When I was growing up we lived near three grocery stores in Pensacola, Florida but were only allowed to shop at one. My Dad was the assistant manager at a grocery store chain called Delchamps. (Don’t worry, the Delchamps brand has been out of business for a long time!) If Dad wanted to keep his job, the rule was that we could not shop at another grocery store. If we, the family, were seen shopping at another grocery store, he could be fired.
By having this rule, Delchamps was attempting to protect their brand image. They wanted to make sure that no one got the wrong idea about why an employee would choose another grocery store to shop. This is back in the days when loyalty was expected from employers and employees, before Enron and WorldCom.
Things have changed today, and most businesses do not put purchasing requirements on employees. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is that brands are still worried about how employees represent their company – most especially online. Many businesses do not know where to begin or even recognize a need to set web employee behavior standards.
If Delchamps were still in business, I’d be willing to bet they would’ve done the following to maintain their company brand online:
- Written a clear policy which covers employee social media interactions.
- Hosted training sessions for employees to ensure they each sign off on company social media policies.
- Educated employees on trademark infringement – because even if an employee infringes upon a trademark without your knowledge, your company can still be held liable.
- Given employees permission to blog, tweet, Facebook, speak about their company, but would have been very clear about limitations on content.
- Set guidelines on how to speak of their competition. Beware of what you say about your competitors online to avoid defamation lawsuits.
Delchamps was big on loyalty, even as a child I understood the expectations. Do your employees understand your company expectations for online behavior? Do you require your employees to sign a social media policy?