“Wow. Isn’t that the memo you helped write?”
These words are music to your ears when a mass communication you’ve helped draft resonates with an audience.
But they’re like fingernails on a chalkboard when the memo is being waved before a camera by a U.S. Congressman during a live, televised hearing.
That particular memo—which I helped draft—was never meant to be used to counter a witness’s testimony at a congressional hearing. Just as a memo Yahoo sent to their employees about telecommunting wasn’t intended to start a global discussion about interconnectivity, productivity, and the pros and cons of working in a virtual environment. And neither of them was meant to be shared with anyone beyond the employees who received them.
But when they were, the communications took on entirely different meanings.
Companies have always faced the possibility of leaks, but the technology to capture communications and the variety of platforms on which to share them have tremendously increased the likelihood that inside information gets out. The potential audience of any message is no longer limited to readers of a particular newspaper or blog; the audience now is every single person on the planet with Internet access.
Employees could have varied motives for sharing documents and messages outside the familiar walls of their companies. Someone may like the feeling that being a confidential source gives them. They might harbor dreams of being Hal Holbrook’s Deep Throat to Robert Redford’s Bob Woodward in All the Presidents Men, whispering in a dark corner of a parking garage. They may want to punish the company for a perceived wrong. Or it may be a mistake—like an incorrectly entered email address.
Regardless of the reasons,...
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