Communication is a fundamental activity for management and recently, several innovations have produced new tools to improve the way that a manager communicates the activity of his company to its stakeholders. It is not possible to govern an enterprise without an effective communication with the staff. Every strategic activity of the company needs to be communicated in order to be correctly deployed. Unfortunately, we cannot control the activity of the external journalists, although we can control internal communication, and the messages sent from inside to outside the company.
Although someone could consider this action far from democracy, in fact, this is not true. We cannot forget that an enterprise is a person, it has legal personality, and it the same way that a man has rights, as his own image and he is responsible of transmitting a personal image adequate to his personal objectives, enterprises have the need and the right of the transmission of a corporate image adequate to its corporate objectives.
Corporate image is not a responsibility of its staff; it is a responsibility of its managers. Law reserves the role of legal representative for a few people, and these ones can delegate image management activities to other ones. But all employees do not represent their companies. If a firm send an employee or adviser to a conference, this one will be its image there. This is the reason because big enterprises trust in very large experienced people to do that kind of activities where relational capabilities are important, for instance, attending high level management forums in order to interact with competitors or clients.
Corporate image is above the image of the people that represent it, but in fact, discrediting the personal behavior of a manager is sufficient in order to discredit, at least partially, a firm. If a manager is doing its activity with a high level performance but in his personal life is doing unsavory activities, corporate image can be damaged. All of us know some cases of sponsorship of some sportmen with a personal life away from the corporate values and funded with astronomic salaries in order to promote some products, and how the brands have behaved.
In general, managers that have the role of supporting the corporate image are aware of this fact and they protect themselves trying to avoid problematic situations that could affect the reputation of their companies. However, nowadays, many organizations try to undermine the reputation of the (legal or not) representatives from the competitors creating fictitious links between these managers and other people in order to damage their reputation with association of ideas. This practice is a fraud.
When we register a trademark, industrial property law lets to defend us from similarities, then, using similar people or inventing false links between a manager and employees that could seem neighboring in order to destroy his reputation and damage the corporate image is a totally miserable practice, and it must not be considered because it can backfire on somebody who use it.
Coming back to our discussion about innovation in communication, nowadays social networks are a good place to make these negligible practices. We make the mistake to accept as friends a lot of people when the procedures of the network suggest that we do not do it, because we are giving much information about us. We must understand that, as in any other innovation process, we must manage the use of new tools and distinguish clearly the differences between friend and follower.
High notoriety people, as musicians or actors, use social networks in order to communicate with their followers, not only its friends, using the network as image management tool. In the same way, many managers, images of their companies, can do the same. All of them know the difference.
As managers, in general, it is recommendable to invite to our professional network only people that we have contact previously personally, however, a Business Development Manager could follow the same strategy that a musician or an actor, and use the network in order to manage the followers of the firm.
Problems can arise when any employee decides to contend with one of the representatives without knowing the consequences. If he establishes a network of followers (not friends) where he provides information about his activity, he could be defaulting on a confidentiality clause of his contract unknowingly. This would be a crime, easily verifiable by a judge. To control the legal issues at the hiring process can help to manage social networks properly.