What companies can learn from the ‘Stijn Stijnen’ story

Home What companies can learn from the ‘Stijn Stijnen’ story

As every FC Bruges fan I was shocked to hear that Stijn Stijnen was bashing his team mates and employer through anonymous posts on internet fora. The problem is that this story will make my job more difficult. Many top managers will take this case to proof that employees shouldn’t spend time on social media. They can only hurt the brand image; will be a reflection in many companies. A recent study from InSites Consulting showed that 56% of Belgian companies block their employees from using social media in the office. Through these policies they hope to avoid issues like Club Bruges is facing today ‘thanks’ to Stijnen.

Do the opposite: help your positive employees

The Stijnen story shows however that blocking your employees from social media in the office won’t do the trick. People have computers at home and their mobile connects them all the time. The problem here is not the technology, it is the attitude. Most companies have 99% employees with a perfect attitude. And still, most policies are made based on the 1% lousy team members. Why not turn this around. Instead of blocking the 1%, why not engage & facilitate the 99%. Give them training; help them to share great stories about your company. They will be happy to share it with their friends & family.

The goal of each company should be that you have a clear set of values so employees know that they should behave in line with these values. It is strange that you would create a separate set of guidelines for online/social media. I think employees should act consistent through all channels (online & offline) and represent the company in a decent way.

Still a need to join the online dialogue

Another learning is that companies need to be present in the online conversation. I guess Stijnen wouldn’t have acted like this if he knew that his employer was an active member of these fora. If a brand enters the online conversation, in most cases the tone-of-voice becomes more positive. It’s just the nature of people. When you know that the person you are gossiping about is in the room, you just use a different approach.

The conversation is stronger than the objective facts

There is also a big internal learning in this story for me. The fact that an employee uses anonymous accounts to spread a feeling of dissatisfaction isn’t a good sign. There should be internal channels to ventilate these feelings in a more positive, constructive way. As a big fan of FC Bruges it hurts to see that the culture has changed. From a no-nonsense hard working culture, the team evolved towards a culture of chaos. It is not clear anymore where the team stands for. The story of Stijnen is the anti-climax of a series of strange and less positive events.

And the very sad thing? If you look at the objective facts Club Bruges is playing pretty well (18 points out of of 21). The facts are positive but the conversation is negative. Business leaders underestimate the power of the perception (created by consumer conversations) versus the reality. Perception and conversations always have the highest impact.

A good point: Stijnen-leaks

There is one good point in this whole story: we found out about it. That is the real cool thing about our transparent world, the truth prevails. I was always convinced that it becomes impossible to lie in social media. In the long run it will leak. Problem was that I couldn’t prove it. Wikileaks was the first strong indication of this belief. Still, for many people Wikileaks looks like something very big and is hard to understand. The story of Stijnen could have happened to all of us. Thanks to Stijnen we can talk about Wikileaks in a more down to earth way.

What Club Bruges should do as from tomorrow?

All companies should learn from this case. Next to being a soccer team, Club Bruges is also a big corporation and a public brand which makes the need to act proactive more necessary than ever. This is what I would recommend them:

  • Create a clear culture: what are the brand values of the club and make it clear to all stakeholders (players, management, technical staff, fans) that this is what Club Bruges stands for.
  • Create an open spirit and re-install dialogue: there will always be unhappy players and employees. Make sure that these people know who to talk to in a positive, constructive way.
  • Leadership should be an example: if I read the stories about the management and board of directors that is not communicating open and honest to each other, how can you expect that your employees will? Show leadership in line with the expected values.
  • Help the players in dealing with internet communication: most teams give media training to their players. Dealing with the journalists from TV, Radio & newspapers is part of their training. Add Twitter, Facebook and other online media to that, these players are young and public figures that need help in this.
  • Become active in the online dialogue with the Club Bruges brand: most communication from Club Bruges is one-way communication. Fans expect a dialogue. It will also help to decrease the negative comments and will increase the bonding with fans.

If you have other tips to help Club Bruges, please add some in the comments. I’m sure that even non fans are willing to help us in these conversational storms 🙂