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For better or worse, most companies have built an online reputation – whether they want one or not!

Employee experiences and customer feedback are easily accessible through social media platforms and online reviews.

Did a client fail to receive the excellent service they were promised?

Did an employee feel they were treated unfairly by upper management?

If so, chances are – it’s on Google Reviews. And Indeed. And Glassdoor, Monster, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter…need we go on?

In good times and bad, it’s likely that whatever the internet knows, your current and prospective clients, employees, and partners know too.

Your company’s online reputation boils down to how and where your company is mentioned in the online conversation.

Whether you participate or not, the conversation continues to expand, and your company’s brand is either being thwarted or grown through these digital interactions.

Why should you care about your company’s online reputation?

Not only does your company’s online reputation influence your prospective clients, but also your prospective candidates. You can spend all the money in the world on top recruiters and applicant tracking systems, but it will still be an uphill battle if your company has a negative online reputation. (More on this later)

You know you need to understand the perspective others have on your business in order to be successful, and we’re here to tell you that managing your online presence is a crucial, but not impossible, task!

Read on to discover some basic steps for building and protecting your company’s online reputation.

Do you need help creating compliant and protective social media policies? We can help! Give us a call at 877-753-0970 or check out our website to learn about outsourcing your employee issues to Integrity HR here.

How To Build and Protect Your Company’s Online Reputation

In recent years, many employee handbooks have been adapted to include social media policies, with the goal of protecting the company’s brand.

But, inserting a section into your employee guidelines regulating the do’s and don’ts of social media conduct isn’t as straight forward as employers would hope.

Under Title 7 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employees have the right to engage in “protected concerted” activity by discussing “work-related issues, pay, benefits, and working conditions.” Employee’s rights to act together to address these topics are protected both in the physical world and the cyber world.

So, what does that mean for your online reputation? According to the NLRB, employers cannot prohibit an employee’s use of social media to complain about or publicly share any of the issues above.

The good news is that employees are not protected under the NLRB if they share “egregiously offensive or knowingly and deliberately false” information about their employers or their services without relating it to these issues.

But, when it comes to online communication, many recent cases between the NLRB and various employers show that determining what is or isn’t a violation of employee rights can be tricky.

Case-In-Point

Chipotle’s Tweet Storm

In August 2016, the NLRB found issue with Chipotle’s social media policies after an employee was reprimanded and ultimately fired over tweets he made criticizing the chain.

The employee complained about crew members only making $8.50/hour in response to a tweet a customer shared thanking Chipotle for a free burrito. The NLRB ruled that Chipotle interfered with the employee’s rights, and required the restaurant to rehire the employee and compensate him for any time missed during his unemployment.

Pier Sixty Server Smack Down

In April 2017, the Second Circuit court upheld a previous NLRB ruling that decided the employer, Pier Sixty, illegally fired a server after the employee posted an obscene, expletive-laden complaint about the manager on Facebook.

The NLRB stated that although the complaint about the employer was vulgar, it also specifically exhorted employees to join in concerted activity by supporting the formation of a union.

High School Drama

In May 2017, an NLRB judge found several policies restricting social media usage to be illegal in a New Orleans high school employee handbook. The handbook policies restricted teachers from using social networks during school hours, and banned them from using the school’s name, contact information, website, and image in online posts.

In these cases, and many others, the NLRB has ruled in favor of the employee on the grounds that online discussions (or rants) regarding wages and management issues on social media are concerted and protected activity.

Reputation Repercussions

With easy access to online forums, employees have the ability to publicly vent grievances with minimal risk of disciplinary action, consequently damaging your company’s brand.

Lost opportunities with potential (or current) clients is a major consequence of a poor online reputation.

One bad internet search is all it can take for potential clients to take their business elsewhere! One study reported that 88% of consumers have been influenced by online customer reviews.

Businesses may also struggle with recruiting and retaining top talent when the online reputation is less than ideal.

Another study reported that 60% of job seekers wouldn’t apply to a company with a one-star rating. If you have a poor workplace review, it’s likely many qualified candidates won’t pursue employment at your company.

By dedicating time and effort to building and maintaining a positive online reputation, you can avoid unfortunate consequences for your business.

Revamping Your Company’s Online Reputation

Satisfied employees (and clients) generally don’t type despairing comments. As the business owner, you can start protecting your company’s online reputation by supporting your team in-house.

Here are some ideas to implement:

1. Open-Door Policy: Provide your employees an alternative outlet to the online forums. To be successful, you can’t just state an open-door policy in your handbook. Embody it for your employees by protecting employees who come to HR with complaints and providing opportunities for expression.

2. Conduct Yearly Engagement Surveys: Be proactive and inquire about issues your employees experience, before they resort to public broadcasting. Use the information you gather to address negative complaints before they are shared outside of your control.

3. Develop A (Compliant!) Social Media Policy: The NLRB wants clear, specific policies when it comes to social media. Consult your HR professional or consultant to develop a policy that protects the interests of your company and your employees.

4. Encourage Positive Reviews: There is an unfortunate negativity bias that exists online, so encourage your employees and clients to publicize their positive experiences. Explain to your team that the better online presence you have, the easier it is to recruit more amazing co-workers and gain more business (more business = raises for everyone)!!

Developing and protecting a positive online reputation can feel like an impossible challenge. But, by establishing a good report with your employees, addressing issues proactively, and creating clear policies, you can build a positive brand in-person and online.

Do you need help creating compliant and protective social media policies? We can help! Give us a call at 877-753-0970 or check out our website to learn about outsourcing your employee issues to Integrity HR here.

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about the author: Jessika Koch

Jessika Koch is a Human Resources Consultant for Integrity HR, Inc., a human resource consulting and outsourcing firm in Louisville, Kentucky. As a consultant, she helps build individuals within an organization to create a cohesive team and streamlined work flow. With over twelve years of human resources experience, she has a wide knowledge base that includes employee relations, recruitment, employee benefits, performance management, payroll, workforce management systems, and legal compliance.

currently there's 1 comment(s) Would you like to add your thoughts?

  • Jon P

    commented on August 9, 2017 at 1:27 am

    This is a great article it has clearly specified the importance of protecting and maintaining company’s online reputation.Tips mentioned about how to build online reputation and what to avoid, is very helpful.