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Brands for a social age

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Andy Gray and Richard Keys, victims as well as villains

From a personal perspective, I fully support Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ departures, from Sky Sports. Their comments and behaviour were disgraceful. Gray’s sacking and Keys’ resignation send a strong message to those who break sex discrimination rules in the workplace.

However, from a professional standpoint I think the wrong people are taking the heat on this. Yes, Gray and Keys were high profile pundits, but they aren’t in charge of running the organisation. The culture of casual sexism apparent in the multiple YouTube examples of Gray and Keys’ behaviour, can only thrive if management allowed it to do so. The bosses at the channel and the senior producers have to take ultimate responsibility.

I’m sure that the ‘star culture’ around Gray and Keys made it difficult to impose appropriate behaviour onto the locker room atmosphere of the Sky football studio. But that’s no excuse.

The increasing ubiquity of social media allows individuals to publish the inner workings of organisations to the outside world simply and easily. Sky is just the latest in a long list to be stung.

That personal publishing power isn’t going to change, so it’s organisations that are going to have to. Have a think about your own company. How would it fair if its inner workings were exposed? What lingering pockets of poor behaviour do you put up with on the basis that ‘it’s never going to change, and its not really doing any harm’. Once these shortcomings are put in the public domain there’s no room for such complacency.

In our work with organisations to improve their ‘social fitness’ a (perhaps surprising) amount of work is based on internal communications, governance, policies, and what constitutes ‘appropriate behaviour’ internally. We encourage our clients to think about the ‘inside out’ organisation.

‘Inside out’ means that a brand’s strength and reputation are rooted in the authentic behaviour of employees, which becomes the core of a compelling and true brand story. Companies like Dell, with it’s mass social media training of staff, or Best Buy, with it’s Twelpforce social customer service, are already treading this path.

Gray and Keys, are villains, but also victims of two things. First, the transparency and power of social media, and second, their employer’s failure to respond to the new rules of branding.

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