One day in September, Elizabeth Leiba opened the LinkedIn app and saw a post by Aaisha Joseph, a diversity consultant with nearly 16,000 followers on the platform.
“Ima need #companies to stop sending their dedicated House Negros to ‘deal with the Blacks’ they deem out of control,” read the item. “It’s really not a good look — it’s actually a very #whitesupremacist and #racist one.”
The post was exactly the sort of thing Ms. Leiba, an instructional design manager at City College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was looking for. These days, when she pulls out her phone in search of boisterous conversation, hot takes and the latest tea, she finds herself tapping LinkedIn, which since the killing of George Floyd has become a thriving forum for Black expression.
“I go onto Twitter and I get bored,” Ms. Leiba, 46, said. “Then I go right back to LinkedIn because it’s on fire. I don’t even have to go on any other social media now.”
It’s an unexpected development for what has long been the most polite and perhaps the dullest of the major social networks. LinkedIn was founded in 2003 as a place to network and post résumés — essentially, a directory of white-collar professionals. A few years ago, LinkedIn added a Facebook-like news feed that encouraged users to post links and updates, but it has never been a rollicking space. A team of editors helped enforce a mood best described as corporate.
“You talk on LinkedIn the same way you talk in the office,” Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s editor in chief, told The New York Times in August 2019. “There are certain boundaries around what is acceptable.”
Two staggering events have changed that. In early 2020, the pandemic hit, forcing millions to work from home and miss out on break-room chitchat — boosting LinkedIn as a place to vent. Then, the killing of Mr. Floyd in police custody in May put workers over the edge. Black grief went on display, uninhibited, at corporate America’s virtual water cooler.
“I was just 43 years tired,” said Future Cain, a social and emotional learning director at a middle and high school in Wisconsin. “I was using LinkedIn to post positive things and uplift people during the pandemic, and I decided I can’t sit here quietly anymore.”
As protesters took to the streets to demand police reform, Ms. Leiba and Ms. Cain were among those who discovered that LinkedIn was a place to speak to the executive class on something like their home turf. Black users have taken to the site to call out racial discrimination in the workplace and share their stories of alienation on the job.
Not that it’s all serious: Much of the posting is exuberant — full of memes, Black cultural references and linguistic panache. This summer, Ms. Leiba shared a video about code-switching, in which a Black employee transforms while greeting colleagues of color (“Oh, hey, Black queen!”) and a white one (empty-headed hiking talk). “I’ve watched it at least fifty eleven times,” Ms. Leiba wrote.
These are the kinds of conversations, and ways of speaking, that cubicle-dwelling Black workers have typically held out of earshot of their white colleagues. As unusually charismatic posts appeared in my own feed this summer, it seemed clear that Black LinkedIn was emerging as a professional cousin to Black Twitter — the unapologetically Black digital space where people expose long-ignored injustices and pump their experience into the mainstream.
What’s less clear is how comfortable LinkedIn is with the development, having placed its content moderators in the incendiary position of determining what manner of race-related speech is appropriate for its virtual workplace of 706 million users.
Black users who post in forceful tones, and some of their allies, say they feel LinkedIn has silenced them — erasing their posts and even freezing their accounts for violating vague rules of decorum.
For example, the “House Negros” post that Ms. Joseph wrote in September vanished from the platform. Ms. Joseph, who lives in Brooklyn, was able to see it when she viewed her own page, but no other users could — a practice known as shadow banning. (Later, LinkedIn added an unsigned note in red, saying the post had been removed for violating the site’s Professional Community Policies, which instruct users to “be civil and respectful in every single interaction.”) Ms. Joseph began a new item: “Let me say it louder since LinkedIn wanted to delete my post the first time.” The company removed that post, too, saying it included “harassment, defamation or disparagement of others.”
Another user, Theresa M. Robinson, a corporate training consultant in Houston, said LinkedIn had deleted a post she wrote about racism, then reinstated it after she complained. She said she had never received an explanation. Two others, Ms. Cain and Madison Butler, who works in Austin, Texas, also said LinkedIn had restricted their commentary on race.
In the absence of clear communication from the company, these users are left guessing as to what the rules are — and feeling that the company is not just policing their tone but stifling their opportunity to force change in corporate America.
Nicole Leverich, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, wrote in an email: “We are not censoring content and have not made any changes to our algorithm to reduce the distribution of content about these important topics.” She added in an interview that LinkedIn was introducing a new process for notifying users when their posts were flagged for violating platform rules, and that some people hadn’t been phased in by the end of September.
The company acknowledged that it had erred in taking action against some users and restored content that was found, on appeal, not to violate its policies.
“If we make a mistake, we will own it,” said Paul Rockwell, the head of LinkedIn’s trust and safety division. “We will be very clear — this is a learning opportunity for us. We’re going to continue to use that in our journey to get better and better. And we do want to nail this thing.”
‘The full-on Jessica’
Few people think LinkedIn should look anything like the wilds of Reddit or Twitter, which have a certain amount of anonymity and even anarchy built into their DNA. Much of LinkedIn’s value — Microsoft acquired it in 2016 for $26 billion — is tied to its sense of professionalism and respectful conduct. Users must share their real names and credentials, and it’s understood that their current or prospective employers might well scan anything they post.
For Black people in the corporate realm, however, words like “professional” and “respectful” are red flags. Like the natural Black hairstyles that were once widely considered unprofessional, certain behaviors — being too Black, speaking too Black or talking too much about Black topics — have long limited advancement in companies with white cultures.
That’s what has changed on LinkedIn in the last few months. Black people are being, to use a technical term, Blackity-Black Black on LinkedIn. Much of the behavior is not so different from Black Twitter; users pepper their posts with clap emojis to emphasize every syllable, and GIFs celebrate cultural touchstones like Issa Rae’s “Insecure” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” The difference is that it is all happening on a social network that mirrors the business world — a place that is predominantly white.
“It is liberating. It feels like it’s about time,” Ms. Joseph said. “We are taking back what was stolen from us — and that’s our voice. I’m talking specifically to my people in the way that we talk to each other in other spaces, and without regard for any outside audience. No longer having to stifle that has been freeing.”
Part of what Black LinkedIn has done is brought together Black professionals to be their authentic selves in front of their white colleagues. For many, it has been an existential relief, and may provide a blueprint for how Black employees choose to conduct themselves once the physical workplace reopens.
“The days of hiding and masking who you are and dealing with the BS — I just can’t even go back to that,” said Jessica Pharm, 33, who works in human resources at a manufacturing firm near Milwaukee. “Any company that gets me next is getting the full-on Jessica.”
Ms. Leiba posted on Sept. 17: “It means code-switching is OUT. It means the AFRO is coming at you on a daily basis. It means you’re getting these bangle earrings and the poppin’ lip gloss.”
Inevitably, not everyone accepts this kind of exuberance. Posts about Black Lives Matter and racial justice often attract the same kind of dismissive, and sometimes bigoted, responses found on other platforms: rejoinders that “all lives matter,” for instance, or claims about Black-on-Black crime. But because the activity takes place on LinkedIn, these comments typically come with the user’s headshot, place of employment and entire work history attached.
“You start to see these people who are absolutely not OK with this focus on Blackness popping up in commentary, with their name and their company fully on display, giving zero deference to the moment,” said John Graham Jr., 39, a digital marketer and strategist at a California biotechnology company. “I find it telling that people would put their careers in jeopardy and their unconscious biases on full display.”
LinkedIn has also struggled internally with how to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, the chief executive, Ryan Roslansky, publicly apologized for “appalling” racial comments some employees had made at a companywide staff meeting.
Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s head of diversity, inclusion and belonging, said in an interview that the company was engaging in hard conversations about race, both inside the company and out.
“We’re really beginning to focus very consistently on how we begin to address this externally” on the platform, she said.
‘Kindly stop censoring Black content’
One of the most vociferous presences on Black LinkedIn is Ms. Butler, a human resources consultant and vice president at a start-up. She has posted on LinkedIn since 2018 and with increasing frequency and fervor this year. The potential to speak truth to capital, she said, makes the resulting rounds of death threats worth it.
“There is something to be said about the access LinkedIn gives you to powerful C.E.O.s and V.C.s to help change their outlook and how they support Black employees and founders,” said Ms. Butler, 29, referring to venture capitalists. “The conversation that has to happen in order to break down the status quo in corporate America isn’t happening on Instagram.”
Ms. Butler, who has about 40,000 followers, posts on LinkedIn daily. Her style is to be prescriptive, assail corporate norms and call out whitesplainers and trolls; she tends to close each missive with the hashtags #isaidwhatisaid, #thatsthetea and #blackgirlmagic. One recent post scolded companies that make a show of cheering on the Black Lives Matter movement but haven’t done right by their employees.
“Do the Black people in your organization feel like they matter, or do they feel like the Black stock photos you used to enhance your ‘wokeness’ footprint in the marketplace. If you can’t make the Black lives under your own roof matter, do not use Black Lives Matter as a brand strategy,” Ms. Butler wrote recently. “Don’t talk about it, be about it. Period.”
Other stars of Black LinkedIn target specific companies. Ms. Joseph, for example, has recently called out Wells Fargo, DoorDash, Microsoft and Google.
There has also been no shortage of criticism of LinkedIn itself. Users are holding the company to a standard it set for itself in June, when Melissa Selcher, the chief marketing and communications officer, wrote an open letter on the platform.
“We have a responsibility to use our platform and resources to intentionally address the systemic barriers to economic opportunity,” she wrote. “We also believe we play a critical role in amplifying Black voices.”
Also in June, with Black Lives Matter protests spreading across the country, LinkedIn highlighted “Black Voices to Follow and Amplify,” a curated list of chief executives, media personalities and other influencers, including the Rev. Bernice King and Karamo Brown from the Netflix show “Queer Eye.” For the most part, members of the list post content that is general, motivational and safe.
Ms. Joseph and others took to LinkedIn to say the group contained too many establishment names and not enough activists. “Where are the Tamika Mallorys of LinkedIn on that list?” Ms. Joseph wrote, referring to a co-founder of the 2017 Women’s March.
“Black voices aren’t just corporate C-Suite ones,” wrote Patricia S. Gatlin, a talent sourcing specialist in Las Vegas. “All Black voices need to be heard in this moment,” added Scott Taylor, a recruiter in Los Angeles. “Not just the ones your team of analysts think we should hear from.”
Ms. Leverich, the LinkedIn spokeswoman, said by email: “We use a number of factors in our selection, including members who have self-identified as Black, people from a variety of industries and with an interesting perspective to share. We’re constantly adding new voices and sorting through requests to join this program.”
In September, LinkedIn used its own company page to pose a question to its 13 million followers: “What are the best ways to normalize having conversations about race and anti-racism in the workplace? #ConversationsForChange”
The responses quickly turned sour. “LinkedIn, you can facilitate that objective by normalizing those conversations on your platform,” wrote Lenzy Ruffin, a communications strategist in Washington, D.C.
“The irony that you should post this!” wrote Abi Adamson, a diversity and inclusion consultant in London. “Kindly stop censoring Black content around racism. People like me have had our engagement go down astronomically when highlighting racism or how to be anti racist. Help amplify our voices and stop silencing us.”
Sabrina McClimans, a graduate student in Seattle, asked the platform to “stop ‘accidentally’ disappearing the posts of Black women on your platform when they talk about race and anti-racism.”
“I have seen cases in which individuals who harass Black women on this platform have maintained their accounts while those who speak out against racism and prejudice have had accounts suspended,” added Phil Molé, who works at a software company in Chicago. “It’s time for a thorough review of the way the issues are handled.”
LinkedIn did not respond to those comments. Philip Mix, a consultant in London, added to the thread after a day and a half, when there were 344 comments, saying he had gone through them “three times to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.” By his count, LinkedIn had replied to five users — four times to say “Thank you for sharing” and once with “Nicely put.”
Mr. Mix concluded: “Not sure if I’m more shocked or depressed by this miserably inadequate show from LinkedIn.”
Two Morgan Stanley executives will leave the bank after using WhatsApp against company policy.
Morgan Stanley’s two most senior commodities executives are leaving the firm after the bank caught them using the encryption app WhatsApp against company policy and failing to monitor other employees’ use of unauthorized communication channels, according to a person familiar with the bank’s operations who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The news was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.
An internal review by the bank found that Nancy King, the global head of commodities, and Jay Rubenstein, head of Morgan Stanley’s commodities trading operations, had communicated over WhatsApp and had not stopped their employees in the division from using other platforms that Morgan Stanley has outlawed, the person said.
Neither Ms. King nor Mr. Rubenstein could be reached to comment.
Morgan Stanley found no evidence that anyone in its commodities division had engaged in wrongdoing while using the forbidden communication platforms, the person said.
Nevertheless, the division is being restructured. Its new leaders will be Jay Hallik and Jakob Horder, two executives who oversee fixed income trading at the bank. Ms. King is retiring from the firm, while Mr. Rubenstein is leaving.
The bank prohibits the use of certain apps and devices for communications related to sales and trading because it cannot see what is being said on them. Regulators require banks to monitor their employees’ messages to ensure that they are not doing anything illegal.
In the past, Wall Street traders have used chat platforms to skirt financial regulations. Over the past decade, for instance, authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom have filed criminal charges against major Wall Street banks after their traders were caught using instant messaging apps to make secret deals to manipulate markets in interest rates, foreign currencies and metals.
Why Customer Champions Need to Be a Part of Your Marketing Strategy
October 21, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Customer champions are a tremendous asset for any organization. In most cases, people are far more interested in reading about your customers’ experiences than straight marketing materials. Customers are more relatable, and they’re more credible, too. People want to hear from their peers before they buy your product or service. This “social proof” is the power that guides decision-making at sites like Yelp and Amazon.
Why customer champions are exceptionally powerful
Trust is a critical plank in any marketing platform, since people do business with those they know, like and trust. A solid customer champion program will help you build trust and credibility. After all, it’s easy for you to talk about how great your product or service is, but you aren’t exactly an objective third party. That’s why customer references, testimonials and success stories are so powerful. They provide prospective customers with a view into how your product or service has produced results in a real-world context.
Six ways to promote customer success
An effective customer reference program gives your company more than just trust and credibility. It also can drive media coverage, provide great marketing content and help close sales faster. To accomplish this, there are many different formats and opportunities available for your customer champions to describe the experience and results they’ve seen with your product or service. The best choices for your company will depend on your target prospect personas and the interests of customer advocates.
1. Online Reviews – These types of free opportunities, on sites like G2 Crowd and Gartner Peer Reviews, let customers share their experience with your company. Asking for and receiving feedback from customers helps in two ways. First, it reminds those customers why they like working with you, leading to retention. Second, positive feedback from customers encourages prospects to pull the trigger and choose you.
2. Case Studies – Case studies that bring the customer story to life are an essential tool for marketing and sales teams because they generate demand and engage with leads. They can be particularly effective in the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey. A visually compelling document or video showcasing how you’re helping customers address their real-world pain points and achieve ROI can help prospects with their purchasing decision. Case studies include not just social proof but statistics and other measures that demonstrate the value of your offerings.
3. Media Briefings – Just like prospects, the media needs third-party validation. Tech and business journalists will often ask if you have a customer they can speak too. Setting up interviews between your customer and industry journalists to provide real-world anecdotes for articles can earn tremendous credibility and visibility for your brand. It also offers your customer champions a chance to showcase themselves as forward-thinking industry leaders and look good in front of their peers.
4. Press Releases – A well composed announcement publicizing your customer’s success story, the new abilities they’ve gained with your offering and the results they’re seeing is a great asset for marketing and sales teams. Not only do press releases provide positive air cover for you and your customers’ innovation; they also can be promoted across channels –including social media and email outreach – to drive targeted leads back to your website.
5. Awards – Many award opportunities are available for the purpose of showcasing how customers are achieving success with your offering. By acknowledging your excellent work, awards can help drive business for both your company and the customer who participated in the story or case study that the award was based on. Award recognitions provide third-party validation that can help create competitive differentiators, strengthen reputation and generate publicity.
6. Joint Speaking Opportunities – Whether online or (eventually) in-person, joint presentations provide a platform to both verbally and visually bring customer stories to life in interactive formats. Allowing target audiences to hear your customers’ stories from their point of view through webinars, fireside chats, speaking panels and virtual speaking sessions is a strong way to build affinity and trust.
How to identify and bring customer references on board
Your customers’ workdays are just as busy as yours. So, even though they may love your brand, it’s likely not top of mind for them to promote you. That’s why you can’t be haphazard about gathering customer references. Be intentional; identify and go after your brand advocates. Focus on those whose success stories will inspire others to work with you.
Securing customer willingness to participate can be tricky. It can often be much more difficult to get a firm “yes” to an open-ended request for participation. A better approach is to present specific opportunities to the customer that benefit their reputation as well as yours. For example, perhaps a customer wants to gain market share in a specific industry. In this case, bringing forth editorial opportunities from relevant vertical publications would be a strategic way to align with their goals and enlist their participation.
In an era where the average American sees 4,000 to 10,000 company messages a day, trust is what makes the difference between a mere ad and lead generation. Customer stories resonate with prospects because they offer hard evidence that your value proposition is a tangible one. So, find your champions, find win-win opportunities and create that brand distinction that draws prospects in.
Purdue Pharma to Plead Guilty to Multiple Federal Charges
The OxyContin manufacturer will pay the government $225 million and own up to misleading the DEA and incentivizing doctors to write prescriptions.
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October 21, 2020 1 min read
According to AP, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma intends to plead guilty to three federal charges levied by the Department of Justice. The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States — for misleading the Drug Enforcement Administration — and violation of federal anti-kickback laws vis a vis illegal incentivization programs with doctors.
Purdue, which is owned by the controversial billionaire Sackler family, will immediately remit a $225 million fine to the government, AP reports. But that’s a small piece of billions in total criminal- and civil-liability damages Purdue may still be on the hook for, pending the outcome of a hotly contested bankruptcy hearing.
The pharmaceutical powerhouse, which has innovated numerous prescription painkillers, has become emblematic of the opiod crisis that’s enveloped American lives over the past decade-plus. Opiod-induced overdose deaths more than doubled between 2010-2017, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As of 2013, the Sackler family’s worth was estimated at more than $13 billion.
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