Archive for May, 2011

Employers vs Facebook. Privacy Breach or Reputation Protection?


There has been a great deal of media reporting lately about employers using Facebook as a method for monitoring their online reputation, and also for monitoring both the activities and the comments of their employees.

Given that so many of use Facebook every day to update our mood, our movements, our likes and dislikes, and given that this information is highly public, this is a real case of ‘user beware’ in an online environment where there are few guidelines and many potentially serious pitfalls.

Recently I have heard of many people who have indulged in the great Australian national sport of taking a ‘sickie’, only to then access their own Facebook profile to let the world know what they were REALLY doing with their time off.  Many employees have discovered, to their peril, just how seriously employers take any criticism about them personally or about their businesses uploaded by employees onto Facebook.  It also has been used as a tool to monitor just how much of work time employees spend on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, when they should be actually working.  This is assuming,  of course, that using social media is not an actual part of their daily job description, which is becoming more common, and this new development causes additional layers of complexity.

This is a growing problem for employers and managers in Australia, when you consider that, according to research done by Neilsen:

  • Australians spend an average of six hours and 52 minutes per month on social media sites, the largest time allocation of any country in the world;
  • The reach of social media in Australia is also large, with Nielsen estimating a unique reach of 9.9m Australians per month;
  • The use of social media was by far the most popular preoccupation of people’s online time, far ahead of instant messaging and computer gaming; and
  • The rapid global growth of social media, which between 2008 and 2009 had increased at the rate of 82% in just one year.

You can read more of the fascinating findings of this report here

All of this does raise serious questions about where exactly is the fine line drawn between an employer’s right to defend their own personal reputation and that of their company, and the right of employees to freedom of expression and to the preservation of their personal information.  One thing you can be sure of is that most, if not all employers these days will ‘Google’ you as part of their vetting and shortlisting process while drawing up a shortlist of applicants to be interviewed.

Like most tricky questions, there are no easy answers, and as has happened many times throughout history, the development and implementation of the technology has happened far too quickly for our legal and regulatory framework to keep up.

In the meantime, perhaps it is worthwhile following the advice of a friend of mine, who found the best filter for her own use of Facebook was to ‘friend’ older members of her family, like Aunts and Uncles, and if it wasn’t fit for them to read, then it was not appropriate to upload it.  And once you upload something,  try as you might, that is a bell that cannot be ‘unrung’.  Food for thought.

Yours in PR,

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Rate Your Health Care Provider – Brave Move by NIB

Whitecoat
A much-touted principle in customer-service oriented industries is the one of ‘continuous improvement’.  Part of the process of continuous improvement is seeking customer feedback on the level of service they have received.  These processes enable business owners to track how their front-line employees are performing and to make adjustments as appropriate.

Australian health insurance provider NIB has taken this process a quantum leap further with the introduction of a new website entitled Whitecoat.  This new website encourages the members of NIB to search for, compare, and importantly rate the services of a range of ancillary providers:  professionals such as dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and osteopaths and many more.

NIB in announcing this initiative said it had developed Whitecoat in response to demand from their customers for information to help them choose an ancillary provider.

The development came about, NIB said, in order to provide consumers with greater transparency, more freedom and ultimately more power in their decision making.

Rather than uploading pure and raw data, like that available in the ‘comment’ field of a post on a Facebook page, NIB claims that it ‘strictly manages the process for obtaining, reviewing and publishing both data and comments regarding each ancillary provider’.

This assurance that the content will be managed will no doubt be of some comfort to the ancillary providers, who may fear their reputations might be damaged through negative customer feedback.  This would particularly be the case when customers are reviewing various providers when they are looking to change providers or who are seeking out a particular ancillary health service for the first time.

While transparency and enhanced customer choice would certainly be beneficial, I do wonder if the reputations, and therefore potentially the livelihoods, of some health care providers may be irreparably damaged by the uploading of negative commentary.

I would have thought a more useful system would be to upload positive comments, as I can personally vouch for the power of a word-of-mouth recommendation for such an important and highly personal service as dentistry or paediatrics; but that negative comments should perhaps be sent directly to the service provider, giving them the opportunity to provide some form of redress.  By comparison, a flurry of positive comments about one provider, when compared to the complete lack of recommendations for another provider in the same field, would have power, surely?

I also wonder, to what extent are these customer feedback comments vetted for authenticity, and what might happen if a service provider was unfairly targeted by a competitor or was the victim of sour grapes by a former client?  What protection exists for their corporate reputation in these circumstances?  The misuse of this Whitecoat website could be very damaging indeed to corporate reputation.

As an advocate of increased communication, better customer service and enhanced transparency, this new service could be of great benefit for health consumers, but must be handled, like our own health, with great care.


Yours in PR,

DIY PR Strategy – Don’t Miss This Opportunity, Brisbane!

DIY PR Plan WorkshopRecent changes in the business environment prompted companies to cut down on their marketing and promotional budgets.

Moreover, as business owners and executives get caught up in the detail of the day-to-day running of their businesses, they can fail to prioritise the vitally important work of directly aligning their public relations strategy with their short and long term business goals.

With this in mind, BDO in collaboration with Publicity Queen are proud to present the latest in the BDO Management Workshop Series, which for May is Developing a One-Page Public Relations Strategy for Growth.

This half-day workshop is specifically tailored for board members, CEOs, business owners, and managers who want to harness the power of public relations (PR) as a mission-critical tool for delivering business growth, through increased visibility and market recognition.

At the end of this workshop, you will walk away with all of the skills and insight you need to craft your own PR Strategy for your business, as well as the key first steps you need to take to begin implementing it, and generating greater market recognition, and thereby generating greater sales for your business.

Don’t miss this opportunity, Brisbane.  See below for details to RSVP.

Date: Friday 20 May, 2011

Venue: BDO Training Rooms, HSBC Building, Level 15, 300 Queen Street, Brisbane

Time: 8.30am for 9.00am start – 12.30pm (light lunch provided)

RSVP: Friday 13 May 2011

Please fax all registrations to Nicole Dwyer (07) 3221 9227 or email nicole.dwyer@bdo.com.au

Don’t Get Twitter-pated. Aggregate and ‘Twiangulate’ for Best Effect

Publicity Queen on TwitterThere is no doubting the potential usefulness of Twitter for business.  When used correctly it can be a powerful, timely and intimate way to reach out to your partners, suppliers and customer base.

It can, however, be a little disconcerting at times, particularly when you are first starting out, Twittering away into the great digital unknown wondering who will read them, and exactly how to get more followers and make a greater impact, and find those key decision makers and thought leaders that you want to be re-tweeting your nuggets of inspiration.

Don’t despair and get all Twitter-pated (I borrowed this term from the delightful owl in Walt Disney’s Bambi, who was 70+ years ahead of his time when he coined that phrase in 1940), because there is a way to leverage Twitter so that it can be indexed, searched and optimised so that your little droplets of Twitter gold don’t go undiscovered.

Just as Blogs are indexed through tools such as www.technorati.com, a similar phenomenon is now taking place in the Twittersphere, and the top Twitter directories I have discovered, per kind favour of Bill Stoller, the self-confessed Publicity Insider are listed here for your information.

1. Twibs www.twibs.com  is a directory that enables users to search for, find and list businesses that tweet.  
2. Hashtag.org www.hashtag.org A site that lets you search for users and businesses by hashtag
3. We Follow www.wefollow.com groups users together by tags
4. Just Tweet It www.justtweetit.com A user powered directory, basically, choose a category and search (or add yourself).
5. TweetWorks www.tweetworks.com Takes discussions and makes them public or private without the use of hashtags
6. Twellow www.twellow.com Yellow Pages for Twitter
7. Tweet Find www.tweetfind.com comprehensive Twitter directory
8. My Twitter Directory www.mytwitterdirectory.com with very useful category tools
9. Twiangulate www.twiangulate.com An interesting site that allows you to search who others follow, compare followers

I trust all of you Tweet-a-holics, and even those Tweet-virgins amongst us will find this useful. And please don’t be shy… my Twitter details are at the top of this blogpost, so come follow me, let’s Twitter up a storm.

Publicity QueenYours in PR,

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