Would you hire an intern to be your spokesperson?

So, you know your association or your company needs to get online. You don’t have budget to hire a full time staff person to do this stuff and it’s not so easy to sell to the finance types because solid ROI metrics are still being developed.  I often hear from companies that they are ready to get their social game on.  It’s all the rage, right?  So Janie, who places the newspaper ads, is going to pick up the social media piece. Better yet, they might even hire a student intern to do it.  If they are in college, they can do Facebook, right?

If Forbes magazine called you and wanted to do a story about your company, would you let your summer intern be the voice for the piece?  Would you hand it over to Janie, who places the newspaper ads?  Probably not.  It is likely to be the CEO, the Director of PR or the Vice President of Marketing conducting the interview.

Hal wrote a great post about taking responsibility for your online voice in December.  Hal  says, “The choices we make in how we communicate with others is going to dictate to a large extent who we wind up associating with, both in the physical world and the virtual world.”

What we say and how we present ourselves or our company in the online space dictates who our customers are and how they will perceive us. It is ongoing and continuous public relations.  In essence, Janie or that student intern is now the Director of PR. You are not only assigning someone unqualified, you are actually letting them engage with your potential, current and past customers and they probably know very little, if anything, about your products, services, company culture, value proposition and brand.  Regardless of whether they are tweeting, engaging on your facebook page, or blogging, they are your online public face.  They are your spokesperson.

Finding resources to have a qualified person handle your online presence may be challenging, but it is crucial.  You are far better reallocating that intern to create your snail mail postcard and putting real resources into your online presence.  Why?  That postcard is temporary.  It is likely to be tossed in the garbage.  It may have a fleeting effect on your brand identity, but what you do and say online lasts far longer.

Online = permanent

If you want your summer intern to create your reputation and brand for a significant time to come, by all means, roll the dice. You may think having an intern or other unqualified employee handle the online social side is less important because you aren’t established yet online, but our online voices can have a tremendous amount of reach, even when we aren’t established yet or doing things “right”.  Reputations and identity take time to build but they can be destroyed in an instant online.  Companies who truly care about the image that is portrayed need to focus their resources accordingly.