From rats in a NYC restaurant to claims about not having actual meat in their beef and, now, employees licking taco shells, Taco Bell has weathered its share of social media storms. They are certainly not alone among high-profile targets that have to think about “when” rather than “if” social media will provide a vehicle for a large-scale public relations nightmare.
At GroundFloor Media, we often talk about how customers, employees and other key audiences are now not only content consumers, but how they are also content publishers. The latest incident at Taco Bell, in particular, highlights how employees – often a brand’s best ambassadors – can derail a company’s image in a matter of seconds.
How can brands protect themselves? While there is no fail-safe answer, putting simple, easy-to-understand social media policies in place and ensuring that employees understand them are two important (I’d argue imperative) steps for any company to take.
My colleague Gil Rudawsky shared Gap’s social media policy on our blog over a year ago, and the simplicity of it still stands out to me. When a company employs thousands of employees or works with hundreds of franchisees across the country – or even the world – employee policies and communications must be easy to understand and easy to share.
One final note: if someone breaks the rules, the policy should also make the consequences clear. This provides companies with an easy answer and a clear reason to terminate when employees post things like putting pizza up their nose or licking taco shells in the restaurant’s kitchen on social media – just in case those acts alone don’t violate company policy.