Legal Matters
with McKinty and Wright

       Paul McDonnell McKinty and Wright      


Your Brand, Your Reputation, whose Social Media?

Most managers and business owners do not need rehearsed the wealth of benefits an effective social media presence can bring to any business. Appropriately targeted social media interactions are crucial to good customer relations and an integral part of any brand building/marketing strategy.

Nevertheless, the ubiquity and permanency of social media presents particular pitfalls for managers and owners but, with a little forward planning, these can easily be managed.

Here is a recent scenario:

A large multi store retailer discovered that a disaffected employee had taken to personal social media to vent his frustrations and dissatisfaction with his current job and the company itself. Specifically, he had:
• Openly criticised one of the company’s products
• Posted a modified version of an upcoming company marketing slogan, accommodating his thoughts on the company a day before the marketing launch
• Complained about the company and conditions
• Made disparaging remarks about the company’s flagship product

Unsurprisingly, he was dismissed, but launched an unfair dismissal claim.

Decision

During the course of the hearing, the Tribunal was informed the company had taken the following steps:

1. Produced and communicated a specific social media policy
2. Provided specific documentation stating that employees should not do anything which might damage the company’s image
3. Provided specific training directly relating to conduct outside of work with a specific emphasis on social media
As a result, the Tribunal dismissed the employee’s claim, pointing out that his conduct was clearly a breach of policies in place.

Implications

All managers and owners should be aware of the reputational and brand damage even one disaffected employee can create, since they now have the power to publish their thoughts to the world (and your customer base/competitors) via social media. Whether using personal or company social media pages, a company should ensure that all staff members understand what is expected and required from them in using social media. The concern may be breaching confidentiality, PR damage or harassment, but the key to warding off such scenarios is to plan ahead.

Practical Steps to Take:

a. Ensure your social media policy accounts for both:
    a. Personal social media use
    b. Company social media use
b. Include in it guidance on what an employee can and cannot post (on any medium) about the company and their employment
c. Ensure it accommodates all forms of social media, and not just Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
d. Advise employees on the misleading concept of “online anonymity”
e. If in doubt, seek advice from solicitors experienced in dealing with social media and reputation concerns. 

If you have any questions on this piece or any other reputational or social media matter feel free to contact Paul McDonnell, Media and Entertainment Partner, using the following details:
Email: paul.mcdonnell@mckinty-wright.co.uk
Tel:    02890246751”


The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional or other advice.

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