It’s old world advice from an agency veteran. Always write an e-mail like it’s going to get into the wrong hands. He’s of course speaking from an embarrassing experience from his past. That e-mail anecdote could apply to social media posts as well.
On Diwali weekend, Ogilvy’s Chandana Agarwal had to face a lot of criticism for her opinion on sexual harassment in ad agencies. Of course, her Facebook post was not a public rant, but meant for a closed group of her friends. But it set social media on fire and was reported widely in media including this website.
In the backdrop of that, my colleague Raahil Chopra and I did a dipstick study among leading Indian agencies on their social media policies.
No ‘shares’ for this one
Unlike the spirit of social media, this is one policy document that most agencies are unwilling to talk much about. Some reacted like we were asking for their agency pay-grades and cited clauses of confidentiality.
Now compare this with clients. Globally, the large advertisers Procter & Gamble and Unilever, who usually have stricter corporate guidelines than most agencies, are quite open about sharing their social media guidelines. For those who don’t believe us, you can download P&G’s social media policy here.
Of course, agencies claim that adhering to the company’s social media policy is built into an employee’s contract. Due to the lack of transparency, these conditions are often enforced on the employee after they have accepted the job.
On a lighter note, one agency senior said, “Every agency will need to hire a Prasoon Joshi”. This was a reference to the adman’s other hat as India's Censor Board Chief. But on a serious note, the agency leader says that no policy can be as effective as self-censorship.
“We can issue social media guidelines, but we cannot gag our employees,” said the CEO of a leading agency. Another agency leader was even more direct. He was of the opinion that social media policies cannot replace common sense.
The third one advocates a stronger stance. If you sack employees who embarrass their organisations, because of their social media posts, the rest will fall in line.
Speak to some younger agency executives and this is what emerges. Most policy guidelines are formulated by an HR head sitting in an ivory tower. Most social media policies are created without using ideas from the agency crowd. Surely, that means compliance is usually low or pays scant regard to the policies in existence.
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