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A picture says a thousand words…

What happens when an organisation enters into redundancy talks? How do employees feel and how do they express their points of view?

Well, according to employees at Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn, UK they reportedly decided to spell it out for all to see just days after the firm announced redundancies. (My thanks to @too_much_joel who tweeted me the pic on Saturday morning).

The iconic sign mysteriously found the letters H, I and E had disappeared, which left a rude word shining out across the town on Friday.

According to a statement from the firm that was published on Saturday, a spokesperson said: “The lights at the brewery were affected for a very short time on Friday.

‘They are now back to normal but our main concern continues to be for those valued employees who have been affected by our proposed restructure which was announced last week.”

What can you do if this happens to you?

It made me think of the HMV story from last year, when Poppy Powers tweeted about employees “being fired” via the corporate HMV Twitter account. Read my story here: How to silence a barking dog.

Is it an example of employee voice?

It also called to mind the excellent #Brandvandals: Reputation Wreckers and How to Build Better Defences: Corporate Reputation Risk and Response book that came out at the end of last year.

Who are brand vandals? They aren’t just members of your external audience. Sometimes they’re employees, and a lack of robust processes in an organisation can endanger it.

There is nowhere to hide for businesses that are anything less than transparent internally or externally.

The book is in two parts, the first half is written by Stephen Waddington and examines the damage that Internet-empowered individuals can cause organisations. The second half is written by Steve Earl and proposes some answers for the future of organisational communications.

#Brandvandals (yes a book with a hashtag in the title), talks about the importance of keeping your “corporate reputational shield” polished, to “make it harder for mud to stick.” You can read the extracts I think are relevant for internal communicators below.

I can only imagine the conversations that have been taking place at Thwaites Brewery over the past few days.

ThwaitesI searched for ‘Thwaites’ this morning – you can see from the screengrab on this page that the recent story already appears above the history of the company.

So is it a question of engagement?
#Brandvandals states: “For the organisation, engagement isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. Brand vandals are forcing a level of dialogue that organisations, public and private, have never had to contemplate before.

“Smart organisations are helping to define the future of modern brand communication by retooling their public relations and communications teams to truly get to grips with the challenge of engaging audiences in a 24/7 conversation that not only answers criticism, but positively rebuilds corporate reputation.”

I’m curious to know the real story behind the lights malfunction, but for now I’ve leave you with some top tips courtesy of #Brandvandals: Reputation Wreckers and How to Build Better Defences: Corporate Reputation Risk and Response that I collated when reading through the book last year.

Being transparent, I know Stephen Waddington @wadds, well and am proud to feature in one of the chapters as he interviewed me about corporate reputation and transparency – so it’s only right that I tell you that!

You can read my full review here.

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Post author: Rachel Miller
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