Does your firm have a social media policy?

by Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

Well, what would you do?

This is your call, given that you’re the boss.

A tough one, for sure, because one of your staff has just posted a YouTube video rant against “apologetic” Muslims in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

There is a clear reputational issue for your business because some viewers may well have been offended by the language used, including a reference to “kuffars” (non-believers).

This was a dilemma faced this month by international law firm Clifford Chance, a Magic Circle player, following the controversial posting by Aysh Chaundhry, a junior trainee.

Appealing directly to fellow Muslims, he said: “Freedom of speech is a value upon which they [the West] are attacking you.”

It must be stressed that the video did not incite violence, which is illegal, but the religious subject matter catapulted the name of Clifford Chance into the unwelcome media spotlight.

Of course, freedom of speech is everything, poignantly symbolised by the rallying slogan of Je suis Charlie in the wake of the French atrocities.

Yet this has to be weighed up against the reputational damage an employee may do to your business if he or she takes to social media channels to express controversial opinions, even if it is in their own time.

Mr Chaundhry has apologised; this may well be an example where passion has clouded judgement.

However, there is more to this episode than a mea culpa.

Law firms and other companies in the professional services sector, such as accountancies and property agencies, should have a written policy in place regarding the use of social media.

One which makes it unequivocally clear that any private postings are not the views of the company; that any postings which have a negative impact on the brand could be met with disciplinary procedures.

Far from ideal, of course, but social media has blurred the hitherto private boundaries between the living room and the office desk.

What is galling for Clifford Chance is that the digital footprint of this unwarranted problem will remain for years to come.

The same applies to Mr Chaundhry.

Meanwhile, you better check your social media policy so you know what to do if an employee, however valued, goes off on one on social media.

If the posting does attract unwelcome media attention, we are just a phone call away to help you, ethically and sensitively, with any reputational ramifications.