Have you read my disclaimer? Over on the side of my page? These are not my employer’s opinions, I don’t speak for EMC, EMC doesn’t speak for me, and so on?
That might protect EMC if I were to go off the deep end legally. They might be able to fire me, disavow all knowledge of my actions, and prevent themselves from getting in too much trouble themselves. But if I were to do something legal but just plain stupid, do you think that disclaimer would prevent the EMC brand from being damaged in your eyes? Of course not.
But that’s old news. Of course your employees represent your company in their actions, even when they’re off the clock. It’s just that the rise of the social web increases the scope and permanence of those actions. When your employee has a lapse of judgment, it’s not forgotten about the next day, it’s immortalized online and your competitors, customers, and employees will be seeing it for years.
Of course, it’s not just interaction with the general public that can turn an employee into a PR nightmare. An entry-level employee can poorly handle one customer encounter and suddenly investors know about it because it’s the top story on The Consumerist.
The obvious move in the face of this is to be terrified, lawyer up constantly, and threaten to fire anyone who speaks out of turn. The harder move is to make sure all your employees understand the new rules, make sure they’re as happy and as well-trained as you can afford, and let them run loose.
I imagine we’ll see which move pays off in the long term. You can guess which one I value more.