Blogging the Layoff

Ann All

We know blogging is good for promoting products and services, building relationships and creating buzz. Apparently, it's time to add breaking bad news to the list.

 

Blogs and other Web 2.0 communications mediums are changing the nature of the layoff, reports The New York Times. Though layoffs have generally been announced in cryptically-worded press releases, or not at all in the case of small companies, now many companies feel compelled to go very public with news of job cuts.

 

Why? As I wrote back in July, companies that aren't proactive in dealing with problems risk being excoriated in the blogosphere. The Internet is filled with sites that encourage workers to sound off about their employers and share workplace rumors.

 

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, blogged about layoffs at his company after the news appeared on Valleywag, where it was promptly picked up by more traditional news outlets. He says:

We had to say something to prevent articles being written that were not accurate.

The Times story relates how Steven A. Carpenter, CEO of advice site Cake Financial, wrote a post the night before he announced a large staff reduction. He hit the "publish" button immediately after informing employees of the news the next day.

 


There was no blog post, in contrast, when Jive Software trimmed 20 percent of its work force. After a dismissed employee called it an "all-out massacre" on his personal blog, the company's chief marketing officer issued a terse message on Twitter that Jive had made cuts, though "nowhere near as dramatic as what I'm reading on Twitter and Techcrunch." He later said Jive hadn't blogged about it "out of respect for the people involved."

 

Maybe the best response is somewhere in the middle. Peter Himler, on his The Flack blog, writes that "knee-jerking with an oh-so-public response is not the way to go." He encourages companies to "directly and genuinely" engage employees through internal channels such as phone, e-mail or (gasp) personal meetings before posting layoff news on a blog. He writes:

It's less a function of command-and-controlling the news as it is one of decency and corporate culture.

This is one of those communications trends that is so new that corporate culture seemingly hasn't developed the appropriate response to it. Still, as an expert I cited in this post said, business communications should be about "respecting the people you're dealing with."

 

Many companies that have blogged about layoffs have received supportive messages, even news of job openings at other companies, according to the Times story.



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