Hi Sylwia, could you introduce yourself?
I am a blogger, photographer, on a daily basis social media consultant specialising in ethics, increasingly also in social media for non for profit sector. I put it in practice working as Head of Client Services at Voice - Oxford based social media agency focussing on that sector. I also work voluntarily for Global Voices (globalvoicesonline.org), organize Oxford Twestival (Twestival.com) and co-organise Barcamp Transparency UK.
So, your main area is social media ethics. What is it ? How long have you been involved in this?
Officially for 3 years, unofficially since I started blogging (2004). I learned blogging at the University, together with theory of communication - where communicating successfully meant sending the right messages.
Somehow it stuck with me, and when I dived into social media I became rather sensitive about how I use the web, and how others do it.
While working for Word of Mouth agency 1000heads, I was appointed company Ethicist (in more popular terms: ethics officer;)), studied business ethics at Business Ethics Institute in London, started presenting my thoughts around social media ethics during various events.
As I already mentioned social media ethics covers everything related to how we use web responsibly, what are the ethical rules (modern ethics is based on rules established by community - as opposed to 10 commandments), what happens to our content, personal data and many more.
I think to explain it, this is the best I could come up with:
An article about ethics and recruiting was previously written on this blog. Do you think ethics could be a serious advantage for recruiters and employer brands ?
In social media marketing, but also in finance industry and many other areas of life key words like transparency, trust, openness become increasingly important.
To certain extent we have always preferred brands and organisations with strong values. However, I think with the growth of on-line communities our awareness of ethical concerns develops.
Organisations enter social media and face serious challenges (in positive sense), as they need to re-thing their organisational structure, communication and management.
It is the lowers level of staff who talks on behalf of brands on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube - whether brands want it or not. Consequently establishing, developing, monitoring and adjusting ethical values to your every day processes in organisations is definitely a bonus.
It results in positive brand image, but most of all confident senior management, confident employees and consistent vision.
Where to start and how to create a winning roadmap?
It really depends on the size of your organisation, but it is good to have an appointed person responsible for ethics and related policies.
You will need to write down your code of ethics (plenty of good examples on-line, but if you want to learn it well, I do advice Business Ethics Institute in London or similar educational body), make it public and introduce across company. You also need ethics policy - which is for internal use (HR or ethics officer, or just appointed member of staff, senior management) - and serves as more specific explanation on how the ethical values are implemented across the organisation.
You basically look at all areas of your business and apply the values, helping your employees to do the same. It is also a good place to explain ethical procedures - how you measure ethical culture? who is the ethics advisor and what is the process of ethical enquiry? what are the consequences of unethical behaviour? It's quite good to have ethics officer, as their role is advisory - in practice that means that instead of placing a formal complaint at HR any member of staff can talk to ethics officer and be ensured the case will be investigated and dealt with anonymously.
If it's an HR issue, ethics officer should be able to advice the employee to go to HR too.
Crucial element is good communication channels between senior management and ethics officer and HR - all those parts of business have to be consistent and co-operative to succeed.
Once the ethics policy and code are introduced (all employees are trained, documents are published), it needs to be monitored. It's good to make some of the case studies, ethical enquiries public (in such a way that they cannot be linked to any specific member of staff of course) so everyone can learn and improve.
In a perfectly working ethical culture you would not need an ethics officer as employees could help each other and resolve each others uncertainties themselves.
And finally - you need to punish misconduct, but this needs to be done anonymously too - if possible.
There is also an element of regular survely you can plan and conduct to measure effectiveness of your policy.
During one of my courses at the Institute we heard a case study of a lady, who works as ethics officer in a plant. According to their statistics the amount of legal cases issues against the plant (racism, sexual abuse, etc ...) significantly lowered after the role of ethical advisor was introduced simply because employees had someone to talk to, someone who would treat their problems seriously and act, if required.
How could companies make sustainable efforts and walking the talk in the long-run?
I think I kind of answered that - commit a bit of time to re-thing your values, put them down on paper and your website. Incorporate them in the way your do business.
Appoint someone to take the lead of it. The results can only be positive.
You will need to incorporate ethics in your social media presences, but at the end of the day, like we always did - it comes down to respecting the rules of communication channels - learn those and do not overreact - social media really is not a monster. Embrace it and you'll be just fine.
Actually, if social media will make you think about your business ethics - it's great!
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