Lean In intern job posting instigated a crisis communication storm and put the corporate brand’s identity under scrutiny.
Wanted: Lean In editorial intern, to work with our editor (me) in New York. Part-time, unpaid, must be HIGHLY organized with editorial and social chops and able to commit to a regular schedule through end of year. Design and web skills a plus! HIT ME UP. Start date ASAP.
I dare say Jessica Bennett, Lean In‘s editor at large, knows a thing or two about “keywords”. Why else would she have invoked Lean In? Little did she know a crisis communication storm would brew and the brand reputation’s scrutiny it would incite. Social media is a powerful communication channel. Anything you publicly put out there can spread like wild fire. Social consumers can be unpredictable.
However, let’s be honest had Bennett not named the book being edited, we would not be having this discussion. This is a case where she knew name dropping would catch the attention of many. It would certainly impress many aspirant interns. I think it is fair to say using Lean In‘s name conjures up a brand reputation of empowering women in the work place – specially fair and equal pay for women.
It is interesting to note that the while outrage is about the position being unpaid and fully committed, a careful analysis shows the outraged audience holds a number of underlying assumptions. First, the internship is for a woman. Secondly, they assume the intern will be working directly for Sheryl Sandberg, she was directly involved in this post and every step leading up to it. And third Lean In’s advocates that every type of “worker” must be paid.
I do not look at this as a LeanIn.org problem, the responsibility lies squarely on the job poster’s author. As an editor Bennett knows the power of words. That said, this why it is important that throughout any organization there should be media training (including social media training) and there should be particular emphasis on messaging consistency – what is being said and done in the name of the organization… even if it is “unofficial”.
Another thing about wording – in her the clarification, Bennett replaces the word intern with volunteer. Had this been used the first time around, this situation would not have garnered this level of disenchantment. Furthermore, she commits some deadly sins in crisis communication. She appears arrogant (“Dear What Appears to Be My Entire Facebook Feed:”) and lacks remorse. That last line, “Let’s all take a deep breath.” should have been “I am sorry.”
Dear What Appears to Be My Entire Facebook Feed: Want to clarify previous Lean In post. This was MY post, on MY feed, looking for a volunteer to help me in New York. LOTS of nonprofits accept volunteers. This was NOT an official Lean In job posting. Let’s all take a deep breath.
The bottom line fails:
- A- Accountability: Lacks responsibility and does not see why this is a big deal
- B- Brand Reputation: Knows the power of a brand yet unable to connect the dots on how this affects the organization’s big picture. The public feels that the job description is incongruent with their perception of the organization.
- C- Communication: The power of words – the words you use matter!
Sadly, what appears to be poor communication, makes the organization look disingenuous and threatens to unravel the reputation of an organization which is passionate and committed to its cause.
*The Lean In organization did issue a statement on its position on the ongoing debate.