How Amazon and HubSpot Employees Stood Up for Their Employer Brand

How Amazon and HubSpot Employees Stood Up for Their Employer Brand

Mike Roberts

Imagine coming into work on what seemed like a regular morning, only to learn that your company’s gone viral…in the bad way. Not too long ago, this happened to employees at both HubSpot and Amazon.

In completely separate instances, negative news about the marketing software company and the eCommerce giant commandeered just about everyone’s social feeds for a few weeks. Both were very publicly accused of being poor employers.

Something interesting happened, though. In each case, employees from the respective organizations took to the web to defend their employers.

We recently conducted a study at Jibe, where we found that 71% of recruiters and HR professionals consider employees at their company to be evangelists for their employer brand—or in other words, people who would publicly advocate for and endorse their employer as a good place to work.

With publishing platforms like LinkedIn and Medium so readily accessible today, participating in employer branding—even standing up for your company—seems to be easier than ever before. Examples from HubSpot and Amazon prove that to be true.

HubSpot and Dan Lyons’ “Disrupted”

In April 2016, former HubSpot employee and tech journalist Dan Lyons published “Disrupted.” The book details Lyons’ troubling experiences as a HubSpot employee. He accuses the company of ageism, having a sometimes cruel, cult-like culture, and offering a product that doesn’t deliver on its promises. By May 2016, “Disrupted” was on the New York Times’ bestseller list for business books.

A week after the book was published, HubSpot’s co-founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, responded to the claims via an article posted to LinkedIn.

Their response received both praise and criticism.

Praise because, in many ways, they took the high road by providing anhonest take on the book and not a take-down.” Criticism mostly came from not properly addressing some of Lyons’ more serious complaints around age discrimination, the quality of their product, and brainwashing employees.

From an employer branding perspective, Halligan and Shah’s timely response bucked the trend for what’s expected of business leaders in these types of situations.

It’s not common for CEOs of publicly traded companies to openly address negativity surrounding their product or brand. Rather, there’s typically several degrees of PR separation between senior leadership and every product recall, banking scandal, and so on.

As opposed to lying low, Halligan and Shah stayed a step ahead of the scrutiny by creating a dialogue and taking the opportunity to defend their company on one of the world’s most popular social networks.

Despite the claims, HubSpot still boasts a 4.5-star rating on Glassdoor across 317 employee reviews. And although their stock price dipped at the first news of the book in March 2016, it’s since rebounded and neared all-time highs in August and September.

Amazon’s New York Times Debacle

You probably remember the controversy surrounding last year’s New York Times investigative journalism piece that went viral, depicting Amazon as a ruthless, disrespectful employer. In August 2015, the Times reported the company was putting profits and efficiency above all else, encouraging an excessively cut-throat culture and forcing employees to work, hard long hours.

Soon after the article was published, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, sent a memo to all employees that became public almost immediately.

Bezos encouraged employees to read the article, but also indirectly refuted it by stating, “anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay.”

While an internal memo in such a scenario is expected, more noteworthy were the public responses by Amazon employees.

Jay Carney, Amazon’s Senior Vice President for Global Corporate Affairs, took to Medium to defend Amazon. He called into question the credibility of the sources and accused the Times of focusing more on sensationalism than sharing a well-rounded view of the story. Carney’s article was widely distributed around the web, and seemed to offset some of the heat Amazon was facing.

Another employee, Sr. Software Development Manager, Nick Ciubotariu, shared his take on LinkedIn. His more than 5,000-word article was trending on the social network that same week. In it, he broke down the Times article and refuted it piece by piece based on his experiences at Amazon.

He said, “I don’t want to be dismissive of the examples provided, but singling out several outliers to vilify an entire company does not represent truth in journalism.”

Whether the Times article was accurate or not, in both instances Carney and Ciubotariu publicly stood up for Amazon. Their alternative perspectives (although they may be been biased) likely influenced the general public’s opinion as well as future job seekers’ thoughts on Amazon as a place to work.

What Would Your Employees Do?

There’s something to be said for a company with employees who are willing to take action in circumstances like the ones described.

Whether it’s a co-founder, manager, or another employee behind the keyboard, the likelihood that someone does something above and beyond can only be increased if you are in fact building and fostering a good place to work.

The question is, would your employees defend your employer brand?

Like the topic of employer branding? Us too! Check out our new 2016 Employer Branding Handbook. It shares 7 employer branding strategies you should be employing right now.

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