While most companies and brands are fully aware of the importance of employee engagement and how it might affect the company’s reputation and brand, it looks like most still have a long way to go in acting upon that knowledge.
In Weber Shandwick’s recently released global report, Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, it was found that only 27% of employees across eight Asia Pacific countries are highly engaged with their employers.
Leslie Gaines-Ross (pictured), chief reputation strategist of Weber Shandwick, sees the findings as bleak, saying that positive employees’ engagement is vital to a brand’s reputation.
She said: “Employees who are engaged show their engagement externally, doing things such as sharing positive word-of-mouth about their employer to friends, family and network, recommending their employer to others as a good place to work and even doing volunteer work for a cause their employer supports. “
Disengaged employees on the other hand, do not exhibit such behaviour.
Social media impact
The social impact of a disengaged employee is not small. It is found that a majority of 59% employees in Asia Pacific post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer. Globally, the figure is 50% which means that one out of every two employees worldwide is posting about their company online.
In other words, employees have the ability to make or break a brand with the use of social media.
Ross said: “With 59% of Asia Pacific employees posting about their employers online, it is clear that the impact of social media on an employer’s reputation is an everyday reality.”
Hurting the bottom-line
And this will eventually affect consumers’ purchase decisions – a majority of consumers make purchase decisions based on company reputation. Based on Weber Shandwick’s multi-market survey of consumers and executives, The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust, 56% of consumers research to learn about the companies that make what they buy. If consumers find out that a company they dislike is behind a product that they like, they will not hesitate to stop buying that product and share information about the company.
One of the topics consumers are most likely to discuss with others is news about a corporate scandal or wrong-doing, which means that an internal conflict could easily spread through word of mouth.
It is vital for companies to have a social media policy or guidelines to ensure that employees are aware of said policy.
Ross told Marketing that there are increasingly more companies that train their employees from day one to use social media responsibly.
Handling a social media crisis
So what should a company do when a social media crisis happens?
In general, many companies are not fully prepared for a crisis. According to The Rising CCO IV, Weber Shandwick’s survey of global chief communications officers (CCOs), only 40% of CCOs are confident that their companies are prepared to deal with a social media-based threat.
Ross shares the steps that companies should take during a social media crisis:
- Listen carefully. Be thoughtful about how you use your power and not try to squash the critic. Just because you are big does not mean you can use all your power. You need to be reasonable and set high standards. Sometimes just picking up the telephone can work wonders.
- Respond in a speedy manner if the crisis warrants it. Years ago, companies could respond within 48 or 72 hours after the crisis hit them, but now one needs to respond within a few hours if not minutes if the company is vulnerable and wrong-doing has occurred.
- Carefully monitor the crisis in social media for the long-term so you know if it is growing exponentially or not.
- Realize that social media can be a friend and not only a threat. Our research tells us that crises often do not start from social media, yet social media aids in resolving a crisis quickly. Consider responding using the same social media platform if a response is warranted.
- Find sympathetic third parties who might serve as multipliers of your message and who might rally to your support online.