How Blogs, Wikis, YouTube & Facebook are Changing Employee Communications

I’m live blogging Brendan Hodgson ‘s and Amanda Brewer’s session at the Canadian Public Relations Society’s national conference in Halifax.

I’m using CoverItLive to take notes during the presentation. They should appear as I write them, just as if I were posting live to Twitter or IM.

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Brendan Hodgson and Amanda Brewer (06/10/2008) 
Powered by: CoveritLive


Brenda Hodgson: Employees are increasingly important as brand guardians. They could be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how they conduct themselves.
Bloggers are not just talking about their companies. They are publishing on the open Web employee communications and emails that in an earlier era would have stayed inside the organization.
It’s much harder to distrust a person than it is a corporation. [So, the blogging employees have an advantage over the “official line” in the company release.]
Allowing subject matter experts, customer relationship managers and others to talk directly in social media brings companies the strength of the personal face. It also brings risks.
During a crisis, corporate Web sites will receive a spike of traffic. It makes sense to put Web 2.0 communications here so that people can find them.
Companies should attempt to define guidelines that employees can use to govern their online behaviour in a space in which there are few established rules.
In a world with many, many channels and millions of videos and blogs, companies need to learn when NOT to react – when there reaction would catapult a reaction and perception among a few into a mainstream media and mass story.
Corporate communications are no long “gatekeepers.” They are now “stewards of communication,” guiding employees to communicate responsibly.
Web 2.0 has allowed workers and unions to move from the era of the picket line to the era of the Facebook group – a much more powerful way to communicate their point of view.
Online activists move through a process of awareness building to education to stimulating broader discussion and then finally activation of support.
[This is quite remarkable. Brendan Hodgson is talking about “we” and “they” – management and union – in his presentation. Shouldn’t he be talking about “us.”]
Hodgson: What does all of this mean? We’re in an era of engagement and participation vs. command and control. There is rumour and misinformation out there. And companies must know when to speak and help their employees speak to correct that rumour and misinformation.
Companies should engage in public discussion with credible online voices.
Amanda Brewer is now presenting a case study of the 2005 CBC lockout.
Amanda Brewer was an internal communications manager at the time of the CBC lockout. She subsequently joined Hill and Knowlton. Now, CBC has contracted with CBC to bring Amanda back into CBC “because we’re ramping up again.” {Is CBC heading toward another strike?]
Brewer: In 2005, the lockout began with standard picket lines, but proceeded quickly to incorporate Webcams, blogs and podcasts. CBC Unplugged and Studio Zero. This was great for CBC because it allowed them to monitor what the union was saying. But it was troublesome as well because the marketplace would be crowded with many voices balancing the CBC’s single voice.
Brewer: The genesis – Tod Maffin. One of Tod’s first posts characterized the CBC employees as “communicators and broadcasters.” Not just broadcasters, but communicators. The union allowed Tod and other employee bloggers and podcasters a credit fo 20% of their picket line time for their online activities.
Brewer: There were “amazing numbers” of traffic to the CBC employee sites. There was a hunger of information from the voices independent of the official union line and the company line.
Brewer: The CBC lockout became a “blog war.” It changed the way union negotiations play out in Canada because the playing field was levelled.
The “Ouimet” blogger was a member of CBC management. Ouimet was a pseudonym. And Ouimet talked about what management was doing – not always positively – on her “teamaker” blog.
After the strike, Tod Maffin ended up as the blogger for the CBC blog,
Brewer: Lesson – it’s a shared process. Prepare to relinquish control. Employees will be partners in communications. During labout negotiations, “this can be completely nerve-wracking.”
Brewer: If CBC does end up in a labour problem again in 2009, the fact that they have Tod Maffin inside and have listened to bloggers will help them in managing through any disruption.

  • Tod

    That was very nice of her to reference my work back in 2005. I don’t think any of us bloggers/podcasters on the line really expected it all to get to be so big!

    One small correction to her last comment:

    “If CBC does end up in a labour problem again in 2009, the fact that they have Tod Maffin inside… will help them in managing through any disruption.”

    The CBC doesn’t actually have me on staff. I’m a freelancer and any decision where I’ll be blogging if we have another dispute will be entirely mine.

  • Pingback: How social media is changing employee communications « PR Research()

  • Joe, this is the first I’ve heard of CoverItLive (I think), and it seems liked it worked well for you. Interestingly, although there’s a scrollbox here on the actual post, there isn’t one in my Google Reader. That made it even easier to skim … err, read!

  • Hey Joe… funnily, I can’t seem to view your coveritlive feed in IE7, although it works fine in Firefox… you may want to check that out, though it could just be me.

    Regarding the “us” or “we” vs “them”, I would suggest that’s less my own perception than that of the management teams that typically we’re hired to work with. And while the perfect world is to create a collective sense of “us”, the divide between what motivates the two sides is often too great to bridge, particularly in a unionized environment.

    My point was to suggest simply that labour now has an increasingly powerful voice at the “table” both as a tool for mobilization, and as a means to better inform, educate and engage other stakeholders upon whom the corporation relies – particularly when all those stakeholders tended to hear previously was the management line: business as usual.