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Minimising Reputational Risk – Advice for Professionals

So the beginning of another school year is upon us and the new school shoes have been purchased. Children across the UK will be making important decisions such as how to wear their hair or what they can sneak into their lunchboxes without their parents noticing. And of course, most importantly, what new gadget will get the biggest reaction from their friends? Meanwhile if you’re a teacher you’re probably neck deep in classroom displays and last minute planning whilst breathing a sigh of relief at the fact that The Great British Bake Off is back on TV. You’ll have your own recipes for success when teaching but have you thought about the essential ingredients needed to manage your online reputation? (No more cookery jokes I promise!) 

Do you feel confident when dealing with online safety issues in your organisation?

Would you feel confident handling an issue involving memes created to embarrass you or your school?

What would you do if a parent talked about an incident that happened at your school on Facebook?

How about dealing with a Twitter account humiliating members of staff at your establishment?

Could you get an impersonation account on Instagram posing as a staff member removed?

At the beginning of a new term a problem that may have been bubbling away just below the surface might suddenly erupt just because people have had a bit of time to mull it over before their return. If only there was a ‘one size fit’s all’ response to these common dilemmas. Issues vary from organisation to organisation and whilst we can’t wave a magic wand to resolve everything, we can provide advice that will come in useful whatever the scenario might be.

  • Often incidents arise as a result of something that happened offline and people have gone online to vent about the issue. If the person concerned is known, why not invite them in for a meeting to discuss their grievances and request that the offensive content is removed? By giving them the opportunity to discuss their frustrations you’ll be taking positive steps towards engaging and, it’ll also give you the opportunity to reiterate the organisation’s decision in this instance.
  • Have you checked the establishment's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) recently? Maybe updating this could prevent a similar incident occurring in the future. Why not think about introducing AUP’s for members of the wider community? You’d need to think about how these could be enforced and what sanctions could be reasonably applied, but that said, perhaps they could serve as a reminder that, although people have a right to talk about the matter in a general way, they must not become abusive or make libellous or defamatory comments about individuals. Take a look at our template e-safety policies which include AUP’s here: www.swgfl.org.uk/policy
  • Whilst it’s always best to encourage content removal by the creators themselves we appreciate that sometimes this isn’t possible. In these cases, if the content is abusive or threatening to individuals it may well violate a social networking sites policy. You can report this content to the site concerned for removal. Not sure how to report the content? Take a look at the Safety Features pages on our website here: www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-and-resources/teachers-and-professionals/safety-features.  Worth remembering that sites will not remove comments if they don’t violate their policies though.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If this is part of an ongoing wider problem can your governing body or the e-safety lead at your local authority help? With the best will in the world it can be hard to stay on top of everything that’s being said about your school at any one time. Reputational management tools such as ‘Alerts’ within SWGfL BOOST do the hard work so you don’t have to. They really are a fantastic way to keep an eye on your schools presence online giving you the information you need to remain in control of the situation.
  • People have the right to be critical about a school and it’s up to the organisation how they minimise any reputational risk. Sometimes it is helpful to set up a small closed (invite only) group, moderated by the staff, so that members of the wider community can discuss concerns, complain, ask questions etc. but in a controlled environment.
  • If you’re going to introduce a new set of guidelines it may be worth writing to parents and other stakeholders or perhaps it would be good to discuss the topic at a parent meeting. We know it’s hard to get parents to attend such meetings but have heard that holding them at the beginning of an event (perhaps a play or parents evening) encourages better attendance. Of course there’s always the backup plan of cheese and wine!

If you need further advice or support with any incident relating to reputational management online, you can call the Professionals Online Safety Helpline on 0844 381 4772 or email them at helpline@saferinternet.org.uk