It’s a good question that we all have to ask ourselves from time to time: “Who speaks for me?” When you are a business owner, this question can have a lot of different answers, from elected officials to other members of business organizations to your employees. Wait, employees? My employees don’t speak for me, and certainly not for my business! That’s the reaction I usually get when discussing this matter with business owners who have or are planning to hire employees. To which I often respond “Well then how are you preventing that? Which is a good question. In the world of social networks that ask where you work and have ever worked, how can you be sure that things your employees are saying aren’t attributed to you or your company?
Just this week here in Minnesota a contributor to a local free publication that calls itself “Minnesota’s GLBT magazine” testified at the Minnesota Senate Committee hearing, identified himself as a contributor to the magazine, and proceeded to argue against the marriage equality bill that was before the Committee. As you can imagine, this has caused some less than great press for the publication. But how can employers and businesses prevent things like this? Nothing is foolproof, but the below suggestions are definitely good steps in the right direction:
- Set out a clear policy and have employees sign on to it. When you hire an employee, you should have an employee manual that clearly sets out the terms of employment, including how and when the employee can use the company name. Things to consider include whether the employee can list the business on Facebook, etc. pages (which are often the first results in a Google search of a company) and whether they can ever use the company name in any official capacity.
- Clearly communicate your company’s position on matters that matter. When it comes to issues that strike close to the mission or subject of your business (like marriage equality for a GLBT magazine) be proactive and clearly state your position before someone else can try to do it for you.
- Use tools to monitor your company name. Five to ten years ago my best advice related to this was “Set yourself a Google alert for your business name.” This is still solid advice, but many services now exist that will allow you to monitor mentions of you
- Enforce. If, despite your clear explanation that employees should never purport to speak for the company, one of your employees puts your business name next to opinions you feel would damage your company reputation, consult with your business advisors to see what action should be taken. Don’t overreact, but don’t under-react either. Remember, often your business name and reputation are its biggest asset, so it’s worth making sure it is protected.
Have questions about what you should do to make sure you’re never shocked by who is speaking for you? Contact us for a complimentary consultation today.