Embedding your social media policy: the first step to preventing a social media crisis

December 17, 2012 by Jonathan Hemus

TV meteorologist Rhonda Lee lost her job last week after she responded to a viewer’s comment on Facebook.

This is the latest in a line of incidents that underline the potential for social media to spark a firestorm, in particular one which is created by a company employee (Nestle and Chrysler are two other businesses to have suffered from the words of an employee on social media). The KTBS response seems harsh in a couple of ways: the meteorologist’s response was hardly offensive or even controversial, but just as importantly KTBS appears not to have communicated its social media policy effectively to its employees. In my experience, doing so is the first step in preventing self-inflicted social media crises.

Anyone who understands internal communication knows that simply having a policy is not enough, neither is posting it to the intranet or communicating it through a one off meeting or email. If businesses really want staff to understand what their social media policy means in practice, they need to not only brief them, but also to train them. Ideally this should be via a short role play exercise using a social media simulation tool: it’s only by getting people to engage with social media in this way that a dry policy takes on real meaning.

The irony of this situation is that an incident created by social media may culminate in the reinstatement of Rhonda Lee through the power of social media. If so, it will be a further lesson for KTBS on how social media has changed the rules for reputation – and business – management.

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