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Are Employees’ Social Media Posts Still PR’s Problem to Solve?

From Sophie Maerowitz, writing for PRWeek:

t may seem like conversations on social media couldn’t possibly get more polarized. But in the face of a pandemic and plummeting economy, during an election year no less, brands continue to find themselves caught in the middle of hot-button issues, forced to choose sides on topics previously thought to be outside their wheelhouse.

The situation is made all the more delicate when an employee makes a bold statement or is identified in online media in a manner that strays from the company line. In 2017, Juli Briskman (who is now an elected official in Virginia) was fired from her job as a government contractor after she was recognized in a viral photo giving Trump supporters the middle finger. The same year, many will remember former ESPN host Jemele Hill’s suspension from the network for Twitter comments calling out racial injustice at the company. More recently, in May, the viral “Central Park Karen” video led to Amy Cooper’s firing from Franklin Templeton—and in doing so, the company neatly sidestepped a PR nightmare.

As they begin to address the possibility of employees going rogue on social, communicators should find legal recourse as well as internal policy and strategy.

Know the Risks

Gene Grabowski, principal of PR firm kglobal, takes a cautious approach, urging employees and board members to avoid appearing “overly partisan or committed to specific causes or points of view” on social media.

“A growing number of younger consumers avoid doing business with those whose viewpoints differ from theirs,” Grabowski says. He has observed sharp drops in sales for organizations after employees or contractors posted statements or photos “that appeared racist, sexist or insensitive to a particular group.”

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