Are Your Employees Undermining Your Business?

Quite a few of us have been there – the new agency on the block – handling a portion of a client’s business while another agency hangs out with the lion’s share.  Either it’s a new line of business for the company or the old agency fell down and this particular part ended up in your lap.  Everyone play nice but there’s no mistaking it – you want the rest of the business and the other agency, no longer resting on their laurels, wants to get the part you have back.

But we “play” nice.

But the changes and bizareness are obvious – all the PR calls are tri-party (if not more) and the turf war begins.  What media outlets does old agency have relationships with and where is new agency allowed to tread without looking like an interloper.  Let’s also not forget about those outlets that the in-house department has chosen to handle on their own.

Each agency tries their best to bring the next big idea in order to shore up their position and prove they’ve got the stuff to take the entirety of the business.  It’s dog-eat-dog, let’s not kid ourselves. 🙂

And now the fun begins – it’s time to showoff, without showing off or doing anything that might offend. Time to walk that tiny razor’s edge of cool but not too trendy, forward thinking while still strong on the basics, hot but not slutty.

Now here’s the kicker – your best forward thinking employees, those on social media, may be (very slowly, but definitely) screwing you out of an account.  But “How’s that possible?” you ask.  They’ve got their pulse on what’s hot, can find and interact with influencers, and are able to tap into the best and the brightest thinking from the various social media and marketing blogs?

There’s two simple ways, one legit and one perception based.

First, the legit – if you were in competition with another agency for a share of business and you knew the account folks (or anyone within the other agency really) were active on social media – wouldn’t you spy on, erm, watch them?  See what articles they’re posting, tweeting, Digg-ing, etc.?  Anything to get an inside line into what their thinking might be?  Given how often we steal, erm borrow, ideas from other campaigns consider the odds that your competition will have linked to a campaign idea they might present to your client.  Wouldn’t you systematically watch the other folks to see what ingredients they’re using in their special sauce of idea creation?

The other, the perception one?  Consider your client – you’ve obviously encouraged them to be active on social so you expect that if they heed your advice they’ll follow your folks on Twitter and other social networks.  What happens when said client sees “their” account people, Tweeting about personal items to excess during business hours.  Or Tweeting comments of a political nature (or other potentially hairy topic).  Let’s not kid ourselves – there’s plenty of billable hours that someone paid for that should’ve been labelled “Anthony Trial” on Tuesday.

Nota Bene: In case you’re wondering – yep – I’ve heard of potential new business clients checking out employee Twitter accounts to make sure they don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

This one’s illusory since it’s certainly not the client’s business to dictate when and how the work gets done provided it does get done, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think (perhaps unconsciously) that they do have the right to dictate such things. People are also historically bad at forgetting things they’ve seen that may have bothered them.  Add in the added complexity of some topics – e.g. Is your client a staunch supporter of one political party? How do you think live tweets of Presidential debates or discussions of campaigns will go over? Cheering over gay marriage rights (which I did my fair share of as well)?

People want to work with people they like that can also get the job done, not just who can get the job done.

We encourage, and sometimes help craft, social media policies for our clients – do you do it for your own company?

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  • Great topic to discuss Nathan and very pertinent to how the PR/social media world is evolving.  Transparency has drastically altered how we strategize and plan our efforts and shone a bright spotlight on the collective efforts of everyone that participates in social media and/or communications.  My take is that, as you alluded to, it is vitally important to help steer the agency or individual’s social media ship and develop a plan as well as a monitoring system to make sure that the policies you set in motion are followed.  I think it’s unfortunate that there are those who ignore policies that dictate tasteful and appropriate ways to use social media channels which evidently can make or break the relationship with a client.  Since we are often at the mercy of our clients/customers when it comes to their monitoring efforts, beliefs, reactions and opinions, why not craft a policy that removes all possibility (within reason) from the equation of an employee offending, upsetting or otherwise driving a client away from information shared through a social network?  Better yet, give a real life demonstration of how what someone says can be perceived as being offensive even if they feel that it doesn’t.  People understand better when we give them real life stories and visual demonstrations.  

    I drafted a social media policy for our company and one that is especially airtight about how to react to negativity, how to keep personal opinions separate from broadcasted messages, what material is appropriate to comment on vs. that which should be left alone, etc.  Since one of the fields I work in is technology in a vertical that is especially sensitive to consumer perception it has become all that more important to have a policy in place and monitor it to make sure it is being followed.  So far, it has worked well and we have not lost any customers or offended anyone to my knowledge.  

    • Hey John –

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.  It’s certainly easier than ever for one person to speak on behalf of a company, albeit unintentionally and not officially.  Given how easy it is for anyone to tap into what employees are spending their time on or vocal about you’d think we’d all be more aware of it on a regular basis. 


  • Ha! I’m still wondering why people are captivated by the #caseyanthony case. For now, I’ll tweet this out, hoping that someone (possibly a client) will see that I like to read industry-centric articles to help with work.

    • Hey Pedro – heh, sounds good – you definitely want the clients to know you’re reading industry blogs and the like, always comes in handy in pitches.  Have a great rest of the week. ~N