4 key groups to train on word of mouth ethics

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Nobody is going to put their reputation on the line to recommend you if they have any questions about your trustworthiness.

It takes a long, long time to build this level of trust — and only one dumb move to ruin it forever. As a word of mouth marketer, it’s your job to protect your brand by training these key groups on word of mouth ethics:

1. Your college recruits
2. Your agencies
3. Your independent bloggers
4. Your senior leadership

1. Your college recruits

Your junior staffers represent some of the biggest risks in getting your brand into an ethical scandal. Sure, they’re probably very familiar with social media, but what worked to promote the fraternity party or the student election campaign might not be acceptable under FTC rules and regulations. The good news: You probably already have training programs set up for new hires and can add ethics education to the regular curriculum.

2. Your agencies

The FTC has made it clear: You are responsible for the people you hire. Train your agencies on your word of mouth and social media ethics standards and require them to meet or exceed them. Frankly, your agencies should be training you on the laws and the ethics — and if they’re not, you should be concerned.

3. Your independent bloggers

Just like you’re responsible for the people you hire, the FTC has also made it clear that you are responsible for the bloggers you recruit to talk about you. Require them to disclose their relationship with you and any compensation (cash, freebies, perks, etc.) they’re receiving. And remember: Disclosure must be clear and conspicuous to the average user — and not buried in some paragraph deep on the “About Me” page.

4. Your senior leadership

Educate your executive leaders on the ins and outs of word of mouth and social media ethics. It’s critical to protecting brand reputation, and your training will help them in both their leadership roles and in their personal use of social tools (because just like new hires, senior execs seem to be particularly vulnerable to breaking these laws). Show them that this stuff isn’t just for the marketing or PR teams to worry about. Show them it’s something the entire company needs to be aware of.


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  1. John Wiedenheft

    A brand or company that has an established social media policy and workflow won’t have a problem with any of these steps. In my day job at my financial services company, we are slowly (but surely!) moving forward with making all employees aware of best practices and laws surrounding social media. We don’t deal much with #2 and #3, but #1 and #4 are very important for us. We’re getting there!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cale Johnson

    Hey John — that’s great. Keep on fighting the good fight.

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