Rate My Employer, GlassDoor, Reddit and forums are known for their unguarded commentary and reviews of organizations. But what do you do when a former employee posts disparaging content about your organization online? An example came across my desk recently; it was a recorded corporate team meeting that made it’s way to YouTube. To provide context, the poster also included scathing commentary associated with the video. Beyond the fact that the poster probably violated a company policy somewhere (if they have one) how should the organization respond?
In most cases, you panic because this is new territory you hadn’t prepared for. But before you hit DEFCON 1, here are a few things to consider:
Is it a public or private matter? Did it come to your attention via another employee, listening software or did a reporter contact you for comment?
Does it constitute a formal reaction? Are the comments defamatory? Do they violate corporate policies? Or is it just something that you disagree with?
If you decide that it’s a situation that warrants intervention, here are some steps to consider:
Have A Dedicated Resource. I always advise my clients to have a senior leader ready to jump into these situations. The reason is very straight-forward: you need someone who has the power to make quick decisions; also, you want a dedicated person so that the issue is not being passed around and important details dropped.
Consult Lawyers When Necessary. In some circumstances, you may learn that current or former employees have posted about the company (they may have released confidential information or trade secrets.) Before reacting, review the content and if necessary, consult with a lawyer to make a plan for next steps.
If Necessary, Reach Out To Poster. Depending on the situation, you may have an opportunity to informally reach out to the poster. If it is a current employee your plan should differ from a member of the public or past-employee. In any case, keep in mind that if they’ve taken the time to write or post something negative, they may not be too keen on pulling it down (see below.) Also, it is important to remember not to infringe on legally protected rights.
Keep Good Records Of Communication. Make sure you track any communication. It is advisable to move the discussion offline as quickly as you can (this goes for any type of conflict, whether an employee, customer or public.) It is important to keep track of progress and have the ability to identify where conversation break downs occur.
How to be proactive with Social Media
Invest in good listening software. Social Listening software generates a report anytime your business or brand is mentioned online in a public space (*it will not capture mentions made in private conversations or in social profiles protected by certain privacy settings.) When you see your name mentioned negatively, be proactive. (This does not mean spying on your employees. Instead, consider a good policy and training so everyone is set up for success online.)
Think Before You Ask Them To Delete. Depending on the circumstances (past employee or current employee) this could totally backfire and perhaps become a top news story. Work through various scenarios and outcomes. Most times, it’s much easier to find a solution offline.
Understand Differences Between Free Speech, Censorship,Violating Company Policies. As more employees use social media to express themselves, putting an appropriate social media guideline or policy in place is critical. For example, in one court case where an employee was terminated for something they posted online, their employment was reinstated because the company did not have a social media policy.
Educate Your Organization. Everyone from the bottom up and top down should go through social media training; your guideline or policy should be signed off on and you should be revisiting this topic every six months. One rogue comment or post can have a massive impact on your reputation and bottom line (and it’s not just every day employees, it’s leadership teams who also make SNAFUs too!)
One final piece of advice: sometimes organizations will get in touch because they want help to make their social media “awesome.” While I can definitely help you with your social media strategy, I can’t help you if your products or services suck. I especially can’t help if your company culture is abysmal. In order to build a solid social media presence, you need to build and nurture a solid foundation that begins with your employees. If they can’t get behind your brand, how can you expect others to?
How to write a social media guideline that your employees will understand
Social Media Training For Employees
Human Resources: addressing negative social media posts online
How To Use Social Media During Real Crisis Situations