Are Happy Employees the Future of Social Media and PR?


By Craig McGill | Digital Strategist

April 3, 2014 | 5 min read

PR - Public Relations or Press Relations. No matter what way you look at it, it's fairly defining. But just as the industry was late in the move to digital and social, is it about to miss the next big thing - staff as a huge PR machine?

The power of employees is on the rise

For too long, staff have been neglected when compared to other stakeholders like customers and investors with staff engagement often treated as an in-house matter, something for the internal comms team to deal with.

But with the advent of social media, instant communication and people doing what they've always done - talking about their work - there's a growing consensus that perhaps this is something that can be better utilised (preferably after some form of social media guidelines have been drawn up and shared with staff).


Now, what makes this exciting is that staff engagement is only the beginning of this. And there's some great reading in this field - books by the likes of Ricardo Semler and Will McInnes show an exciting future - but bosses might not like it as staff expect to see them reflect more of the company values and curb what some might call excessive behaviours.

But before you get to the books by the likes of McInnes and Semler, Weber Shandwick (disclaimer: I work for them) have pulled together a good report on this after interviewing 2,300 people across 15 markets. And what they found was that people are fairly active talking about their work so surely it makes sense to tap into this resource:

· 50% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer

· 39% have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer

· 33% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer without any encouragement from the employer

· 16% have shared criticism or negative comments online about their employer

· 14% have posted something about their employer in social media that they regret


Clearly, staff won't just say nice things for the sake of it. They need to feel enthused, exciting, engaged, listened to - and that's something the whole company will need to address. Working hours, company ethos, pay, perks, colleagues - these are all things that have to be looked at. Even simple things like comms - staff shouldn't find out about changes via the BBC or a newspaper - say a lot about what a company thinks of staff.

And these staff can be influential even after they leave - websites like Glassdoor are growing in influence for a reason (but can be easy gamed). It's all going to be part of the future of the media landscape and no doubt will be talked about at the upcoming Future of Media conference in Edinburgh.

So it's exciting but the challenge for the PR industry will be grasping on to this quickly enough and not letting it get away. I hope it is up to the challenge.


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