Finally, there is something that has a bigger ‘Escape Velocity’ than the NaMo-RaGa debate. If Rahul Gandhi’s view on dalits not having enough “escape velocity” escaped you, then well you missed the moment of the week. But, one is used to such ‘nonsense’ from the Gandhi scion. What is one not used to is nonsense from the King Khan. You are wondering what I’m talking about huh?
It all began with Shah Rukh Khan’s AIMA speech (which I happened to attend and I should clarify this before getting those do-you-even-know-what-he-said looks from SRK fans); it was just another speech until a 24-year-old blogger, Agratha Dinakaran, found that Khan had picked up some parts of bestseller author J.K. Rowling’s speech and didn’t give credit to her. Since the blooper was made by SRK, the news was all splashed across websites and newspapers and soon became a staple for social media.
Just when SRK jokes on social media had started to fade away, there came another twist: Khan’s publicist Shailja wrote on her blog that SRK had stated in the beginning of the speech that it was recycled and later did mention Rowling’s name. Soon, another round of social media bashing began; the difference this time being that the target was Dinakaran (who had valid reasons to say what she said). I will not indulge in the debate of credit and whether it was rightly attributed, but there is more to this incident than just that.
If you leave the star factor aside, this is reduced to another news (and views) originated and propagated on the social media. The scene is quite similar to what many organizations worry about: Content on social media that affects their ‘brand value’ and how to tame it. Shah Rukh Khan is a brand by himself because of his body of work and not speeches written by speech writers and he might remain unaffected by this incident. Unfortunately, companies do not have this luxury. They will not have any publicist writing an aggressive post in their favour and claiming in every sentence that ‘company-bashers’ have said this for 15 minutes of fame. The repercussions are much deeper.
The vulnerability of organizations to employees expressing their views on the internet was exposed by another recent incident, albeit a hilarious one. Marina Shifrin, an employee of Next Media Animation prepared a resignation dance video and uploaded it on YouTube. An employee dancing her way out of a company can be a recipe for disaster for any organization, which takes employee engagement seriously. Worst for NMA, the video went viral and got millions of hits within three days. Right there, the tables turned. Instead of criticizing Shifrin, NMA created its own video and uploaded it on the internet as a fitting reply to the content of Shifrin’s video. Not only the company saved itself the embarrassment, but also showed its creative mettle.
Is there a solution?
Can the views expressed on social media be tamed? No! Is restricting social media or devising policies to control what employees say on social media the solution? Not at all! In a time when social media and internet personalities are becoming an essential ingredient of portfolios looking for such solutions is pretty inane. The only solution is to accept the existence of this platform; only then organizations will be able to take the praise and criticism that comes their way through the internet.
Despite fiercely guarding their privacy, organizations run the risk of being talked about, for good or bad reasons, on the internet. Whether it is social media, sites such as Glassdoor which encourage people to talk about their companies, with so much going around it is difficult to keep the inside news inside. If you welcome praise for your company, be ready for brickbats. The easy way out is to accept the situation. People have opinions. They always had. Now that they have tools to express it, it will be out in the open. Making noise about why it happened isn’t going to lead us anywhere, it’s time this is accepted as a way of life and strategies be devised with ‘escape velocity of Jupiter’ to take the challenge head on.