Corporate Communicators need to control their employees: Part 2

Following the first part of this series of how sports stars can be detrimental to corporate reputation through using social media ineffectively, the second part looks at corporate communicators and how they see social media and its impact on corporate reputation.

Corporate Communicators want more transparent Social Media policies

By Steven Woodgate

To find deep, practical understanding of the industry, a survey specifically designed to target those who work in an aspect of corporate communications was created. Following a two-week timeframe to fill out the questionnaire, the data was collected with many interesting conclusions.

Figure 1: Wordle Word Cloud for Job Titles of Corporate Communicators

Discussions have been going on about who should manage the role of reputation management in organisations and particularly the role and specific job title of corporate communicators. As Figure 1 shows, and out of 59 recipients, the clarification of the job title within organisations remains very unclear.

Reputation management is not new and the lack of clarity over coming up with an appropriate and targeted job title will ultimately cause confusion. The two elements of the organisation and the individual clashing because of the use of social media will not become clearer with the lack of a job title.

As seen in the word cloud, the word ‘Manager’ appears to be common within the industry; however, there appears to be little that they actually ‘manage’. Reputation management, especially online, is difficult to ‘manage’ as it is hard to measure. Sports PR works in the same way. It is extremely interesting that there was no ‘Reputation Managers’ or similar job titles. Interestingly, there was no gender spilt (Male – 53%, Female 47%, n=59) for those who filled out the questionnaire, however there was a distinctive viable when it came to age. As mentioned before, the questionnaire was published online to target those who are involved actively with social media and online content, and it appears that the age group between 25-39 are those who are in charge with 61% appearing to take ownership of social media (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Age when it comes to Corporate Communications

With social media and reputation management being the key theme of this survey, many more conclusions and statistics were established. The survey was designed to broadly cover all platforms of business but the key and constant theme of this research, the individual versus the organisation, appears to be in the mindset of these corporate communicators. The results in Figure 3 proves, pretty conclusively, that some individuals’ reputations are bigger than that of the organisation’s (47.4% agree, n=59) and a social post directing from the individual will have a direct impact on reputation (98.3% agree, n=59).

Media curation may be a new concept, but with sport PR being largely involved with fan engagement, “talent” retention and marketing, it would be near impossible to analyse immediate content. Some of stakeholder theory suggesting to treat all stakeholders equally is, yet again, practically impossible to do.

Social media provides all sorts of influencers; although this is hard to define, the results from this survey indicate that corporate communicators do know that certain employees have more influence than others (96.6% agree, n=59). Therefore, it is essential that guidance and monitoring is put into place rather than leaving these employees posts anything they want and not receive the appropriate discipline.

With a good majority of corporate communicators agreeing (71.2% agree, n=59) that a strict social media policy should be put into place, corporate communicators should prioritise social media reputation management more in their workload. Sport organisations have further dilemmas as their ‘products’ to market and sale are indeed the “talent” therefore this social media reputation management need more clarity and work on. Creating the resource is not the issue, but having clear guidelines to social media, will help take some of the burden off.

Figure 3: Data Highlights from Corporate Communicators Questionnaire

Further to the result collaborated, it appears that social media is becoming a bigger area of responsibility for the PR professional. With 61% of corporate communicators taking responsibility and ownership of social media within their organisation, it appears there is still a sizable gaps from ‘ownership’ to ‘managing’ social media output.

Again, this raises the individual versus organisation debate resulting in corporate communicators not managing the social media output in line with online reputation. This may be something they cannot manage, but they can monitor it and be in a position to influence social media output by the individuals.

Figure 4: Which of these areas of PR/Communications do Corporate Communications have responsibility for?

The role of corporate communications is changing as well. As you can see from Figure 4, 52 out of the 59 believe social media is their responsibility and with no clear social policy in place, this job would become tremendously difficult. Despite social media being a big part of their role, data collected from the questionnaire about sending social media posts out with and without dialogue from senior management and research shows clear differences.

From the Figure 5, 52 of participants believe that reputation would be enhanced with mediated dialogue from senior management and corporate communicators rather than leaving it to the individual to post unsupervised. Over half also believe that is would boost employee and customer satisfaction if social media policy provided some guidance.

Figure 5: With and without dialogue, Corporate Communicators view on how social media posts will help or hinder reputation

Conclusion

This illustrated the need to implement a social media policy would be of great benefit to the organisation and its resulting impact on individuals to avoid conflict with their social media to use.

To understand this further, a questionnaire was sent to sportspeople (Part 3 coming soon).

Part 1: Sport corporate communicators need to control their employees

By Steven Woodgate

Lewis Hamilton is a twat! Corporately speaking

Lewis Hamilton needs ‘Tweeting’ lessons

It’s not too long until the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year kicks off, with many sportspersons praised for the heroic sporting efforts throughout the year. It’s sometimes hard to remember that sportspeople even have personalities, let alone be up for an award for one.

Social media has significantly helped (or hindered, depending on how you see it) sports people get close to fans and visa-versa and to show off their award-winning personality. However, with two rather big stakeholders a mere 140-character message away, can employers control what employees say?

Recent research conducted by 33 Digital new-recruit Steven Woodgate (me) has showed a series of sportspersons under the spotlight to see if there is any corporate benefit of their employees tweeting.

The study looked at F1 stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button; footballers Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen and Joey Barton; cricketers Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen; and rugby players James Haskell and Brian O’Driscoll to see how they use twitter and how it could effect corporate reputation.

Content analysis revealed the extent and nature of the problem, with three different categories of twitter traffic identified – tweeters, who help a corporate reputation, twits who are relatively harmless but not helpful and twats, who can be positively destructive.

The content analysis conducted on eleven sportspeople demonstrated, overwhelmingly, that inappropriate social media use is common throughout sport. Recent cases highlighted in the media would back this up (#BunchofTwats).

A formula – designed for this research – found that Hamilton’s and Swann’s tweets were subject to much interaction from their followers as the eleven sportsmen were categorized as twats, twits or tweeters based on their output in the month of July.

Amongst the tweeters were Owen, Rooney and Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Button. All of which use social media positively, and used it to promote their teams and country.

Haskell, O’Driscoll, Broad and Pietersen mainly use social media for ‘banter’, which can be seen as harmless, but causes minor issues for their employers.

Ferdinand and Barton narrowly missed being classified as a ‘twat’, as they tweet so often that their followers appear not overly bothered with each individual tweet.

At the moment, too players are getting away with abusing their employer. This has a negative impact on a host of stakeholders, most notably fans and supporters.

Sportspeople are in a privileged position, and social media has opened a new door for them to interact with fans. However, they need to respect their employer pays their wages, and not use social media negatively. They need to think before they use it.

Conclusion: Social media policies in sports organisations need to address abuse by individuals to avoid negative effects on corporate reputation and control corporate image.

What do you think?

Lewis Hamilton is a twat! Corporately speaking

PRESS RELEASE 

Following research into sportspersons’ use of social media and corporate reputation, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and cricketer Graeme Swann were labelled ‘twats’.

The two sportsmen, along with nine others, were the subject of detailed content analysis looking at their social media use and the effect it has on their community and their employer.

Footballers Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, Joey Barton, Wayne Rooney Twitter accounts were all analysed in the month of July, as well as fellow F1 driver Jenson Button, cricketers Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad and rugby stars Brian O’Driscoll and James Haskell.

A formula – designed for this research – found that Hamilton’s and Swann’s tweets were subject to much interaction from their followers as the eleven sportsmen were categorised as twats, twits or tweeters.

This formula found that Hamilton and Swann often used negative language, as their followers were keen to interact or share their information. Their negative tweets found the most coverage and this should be a cause for concern for their employers.

Amongst the tweeters were Owen, Rooney and Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Button. All of which use social media positively, and used it to promote their clubs and country.

Haskell, O’Driscoll, Broad and Pietersen mainly use social media for ‘banter’, which can be seen as harmless, but causes minor issues for their employers.

Ferdinand and Barton narrowly missed being classified as a ‘twat’, as they tweet so often that their followers appear not overly bothered with each individual tweet.

The purpose of the research was identify social media effects on corporate reputation and whether these sportsmen have a responsibility to protect and enhance their employer’s reputation through positive tweeting.

Researcher Steven Woodgate said: “The research showed that employers, especially in the sporting context, need clear social media policies.

“These policies need to address abuse by individuals to avoid negative effects on corporate reputation and control corporate image.

“At the moment, too players are getting away with abusing their employer. This has a negative impact on a host of stakeholders, most notably fans and supporters.

“Sportspeople are in a privileged position, and social media has opened a new door for them to interact with fans. However, they need to respect their employer pays their wages, and not use social media negatively. They need to think before they use it.”

 

About the researcher

Steven Woodgate MA, 24, has just graduated with distinction in Public Relations in his postgraduate study at Southampton Solent University. His love for sport stemmed from his undergraduate degree in sports journalism and following Reading FC. He achieved two gold awards and came runner up in the Outstanding Young Communicator at the CIPR Awards.

Contact

Email: sawoodgate@gmail.com

Twitter: @StevenWoodgate

Phone: 07545334964

Abstract for Dissertation

The purpose of this dissertation and research is to identify social media effects on corporate reputation and whether a social media policy would prevent it. Social media is a new phenomenon, exploding and inflicting itself on sports organisations and its employees. These employees -“Sportspeople” – should have a responsibility to protect and enhance its employer’s corporate reputation; however, through the inappropriate use of social media, some of them are in fact not. These sportspeople act without care or consideration, and specifically targeted research was used to tackle this area. Three questionnaires were used to explore the perceptions of corporate communicators, sportspeople and sports fans – the last two of whom are the main stakeholders when it comes to social media. Before this however, an in-depth content analysis was completed with eleven UK sportspeople. Using a formula to identify influence and impact, tailored-made for this dissertation, the research proved that certain sports have a bigger influence on their individual stakeholders than others. For instance, Cricketer Graeme Swann and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton have big influence with their “community”; however, to tackle whether this is a good or bad influence, each tweet was analysed with key words picked out determining whether it benefitted or damaged corporate reputation. The final phase was to interview corporate communicators, sportspeople and online journalists for in-depth discussion of their understanding and knowledge of social media, whether it acts as a reputation tool. The outcome of this research is that social media policy was proven fundamental in sporting organisations, in addition to identifying the dos and don’ts of social media use. The findings may be useful in sport PR to help organisations learn how to treat ‘Sportspeople’ and their effect on corporate reputation whilst tackling the potential conflicts between the individual and the organisation.

Notes to Editor

Tweeter – A tweeter consists of those that use social media, at all times appropriately and in line with corporate standards, knowing full well their messages can be used to attract attention and be created as stories. Not only will a good ‘Tweeter’ do this, he or she will identify the number of times they have tweeted, how good they are at re-tweeting other people’s messages and the number of times their post were re-tweeted by other people reflects positively on corporate reputation.

Twits – On a greater scale ‘Twits’ do not use social media inappropriately, but bordering on it. At best neutral, their tweets are not aimed at enhancing the corporate reputation of their clubs. These accounts do not use Twitter to provide great insight into their lives, nor do they use it to engage their followers.

Twats – The English colloquial term ‘Twat’ speaks volumes about some individuals that use social media inappropriately, resulting in heavy reputation damage of the organisation and to the individual as well. With football being global and the players’ appealing across a broad spectrum of social media users, their posts are constantly analysed for any possible slip. Footballers Rio Ferdinand and Joey Barton are two excellent examples.  Both are footballers of certain stature and both tend to constantly be in trouble with the governing bodies or their club about their social media use. Even though that are not in the ‘Twat’ category, they are both heavy social media users and when they publish a negative tweet, it has an incredible response.