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Online reputation management

With allegations of sexual harassment and abuse swirling thick and fast in just about every industry, individuals in the spotlight need carefully calibrate their response.

Some of the accused – Harvey WeinsteinKevin Spacey and Robert Scoble spring readily to mind – have mangled their responses by appearing highly indignant and combative, overly defensive, cloyingly self-pitying or shamelessly deflective and underhand.

Handling true or partially true allegations about sexual misconduct is no walk in the park, especially when litigation is threatened and your reputation is in jeopardy. Misjudgements and mistakes of one sort or another are easily made.

By contrast, dealing with ostensibly true allegations should be a piece of cake.

If only.

Today’s climate of widespread distrust and more or less instantaneous judgement means the accused stand guilty in the court of public opinion until proven innocent.

Yesterday a number of individuals listed on a spreadsheet of Conservative MPs accused of various sexual misdeeds publicly rebutted allegations about their sex lives.

Two stand out as being particularly plausible.

Here’s Minister of State for Justice Dominic Raab MP responding to claims that he had behaved inappropriately with a woman:

Statement by Dominic Raab MP on The Westminster List

And here’s how Foreign Office Minister Rory Stewart MP took on allegations that he had asked a female researcher (aka Sophie Bolsover) to do ‘odd things’.

If the ensuing media coverage is anything to go by, most commentators believe the claims about Stewart and Raab were unfair and untrue.

There are some useful lessons in how Stewart and Raab made their respective cases:

  • Both responded quickly and strongly, supporting their case using demonstrable facts – in Stewart’s case public support from the person he was supposed to have misbehaved with, in Raab’s case a strong denial that he had ever used or been served with any kind of injunction (something that can be checked)
  • Both communicated in a straight-forward language and professional tone that appeared consistent with their respective values and backgrounds – Raab the lawyer, Stewart the explorer and diplomat – and therefore came across as credible
  • Neither resorted to overt or unreasonable legal threats against the list-maker(s) or spreaders – sensible when at a time of heightened public sensitivity about a highly inflammatory issue that may yet cause even greater damage to the Government and the broader Tory party, and when the identity of the list-makers remains unknown. (At the same time, both appear to have deliberately given themselves ample wiggle-room for a legal response when the heat dies down. Also noteworthy is the fact that the fully redacted list quickly disappeared from Twitter, suggestive of a speedy, high-level behind-the-scenes takedown request.)

Meantime, rumours continue to swirl around Westminster and beyond about those MPs on the list who have yet to respond publicly, substantively, or who are seen to have responded particularly defensively.

Given that sexual harassment as an issue appears unlikely to abate anytime soon, the heat is now on these individuals to make their case persuasively in public.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Part 2 of an interview with a Chinese PR student on crisis communications and social media.

Here is Part 1.

3. Does social media impact crisis communications in different ways in Asia versus the UK? Are there any characteristics exclusive to the UK?

In my experience social media can indeed impact crises differently in Asia, and much of this comes down to speed – parts of Asia are very highly networked – and the culture of the web, which can be immensely volatile, especially in a country like China. Compounding matters there’s the fact that customer and stakeholder opinion is evolving quickly across the region, not least concerning expectations about corporate good behaviour and transparency, while government attitudes towards foreign companies, in particular, can be hostile, and control of the internet notoriously uneven. These aspects – and plenty of others – require a close understanding of the context in which you are operating.

Operationally, the main difference is that Asian organisations tend to be more conservative, hierarchical and slow to make decisions, which can make the management of a crisis challenging. And where there is a culture of strong local political control, and a pliant local media, local companies may well have little experience of having to manage serious negative events in public and online – a notable example being Taiwan Formosa and the Vietnamese governments’ inept handling of a toxic spill earlier this year that ravaged hundreds of kilometers of coastline and damaged the livelihood of thousands of local Vietnamese fisherman.

Equally, some multinationals operating in Asia are reluctant to devolve crisis decision-making to their local businesses, resulting in precious time being lost when you need to respond quickly and appropriately at the start. And for the reasons pointed out above, foreign companies must be mindful of throwing the standard western crisis playbook at what may be a very different business, media, political and legal environment.

I’m not convinced there’s anything intrinsically unique about the nature of crisis communications in the UK – at least in a western context – other than perhaps the behaviour of the mainstream media, specifically the tabloid press, which can be very single-minded in their willingness to build up and then attack an organisation, and whose views tend to bleed quickly and deeply into the social web.

See also my Primer on Crisis Communications, which covers similar territory.

 

An abbreviated version of this article was first published in the Vietnam Investment Review (in Vietnamese)

That thousands of people took to the streets across Vietnam early May 2016 to protest the contamination of hundreds of kilometers of Ha Thinh province coastline was the culmination of a catalogue of errors by the alleged culprit – a Formosa Plastics steel plant – and the Vietnamese authorities, that inadvertently turned a serious incident into a major public crisis.

The spat also raises questions about how fit for purpose Hanoi and major companies in Vietnam are when it comes to managing disasters and crises.

When people first started complaining on Facebook about dead and rotting fish and shrimp in early April, Formosa Plastics initially said nothing and then denied wrong doing. Two weeks later a company PR official antagonised local fisherman by arguing the Vietnamese had to make a choice between catching and selling fish, or developing the steel industry.

Officials in Hanoi failed to make matters better by initially defending the company and then arguing there was no proof it was to blame and suggesting human discharge or ‘red tides’ of algae could be the problem, prompting local protesters to take to the streets and even to petition Barack Obama to launch an independent investigation. Vietnamese authorities were also found to be blocking Facebook and Instagram during the protests.

Perhaps Formosa Plastics and Hanoi were taken aback with good reason. After all, ordinary Vietnamese are little known for publicly opposing issues seen as detrimental to their interests and livelihoods, however controversial or potentially damaging they may be.

And thanks to highly controlled political, media and business environments, very few Vietnamese organisations have any experience of having to manage and defend their reputations in the open court of public opinion.

Yet one does not have to look far to see how the expectations and behaviours of citizens, consumers, local communities, activist groups and other stakeholder groups have been transformed by the internet and social media.

Even in China, any and all of these groups now regularly take to the social web to make their voices heard, galvanise support, raise funds and organise protests – virtual and physical. And they do so instantly and often in large numbers.

While China may have had considerable success limiting online chatter, institutions across the region are struggling to contain internet-based grassroots movements, despite the many tools and techniques available to block, limit or otherwise disrupt news, information and commentary.

With the accountability genie out of the bottle and with little way of stuffing it back in, how can governments and businesses better manage disasters and crises?

Fortunately, the strategies, tactics and techniques required to manage issues and crises in today’s flat, open, digital world are becoming steadily clearer. And while complaints, allegations and smoking guns frequently first manifest themselves online, the rules of how to deal with them as they escalate are not broadly similar to what they were before smartphones and Facebook took over.

Like for ‘traditional’ issues and crisis management, much comes down to good listening and having the ability to spot potential problems before they escalate into incidents or even crises, and the internal processes to be able to assess these issues quickly and thoroughly before identifying the appropriate response.

While there are many free tools that can help companies keep abreast of what’s being said about them and about issues relevant to them, there are also now a host of paid online and social media listening tools such as Synthesio, Meltwater or Vietnam’s Boomerang that enable companies to identify, track and analyse potential problems online in real-time.

Furthermore, the more sophisticated listening tools will send email or SMS alerts to team members when mentions of a given keyword or phrase hits a specified level, and/or turns from negative to very negative, enabling companies to hone in quickly on what really matters when it comes to assessment a problem: the motivation of the user, the credibility of the complaint or allegation, and the broader context in which it is being made.

Much also hinges on getting the response right, which can be challenging when everyone seems to be talking about the issue, it is quickly going viral, corporate leadership has gone missing and the scope for denying or ‘spinning’ a story is increasingly limited.

And in a medium that values emotion over facts, it is doubly important that the initial response to an escalating issue or a bone fide crisis gives the impression of openness and honesty, that it is being treated seriously and as a priority, and is crafted in a language and tone that ordinary people can understand, relate to and appreciate.

Had Formosa Plastics and the Vietnamese government responded quickly, honestly, constructively and empathetically to the pollution allegations in Ha Thinh province, they would far more likely have been given the benefit of the doubt. Instead, both found themselves caught in the headlights of searing public distrust and with little obvious place to turn for comfort.

UPDATE: Taiwan Formosa has admitted responsibility for the toxic spill, and will pay USD 500 million in compensation.

 

In a disappointing decision for the UK’s media, and to the apparent relief of much of the legal community, the Supreme Court yesterday opted (pdf) to keep in place an interim injunction protecting the names of a celebrity couple PJS and YMA, one of whom was allegedly involved in an olive oil-drenched ménage à trois in a plastic paddling pool.

Engaged in close combat with the judiciary and much of the legal profession since the Court of Appeal over-ruled the High Court in favour of the imposition of the injunction in late January, Fleet Street’s finest are clearly in no mood to let the matter rest. The story looks set to run until the allegations go to full trial, and will probably linger for a considerable period of time thereafter, whichever way the court decides.

sun-front-pageIrrespective of the rights and wrongs of the various legal interpretations taken so far, if there’s one thing that can be said with any degree of certainty it is surely that the reputational dimension of the case has been exploited mercilessly by those seeking to make the allegation public, and apparently overlooked or ignored by the couple in their sights.

At least, this is an easy and obvious conclusion to make. After all, thanks to foreign media coverage, interventions by high profile bloggers, an orgy of speculation on Twitter and a mainstream media intent on pushing both the spirit and the letter of the law to their limits (eg. Daily Mail redacted article below), just about everyone knows the names of those involved.

DailyMail_PJSRedacted

Don’t they?

Perhaps it’s not quite that straight-forward.

It is worth remembering the injunction held fast, at least for a few weeks before the names of those involved were published in the US.

And then geo-blocking ensured (and continues to ensure) that the US article that sparked the media furore was seen by relatively few people – other than those using VPNs – in England & Wales, where the injunction applied.

Google was also ordered to remove numerous links to articles and posts (here’s one list) mentioning the story, thereby limiting further access, at least for those using Google.co.uk.

While these defences proved by no means water-tight, over 60% of people participating in an April 2016 YouGov study stated they did not know the identity of the couple being talked about – a figure that seems unlikely to have changed much since, if online search interest for the term ‘PJS injunction’ is anything to go by.

An important question from a reputational – and a legal – perspective is whether the figure would have been any higher had the media named the couple in January, when the injunction was first applied for.

It is hard to know.

Certainly the story has now dragged out over several months and is likely to have resulted in considerable embarrassment, especially should it come to the attention of the couple’s children. But has it ended up causing significantly greater reputational damage to a pair which has publicly confirmed it conducts an open relationship, and whose ostentatiously flamboyant public life does little to suggest it has much to hide? Will it adversely affect the careers, earnings or image rights of the two?

Perhaps.

There again, reputational damage may not be the primary concern of PJS and co, at least not now. Rather, it may well be about having justice in court, and being seen to have justice in court, irrespective of the brouhaha and the costs and whatever comes afterwards.

My guess is that the PR/communications dimension was indeed initially overlooked by PJS and co. A broader and more proactive approach involving lawyers, PR advisers and online reputation experts would almost certainly have been advisable from the start.

Nonetheless, against the odds, the couple has persuaded the Supreme Court of its case, legally reinforced the privacy rights of celebrities and other individuals, limited some of the reputational downside that inevitably cones with litigation, and successfully jabbed Fleet Street in the eye, not once but several times.

 

UPDATE: As of November 4, 2016, the celebrity couple and News Group Newspapers agreed an out-of-court settlement on the basis of the latter’s breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

Here’s a potted timeline of events to date:

Scène de Ménage
A Play in Several Parts

Dramatis personae

‘PJS’ – husband of YMA
‘YMA’ – celebrity entertainer and husband of PJS
‘AB’ – PJS’ lover, and lover (and subsequently) husband of CD
‘CD’ – AB’s husband former partner ‘AB’ and AB’s then partner of ‘CD’

Part I – Exposition

  • 2007/8: PJS meets AB
  • 2009: PJS and AB start a sexual relationship
  • 2011: PJS messages AB to ask whether CD was ‘up for a three-way’

Part II – Conflict

  • Jan 2016: AB and CD approach Sun on Sunday newspaper with story about PJS. PJS declines to comment on the record when approached by the newspaper
  • Jan 15: Lawyers for PJS apply to the High Court for an interim injunction in England and Wales. The judge rejects the injunction on the grounds that the newspaper is entitled to ‘correct the public image’ presented by PJS, issuing a seven day interim injunction for PJS to appeal
  • Jan 21: Lawyers for PJS lodge appeal for injunction in England and Wales
  • Jan 22: Court of Appeal rules in favour of PJS on privacy grounds, publishes ruling with names redacted

Part III – Rising Action

Part IV – Climax

  • Not achieved

Part V – Denouement

 

The web is now the medium of choice for campaign groups like Greenpeace, Oxfam and the WWF to raise funds, expand their networks, and mobilise supporters.

Little wonder: online pressure played no small part in Shell exiting its longstanding partnership with Lego, Nestlé reconfiguring its palm oil supply chain, SeaWorld halting its breeding of captive orcas, and the collapse in shark fin consumption in Hong Kong.

Then UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that online pressure had ‘significantly influenced’ his decision on the Rupert Murdoch’s 2010 bid to take full control of BSkyB.

finishedwithfins

 

But it is not just the big campaign groups that have benefited. Once the preserve of students, tree huggers and political dissidents, activism is now the opium of suburban housewives and white collar workers across the world. It is particularly evident in the huge popularity of online petition sites:

  • Change.org counts over 140 million members in 196 countries
  • Avaaz boasts some 43 million members in 194 countries
  • Care2 has almost 35 million members
  • A UK member of parliament recently told me she receives dozens of emails every day supporting various causes from the 3 million+ members of 38 Degrees, all of which she feels compelled to respond to.

People power has never felt so real, or so daunting. And in an age in which business is increasingly expected to play the role of a concerned and actively engaged ‘citizen’, the numbers involved and the sheer unpredictability of public opinion raises real challenges and risks, as firms supporting ostensibly mainstream causes have discovered.

Drawing on discussions and interviews with Greenpeace, the WWF and high profile individual activists, I argue in my book Managing Online Reputation that online activism is now mainstream, activist networks are becoming more amorphous, and campaign groups are deliberately making their lines of attack less predictable, before going on to detail three current and emerging strategies and tactics used online in the ongoing battle for public support.

The relevant chapter – on the social and environmental threats of the web – is now available online as a free sample:

 

With propaganda swirling online, a Change.org petition fast escalating and Greenpeace all over your Facebook page, an online activist attack can feel terrifying and remorseless. But while some activist campaigns meet or even exceed their objectives, most fail to convince the public of their merits, or simply succumb to slacktivism.

How you choose to respond requires a close understanding of your detractors’ playbook, a smart reading of the public mood, and an appreciation of your tolerance for business and reputational risk – factors I’ll explore shortly.

Image courtesy of WWF Hong Kong

 

 

Despite an economic slowdown, the rout of its stock markets, a plunge in exports, and a crackdown on free speech and the media under Xi Jinping, China remains a huge opportunity for local and foreign companies alike.

It also presents its fair share of challenges, not least rapidly evolving consumer and stakeholder expectations, demands and behaviours, and a cut-throat, dog eat dog business environment typified by murky, closed-door government decision-making, high employee churn and widespread disregard for others’ IPR.

And while the internet, mobile and social media are powerful tools to raise awareness, connect and drive sales and loyalty, they are also highly demanding and unpredictable platforms for competitors, customers and others to attack you, something that is done with real relish in China.

How big a problem online attacks are in China, what form they take, and how they should be handled is the subject of an in-depth interview just published by Forbes (and builds on comments I had earlier given to PR Week on the necessarily complex and somewhat thorny topic of PR ethics in Asia).

I hope both pieces shed some light on China’s idiosyncratic internet culture and how it can best be tackled.

 

Drawing on my experiences in journalism, government, IPO-ing one of Europe’s top digital agencies, and working at WPP, I had the pleasure earlier this week of talking to early stage entrepreneurs and assorted others at Paperclip Hong Kong about the importance of building trust from the get-go.

The second half of the talk focused on online reputation, specifically how companies should handle threats on the internet and social web and draws on my book Managing Online Reputation.

A single negative review, badly handled, can be disastrous for a small company so it is all the more important that business owners have a decent understanding of the many options, tools and techniques available to help them evaluate and respond to common problems.

Here’s the deck:

Enjoy!

 

Caution, shameless self-promotion: my book Managing Online Reputation launches today.

You might ask – perfectly legitimately – why I have taken the trouble of writing 60,000+ words about something that should now be well understood. Surely it hardly needs saying that Google, Twitter and Weibo make it harder to manage a company’s name and image, opening it to the whims, prejudices and ulterior motives of disappointed customers, aggrieved employees, malicious competitors, enraged activists and recalcitrant algorithms?

pownall-book-0006

Yet it remains the case that many organisations (and individuals) remain unclear how best to insulate themselves from trouble online, and continue to mess up their response when things go public.

It has not helped that there remains a dearth of practical, common sense advice in this area. There are many reasons for this, from a tendency to see social media as a business and marketing Holy Grail while overlooking the hazards of the conquest, to the fact that most existing guidance is written from a social media marketing, public relations, technology or legal perspective when effective online reputation protection and defence is about all of these working together. Things have also not been helped by a cottage industry of  ‘online reputation management’ specialists selling puffed-up search engine solutions.

Managing Online Reputation draws on what I have learned over many years as a communications strategist, PR practitioner and digital marketer mining the seam where communications and reputation, and the internet and social media meet. Accordingly reputation is tackled primarily from a communications perspective – albeit a broad one – and I make no apologies for this: if issues are left to fester long enough they will almost inevitably become reputational – and hence PR – problems and must be tackled as such.

However, to understand more clearly the risks to reputation posed by social media, and to appreciate the many different response options, I talked with experts in fields such as media and IP law, social and environmental activism, IT security, digital forensics, crisis management,  emergency response, social media monitoring, search engine marketing and Wikipedia management.

Given that the social web impacts so many areas of an organisation it should come as little surprise that online reputation is a complex topic. However Managing Online Reputation tries not to over-complicate or over-sell the issue. You’ll find it avoids talk of ‘social media crises’ and other hyperbolic marketing phraseology, just as it makes no grand claims about what the many social media business and listening tools now available can do for you. Rather it looks at social media in a broader context, and offers practical, realistic, common-sense advice in plain English.

It is also intended to be interesting. Sprinkled amidst tried and tested ways to categorise, assess and respond to potential problems online, and detailed guidance on how to develop (or update) your crisis plan, you’ll find vignettes about the culture of smears in China and political protest in Hong Kong, the easy and pungent opium of online petitions, the perils of companies attaching themselves to social movements, and what a black swan looks like online. There are also detailed case studies of companies of all shapes and sizes responding successfully to and recovering from fast escalating negative incidents and bone fide crises.

Here’s more of a taster:

 

More than anything you should come away from reading Managing Online Reputation with the notion that, despite the scepticism in which companies and institutions are held today, and the innate tribalism and volatility of life online, your organisation’s reputation is eminently knowable, manageable and redeemable – as long as you prepare well, keep your head and play it straight.

Managing Online Reputation is available in paperback and as an e-book via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, 800-CEO-READ and other outlets.

You can find out more about the book and how to order it here.

 

Yesterday I was asked by my friend Stephane Prudhomme to talk to year 3 communications and journalism students at Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Management College about crisis communications and social media.

I started by looking at different types of negative situations and outlining some of the top threats posed by the web and social media, before exploring how four companies (FedEx, Applebee’s, Tesla, Gushcloud) responded to incidents and crises using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al.

 

I hope you find it useful.

With MH370, MH17 and now QX8501, food safety and health scares in China, ongoing supply chain issues, hacks aplenty, popular protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong and terrorist attacks in Australia and China, its been a busy year in the world of reputation and reputation management across Asia.

Here are the most popular articles published to this blog over the past twelve months.

1. Malaysia Airlines, MH370 and social media crisis communications
2. Change communications and social media
3. Safeguarding corporate reputation in social media
4. Why your online reputation is not your reputation
5. Customers at the core? McDonald’s messes up its crisis messages
6. Crisis communications in Malaysia
7. How to handle online defamation
8. Assessing the Hong Kong government’s communications during Occupy Central
9. Asia’s most reputable companies
10. What’s the right social media strategy?

With traffic to the blog up 35% over 2013, I’m encouraged to keep plugging away on these topics.

If you’ve any suggestions, I am all ears!

Best wishes for a smooth and prosperous 2015!

 

The fact that anyone can turn to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to post a negative review of a hairdresser, plumber or politician, indeed to denigrate whatever or whoever they choose, in the heat of the moment or otherwise, has resulted in defamation being employed increasingly regularly as a legal tool.

Yet the nature of social media means, like it or not, that the resolution process is also increasingly likely to be played out in public view.

In such instances, legal and communications teams must work closely together.

A prominent London-based media and defamation lawyer with whom I met recently advises the following broad principles for dealing with online defamation:

  • Balance the legal and reputational aspects of defamation carefully from the get-go
  • Negotiate a reasonable solution where possible and deploy litigation only as the final solution
  • When an issue is legally black and white, move fast to limit the potential for the falsehood to escalate
  • Make sure to use language that is user-friendly rather than overtly legalistic in all instances.

This is music to the ears of communicators, who are often left to deal with the reputational impact of legal strong-arming.

The principles above are laid out in an article I have penned for PR Week Asia.

 

It came as something of a shock. Arriving in Singapore from London in 2006 to run a global PR consultancy’s digital capabilities across Asia-Pacific, it quickly became clear that while digital marketing in the region was in rude health, corporate use of digital communications was often poor and sometimes non-existent.

Why?

Budgets were small and the outlook mostly short-term. Many firms were struggling to understand the role and value of online PR. Key stakeholders were apparently not yet using Twitter. For companies, websites were Kings; email and search were its Queens and social media was but an Infant mewling about buzz and bloggers.

Much progress has been made over the past few years, not least a broad realisation that a proactive approach to digital communications that includes social media is a must-have. And well it should be. Asians are some of the most mobile, networked and digitally-savvy individuals in the world. The world’s most social consumers in virtually every product category, Asians not only consume huge volumes of online content but also create more videos and other output than people in any other region.

Equally, many Asians are increasingly aware of their rights as consumers and citizens and are prepared to take a public stand when they see these rights compromised. Negative product and service experiences are widely shared online, as firms such as Vodafone and Dolce & Gabbana have discovered to their cost. Civil society actors such as WALHI in Indonesia are using the Internet and word of mouth highly professionally to force change. Suddenly, the range of potential reputation red lights has expanded significantly.

While there has been a flowering of company Facebook pages and Twitter and Weibo handles over recent years, there remains plenty to do if organisations are to fully leverage the benefits and limit the threats inherent in today’s digitised communications landscape.

VMA’s recent Pulse study on corporate communications trends in Asia identifies three key digital challenges for corporate communication teams:

  1. Thin understanding and education
  2. Lack of budget, dedicated or otherwise
  3. Concerns about what employees may say online.

How should corporate communications teams accelerate their digital transformation? Here are three topline recommendations:

  • Education: While much traction for social media can be gained through trial and error, substantive progress is unlikely to be achieved without the buy-in of company leadership. Make a though and objective assessment of the broad range of opportunities and risks of social media and, if you don’t have one already, identify a strong and respected internal executive champion to establish ownership and authority, take responsibility for educating the CEO and other senior leaders, and to sell the vision. If that individual is in brand marketing or another function outside communications, make sure they are on your side and that you have a consistent vision. And whichever operating structure is chosen for digital/social media (centralised, de-centralised etc), ensure your team is actively playing its part and leveraging its known strengths: internal access and influence, external listening and engagement, management of corporate reputation.
  • Budget: Budgetary support will increase as a result of leadership confidence and buy-in. Don’t get hamstrung just because there is not a standalone digital/social corporate communications budget or figure that social media should live in PR. Many firms now now have dedicated social media teams that sit independently of communications; for instance, while social media resides within marketing at Ford, the Digital Acceleration team at Nestle owns social media and reports simultaneously to marketing and corporate communications. Beyond this, be clear what you are trying to achieve and report regularly using metrics that are relevant and understandable to top leadership.
  • Behaviour: Increasingly, communications is seen to work in the long-term interests of a company’s reputation, providing it with a legitimate interest in ensuring sound employee behaviour. Accordingly, communications should work closely with other relevant areas of the business to identify and mitigate possible behavioural reputational risks, rather than simply having to manage them once they occur. Many organisations now have a corporate social media policy of some description that sets out the parameters of employee behaviour in social media, but few have successfully ensured that their people (as well as others within their ecosystem such as sales agents) fully understand and live by these documents.

In my experience working both in in-house PR and as an external communications and social media consultant, the image of corporate communications can suffer by appearing too far removed from the realities of day-to-day life in the trenches.

Social media makes managing reputation in real-time a company-wide prerogative. Corporate communicators must get into the trenches and fight the good fight. Being seen to do this will help accelerate digital as much as anything else.

First published on VMA Group blog. I am an Associate at VMA Enhance, VMA’s professional development arm