your employees shouldn’t write anythingonline they wouldn’t want to read in tomorrow’s newspaper.
Encourage your team to explore social media. They’ll open newdoors to professional development and corporate reputationmanagement. They’ll put a human face on your companyin an era when many companies are perceived as cold andindifferent. Designate a group of social media-savvy employees,starting with your communications and legal teams, to mentoryour workforce along the way.
Social Media: The New Frontier of Corporate Reputation Management
By Henry Fawell
is a communications consultant for Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC in Baltimore. He previously served as presssecretary to Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. He is the author of Wag the Dog, WombleCarlyle’s blog on strategic communications.Henry can be reached at (410) 545-5830 or Henry.Fawell@wcsr.com.
, CIPP, is a Communications andPrivacy attorney in the
rm’s Washington, D.C. of
cewhere she routinely advises companies on privacyand data protection regulations. She regularly workswith employers of all sizes to create social media policies and provides relevant employee training toaddress the challenges and bene
ts of using socialmedia in today’s world. Jennifer can be reached at(202) 857-4506 or JKashatus@wcsr.com.