By Tim Mitchell, Content Director for online safety resource Get Safe Online
It could be said that as a charity, it’s more important to protect your reputation than for other kinds of organisation. All organisations rely to a degree on earning the trust of their customers, suppliers, partners and the market at large to flourish and grow, or indeed stay in business. For charities, however, reputation is everything, as their remit is generally putting other people’s money, whether that’s donations, legacies, grants or other sources of income, to good use.
These days, one of the most prevalent places in which a charity’s reputation can be eroded is online. Combine the virality of the internet and the meteoric rise of sensationalism, misinformation, fake news, abuse, keyboard warriors and people jumping on the bandwagon, and it’s easy to see why. Any hint of an issue could be amplified in an instant by an ill-considered social media post or comment made to an online journalist or blogger.
Which leads me to suggest that the most effective way to protect your charity’s reputation is to ensure sound governance, employee / trustee / volunteer training, acceptable usage policies and a staff handbook that spells out the rules in the first place. These go a long way towards ensuring a robust culture which will protect not only your charity’s reputation, but also its money and data.
Your website(s) and social media platforms probably represent your most visible online presence … and potentially, therefore, your most vulnerable.
Your charity can avoid the risks by following a few sensible guidelines. Remember that following best practice guidelines for your online presence and digital footprint in the workplace, are very similar to those in our private lives.
- Restrict access to the charity’s social media accounts and website content management system to only those who need it and are trained to use them.
- Set up and maintain an audit trail of who has access to what social media accounts and website content management system, and immediately stop access to employees or contractors who leave the business.
- Follow any instincts you may have – and consider reports you receive – about employees, trustees or volunteers who may have any kind of grievance which could fester and grow to the point of affecting the charity’s reputation, either online or offline.
- If considering the use of apps to aggregate multiple X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, use only those that are relevant and needed, and restrict access as they are a popular target for hacking.
- Be wary of publishing any identifying confidential information about your business, directors, employees or customers – either in your profile or in your posts / tweets.
- Enable only trusted stakeholders to respond to media queries and talk to journalists.
- Have a strategy in place to mitigate any reputational damage – whether or not it is based on fact.
- Use strong passwords.
- What goes online stays online. You and colleagues should consider carefully before publishing comments or pictures that might later cause difficulties, either to the business or third parties.
- Monitor what other charities, businesses and individuals post about you, reply to your posts or quote about you in the media.
- Learn how to use social media platforms correctly and effectively. Use the privacy features to restrict others’ access to your profile. Be guarded about who you let join your network.
- Ensure that you and colleagues are constantly on guard against phishing, vishing and other social engineering activity aimed at gleaning social media and website passwords.
- Ensure you have effective and updated internet security software and firewall running before going online.