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Consultants Collective Conversations: Employee Activism, Social Media & Brand Protection

Many brands today are publicly acknowledging and take positions on social issues in ways they never would have a few years ago. And, employees are engaging with their employers over social issues in new ways — from employee walk-outs at large companies to using social media to demand more of their companies and CEOs. CEOs are feeling pressured to take more of a public stance on social issues via social media and many employees are feeling disenfranchised as the result of COVID-19, either because they are working remotely, are on the front lines as essential workers, or have lost their jobs due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

At the same time, over the past few years, many brands have empowered their employees to raise their voices on social media as online brand advocates. But what happens when employees use their voices and social media platform to go beyond or against the comfort level of the brand when discussing issues like COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, climate change, immigration policy or the election?

  • Can brands have it both ways? Engaging in brand activism while avoiding potential fallout from employee activism?
  • What types of employee activism should be concerning for brands, and what can they actually do about it?
  • How do Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Compliance and other departments collaborate to mitigate brand risk?
  • What about when the target of employee activism is their employer?

Companies need to understand the opportunities, challenges and risks of employee advocacy, activism and social media have a plan in place before they find themselves in the middle of a crisis. On October 9th, we hosted an online discussion on this complex issue between two of our Consultants Collective member consultants, Douglas Spencer and Casey Hall. They explored issues around employee and executives’ use of social media, employee activism, employee advocacy, the potential impact of social media on brand reputation and what organizations need to consider during this tumultuous time.

During the webinar, we asked the attendees some poll questions. Here are the results:

Have you ever wanted to publicly call out your employer on social media?

  • Yes: 40%
  • No: 60%

Do you agree with Coinbase’s new policy prohibiting discussions about political and social causes?

  • Yes: 0%
  • No: 57%
  • Unfamiliar with the policy: 43%

Does your company have policies around employees’ social media use?

  • Yes: 38%
  • No: 63%

If we can be of help to you as you address these issues within your own organization, please get in touch.

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