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Why you should want your seafarers to be active on social media

Why you should want your seafarers to be active on social media
Most shipping companies try to tightly control all communications and to restrict all social media use, but if you’re interested in protecting your company’s reputation then this might be exactly the wrong thing to do.

Ask yourself a simple question: “Who do you trust?”

An advertiser or a user who posted a review?

A politician or your friend who might lose her job?

A company spokesperson or an employee you met at a bar?

Since 2001 Edelman has been compiling an annual Trust Barometer to track the level of reported trust in official information sources. Distressingly, though not surprisingly, most people don’t trust official sources of information.

However, there is one source of information from inside your company that people do trust – employees. When it comes to issues of crisis handling, environmental practices, safety standards and even financial earnings, people trust employees more than senior executives – put simply, they’d rather hear from the guy in the boiler suit than the guy in the three-piece suit.

Advertising agencies already know this and ads almost invariably feature consumers and/or employees rather than senior executives. A recent advertisement for Airbus works because it features a diverse group of employees rather than the ceo. Sure, we know it’s scripted and at some level we wonder if maybe we’re actually watching actors, but at first glance we kind of “trust” what they’re saying.

The fact is, people are more likely to believe your seafarers than your appointed spokesperson – a scary thought, since every company eventually faces employee complaints and there’s virtually nothing you can do to stop these complaints ending up on line. With a good communications strategy you can manage these confrontations, but the company usually starts from a position of disadvantage.

If you tell your employees not to post anything about work online, then your most loyal, responsible employees won’t, but this leaves the employees most likely to cause problems as the only public employee faces of your company.

If you have happy employees and you treat them well (and if you’re reading this then I’m guessing you do) then you want them online, because they’re your best ambassadors, your best advertising and your best recruitment tool – and it’s free!

Of course, there are risks. We can tell you countless stories of seafarers posting stupid content that embarrassed their company, but the best way to manage this risk is to ensure that for every embarrassing post there are 100 positive posts from your happy employees.

Some shipping companies are already encouraging online activity, sharing employee posts and even running companywide photo competitions. However, most companies seem to be hoping that if they tell their seafarers to turn off their phones, then social media will just pass them by – it’s not working.

Let your employees brag about the great company they work for. Encourage them to talk about the opportunities they’ve received, free them to share their company pride, but if you’re going to take my advice, then make sure that you have a common-sense social media policy in place and backed up with training, because, while photos of the staff party are great, photos from the after party aren’t’ what you want online.

Contributed by Dustin Eno, coo & crisis response manager, Navigate Response