17 September 2013

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Loose Lips Sink Ships

In the age of information overload, word of mouth can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can write a professional spiel and place it on a website, but what does good old Joe Blow from the street have to say and who is he saying it to?

Companies around the world are struggling daily to contain sensitive information and to promote positive brand experiences as well as they manage the negative. Employees fight for or against their employers brand as well as their own and it's not just your professional life on the line.

One poor decision in your personal life can be broadcast across the world so quickly that your transition from Michelle Obama to Lindsay Lohan can happen faster than you can buy a trench coat and dark shades.

Isn't the information age grand!

Whether it's your personal brand or your employers reputation on the line, here are three key ways that loose lips could sink the ship that you're sailing on:

Social Media Speak

Even on the tightest of security settings and smallest of friend lists you have to assume that anything you post online is freely accessible to anyone who wants to see it badly enough.

The critical part of this equation is that if you speak with authority, people may believe you to have authority to speak on the topic.

Any mud you throw at the company you are employed by will most definitely stick and in the majority of cases, some of it will stick to you as well. No one stays clean in a mud fight.

Half story-itis

If you consider Reader's Digest just too long of a read then you may be one of the many suffering from half story-itis. This debilitating condition leads the patient to believe they have a full understanding of any situation after reading the headlines. There's a formula you can apply to these situations to see if you have half the story or closer to 90% (No one has 100%):

  • Borrow a 6 year old and sit them down in front of you
  • Explain the situation
  • If you make it past their 14th "But Why?!?" then perhaps you have the full story.

Half story-itis it particularly debilitating when mixed with talk of company performance and motivations in decision making. A company or an individual can be brought down by talk alone. Be sure you have the full story before you make statements.

Mr (or Mrs) Know it all - But shouldn't be talking about it

It's inevitable that you will come across one of these at every social event that you attend. It's also inevitable that at some point in your life you will inadvertently become this person and spend the next week cringing into your coffee. At some point in every person's life they've been so involved in a topic of conversation that they've shared information that wasn't really theirs to share.

Particularly critical where confidentiality is involved, either the kind signed in blood on your employment contract or the confidence of your best friend who sincerely regrets wearing the lampshade on their head last week. Knowledge is powerful and can be wielded like a weapon. Use it carefully.

Whether guarding your own reputation or that of the company that pays the bills, it's important to keep an ear out for loose lips in the area. The people who could be damaging your brand may never have met you or they may be standing right beside you. Your role is simply to guard what passes through your own lips and encourage the people around you to do the same.