Posted October 21, 2009 10:03 am by with 2 comments

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Is there a fine line between “rallying the troops” and “astroturfing?”

Well, if there is, AT&T will be our case study for the day, after an internal email–asking employees to oppose net neutrality–has surfaced.

It appears that proponents of net neutrality–and AT&T’s detractors–have jumped on a single line of the wordy memo:

We encourage you, your family and friends to join the voices telling the FCC not to regulate the Internet. It can be done through a personal email account by going to and clicking on the “Join the Discussion” link.

The “done through a personal email account” part has been translated into “hide the fact that you are an AT&T employee” by many bloggers.

Others have jumped on the fact that AT&T is feeding soundbites to its thousands of employees–turning them into citizen-shills for the company.

Of course, AT&T’s not going to find many sympathetic bloggers–pretty much all are in favor of net neutrality–so it’s somewhat unfair to suggest that AT&T is doing something sinister. But, it does serve as a warning for those engaged in any kind of reputation management campaign. Time and time again I caution companies that even in “battle” they have to be ready for the consequences of their actions. Secret, internal emails ALWAYS leak out onto the web.

And, let’s be honest AT&T. You should already have built a culture that encourages brand evangelists within your company. Your employees should already be delighted to work for you, and they should already have a desire to promote and defend your company’s stance on many subjects–including net neutrality. The fact that you’ve felt compelled to send out this memo, suggests that you have deeper problems with your employee’s moral and happiness.

Want to improve your company’s external reputation? Focus first on building the reputation you have with your employees!

  • And since when are AT&T employees neither real people nor citizens? Calling them shills is unfair, given all the propaganda from Google and its allies (who want people like you and me to pay for their bandwidth) you’ve let slip by.
    .-= Michael Martinez´s last blog ..Signs you have a quality Web site =-.

  • No, its just a repeat of the health care industry “asking” their employees to show up at Tea party demonstrations near by…a nd suggesting things they could say.
    Yes, from your “personal email account” hides the truth…

    Keep exposing them