Tuesday, May 26, 2009

J.Crew's Internal Blogging Policy: Don't Do It!

A big "thanks!" to KL who shared with us an interesting article over at a PR industry blog, Media Bistro (click here), about J.Crew's policy on employees blogging:

J.Crew's Internal Blogging Policy Document
By Jason
May 21, 2009

With the explosion of Facebook and Twitter among all demos, especially the young and chatty, PRNewser has become interested in what both agencies and corporations are doing in regards to employees' opinions bleeding over in to potentially sensitive company issues.

The rapid-fire nature of these networks begs the question: what guidelines are given to workers when they walk through the door and who is in control of the voice you use on social nets?...

An interesting example of large company guidelines comes in the form of this propriatary document obtained from a J.Crew store employee who wished to remain anonymous. It was given to this clerk coincidentally, the same week the Domino's Pizza scandal broke.

Though it doesn't mention Twitter specifically, it seems to be the main concern as anyone with a smart phone can document occurrences or post opinions and photos in real time without the use of a company desktop.

I asked J.Crew's Senior Director of PR Heather Lynch McAuliffe a few questions about the document including whether or not it's just for the floor staff of the 300 or so stores and outlets, or if it applied to corporate people too.

McAuliffe declined, "The information that you obtained is proprietary internal company information that was provided without authorization and unfortunately we can not comment on it." ...

The Blogging Policy document is (below):
Blogging Policy

Blogging has become a mainstream way of communicating thoughts, experiences, and opinions. It has become imperative that as a company we define the imact of blogging as it relates to our business. Blogging, in relation to this policy, is defined as posting information on your own, or on someone else's web log, journal or diary. It also includes any other form of posting information on the Internet, such as postings on a personal web site, business networking, social networking or affinity web site, on a bulletin board, or in a chat room.

Associates who engage in blogging, even if done off premises and while off duty, should be aware that any postings related to J.Crew could have an adverse affect on the company's business interests. The risks include that information posted could be confidential or that people could view you as a spokesperson for the company.

Any concerns or complaints should be raised and resolved in productive forums available to every associate. Associates may speak with their manager, HR, or contact Open Talk Hotline (1-XXX-XXX-XXXX). Each offers the opportunity for resolution to issues raised. Blogging about such issues does not allow for dialogue that facilitates a healthy conclusion. Rather, blogging about such topics can make situations worse.

We ask that you ovserve the following guidelines:
  • Do not engage in blogging using any company resources.
  • Refrain from referencing J.Crew in any personal blogging.
  • Do not represent yourself as a spokesperson for the company, intentionally or unintentionally. Identifying yourself as an associate has the ability to confer "insider" status to your thoughts and opinions.
  • Information gained from work activities or company communications is confidential, and should be treated accordingly.
  • Do not defame or otherwise discredit the company, its products, services, associates, customers, and vendors.
  • Do not use the company's logos, trademarks, proprietary graphics or photographs.
For awhile, I had been told by J.Crew associates (who use to post once in awhile on the blog to clarify a policy and the like), that they were asked by corporate to no longer share any information, specifically with the J.Crew Aficionada blog. As a result, I started advising associates to check with their superiors before posting anything on the blog (since I didn't want anyone to get in trouble).

I also joined a Facebook page created by a J.Crew employee (called "The J.Crew Facebook Group"), where the moderator was personally asked to close the group because the "company wants to keep there information and the distribution of its information within the company". (Incidentally, the moderator did not violate any use of information.)

I completely understand why J.Crew would want to prevent employees from sharing private, proprietary information with the public. However, I think it is also fine to have employees clarify current policies, state the qualifications (or limitations) of new promotions, or notify the public when new arrivals are expected at local stores.

What are your thoughts on the "internal blogging policy" of J.Crew? Do you disagree or agree with it (or aspects of it)?


  1. I agree with your last sentiment. I think it only benefits the company when some of the associates (generally under anonymous names when that function was available) were able to clarify company policies. However, none of this is shocking. Many companies do not allow its staff to blog about it at all (I'd know, since I work for a gov't agency), even if it's only to say "I love this skirt & and blouse, etc. etc." This is a prime example of the good suffering for the bad, becuase we all know that if JCrew was more relaxed with their blogging/Internet policies something wrong is bound to happen.

    Oh well.

  2. Yet another example of a company stuck in the dark ages. It's pretty clear from their website's constant issues that J.Crew has no clue how the internet works. Any company worth their salt has at least a blog (even if it's just a thinly veiled "buy this" PR stump) and smart companies use the tools available to communicate with their customers rather than operating in the shadows. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, whatever. Yeah it's eye-rolling at times but it works.

    Any good or service with an end customer is transforming from monolithic brick and mortar to a who can deliver the "insider" information. Enough of the cloak and dagger crap. These days peeps want to be 'friends' with their personal shopper or sales associate. Get out from behind the curtain already and reach out to your customers in a way that feels personalized if you want your company to be healthy long term.

  3. I'm not surprised. My company has the same kind of policy in place. And given the nature of what my company does I think that it's perfectly fine. Most companies are erring on the stricter rather than more tolerant side when it come to employee representation of the "brand" online.

  4. I agree. A company has to put rules in place to protect itself.

    It would be nice if JCrew employees could post 'harmless' opinions on merchandise, facts about policies and news about upcoming rollouts...although I guess that is the role of JCrew's marketing dept., customer service, a personal shopper, etc.

    Madewell has a page on Facebook.

    In a post last week, the following statement was made: "Approximately 30 percent of sales come through its catalog and Web site, jcrew.com".

    Is this a good percentage compared to other retailers?

  5. If you're a JC employee and are blogging from a non-work computer/electronic device under a pseudonym or anon, how is JCrew going to know?

    Some people just don't understand how new media can be used as a positive tool. Some people are afraid of transparency. I wonder why....

  6. I can see where they're coming from - every industry is different. Where I work, the CEOs have personal blogs, and I seem to remember during a training course that we were told that, in responding to articles or blog posts on the internet, to remember that the act of responding makes each of us a representative of the company. But they didn't say to avoid blogging altogether (in fact, if you don't have a blog, AIM, Twitter, bebo and Facebook accounts you're viewed as as being out of touch.)

    I agree with lexiloo and roxy, the more transparent they are to their customers, the more trust and brand loyalty they will receive in return. They should definitely work harder (in my opinion) to build an internet presence (with a dedicated resource for social networking: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc.) Just think, if they were the only retailer to REALLY connect with customers - alerting (or reminding) us of upcoming sales, being able to clarify policies, etc. It would be a win-win for everyone involved.

    For as much as we can chastise J.Crew, just a few short years ago an Art Director at Abercrombie & Fitch told me the internet was just a trend. With views like that, it's no wonder clothing retailers are so hesitant to embrace new technology.

  7. I should finish my coffee before I post, lol. :) Let's try this again....

    Smaller brands, local artists/designers, etc. seem to have embraced the medium better, perhaps because it is an inexpensive tool that gets their name out there. Larger brands may not feel like it's necessary to get embedded at that level. Plus, smaller companies = fewer workers, less people to monitor/worry about what kind of trail they're leaving in the cloud...

  8. @tastymoog I totally agree that smaller companies and artists have utilized Social Networking tools far more (and more successfully) than their larger counterparts. I think what we're seeing now are the big companies coming to the realization that they need to go to where the people are (rather than trying so desperately to get people to visit their sites). So getting their name out there - in a positive light - by blogging, creating a Facebook Fan page, "Tweeting", etc. is something they HAVE to do to compete. Those that fail to adapt will fail in the long run. Southwest is doing an excellent job of customer outreach by putting a personal (hey! there's a real person there) voice to their Twitter account. Skittles recently changed their homepage to show Twitter Trends (which, because of the switch, were all about Skittles).

    The change is coming. Perhaps not as fast as we would like, but the fact that Madewell even has a Facebook page is a step in the right direction.

  9. Cheers Tastymoog! I'm holding up my hot cup of tea with honey. Since I started drinking tea (less caffeine) in the morning instead of coffee I don't have the morning ~f~o~g~.

    O/t but from last week, Summerilla has the drawstring shirtdress modeled on her blog. It looks good!

    Sorry for the o/t post. Have a nice day!

  10. IRL ,

    I should get back to tea. I drink too much coffee! I have a bunch of herbal tea in my cupboard but unfortunately, it's been ignored.

    I did see Summerilla's post, the dress looks really good on her! It does have me thinking twice about the item... I was actually thinking of making a similar shirtdress of my own, but omitting the drawstring. We'll see!

  11. I agree with what others have said. However it doesn't surprise me that J.Crew has prohibited their employees from posting on blogs etc. I am sure they fear that such employees may incorrectly 'clarify' company policies etc. As others point out - if an Associate chooses to post anonymously, how will the company know. Then again I know that I tend to take some of the clarifications with a grain of salt as JC is so inconsistent in applying their 'policies' at times, anyway, and I don't really know where that information is coming from....
    Also, in the current climate if you worked for JC, would you really want to risk your job...They do need to face reality though and acknowledge that these type of websites etc exist and are mainly visited by people that support (!) their company. Sadly, I think J.Crew may think they are 'above' needing to have a Facebook page, Tweet their customers directly etc....I could be wrong...I do love JC and am NOT bashing them :)

  12. I agree 100%, what nut would even talk about their employer online..I would never mention my employers name. Some people on myspace and facebook even list their employer..that i dont get..

  13. I understand that J.Crew has to regulate what their employees are posting online about the brand, but instead of banning online communication all together, J.Crew should embrace it and make a structured forum for such discussion. They need to realize that in this day & age, the internet is king, and should market themselves to the online community better. I understand that they cannot allow employees to have a free-for-all discussion about the brand, but shouldn't there be SOME discussion?

    Get with the program J.Crew and get online! :)

  14. I agree, they need to protect them selves! However, you can still blog or comment about your company, just don't name them specifically, or say "a major clothing manufacturer" etc.

  15. tastymoog and IRL, I tried on the shirtdress this weekend, and I have to see that the drawstring really makes the dress! It gives it shape and style. I'm waiting for it to be on sale and I will grab it.

  16. This is standard corporate policy. All it takes is one person to be perceived as representing the brand, and do some damage. Established brands go to great lengths to maintain their image - it is their bread and butter and it would be a mistake to let just anyone speak on corporate's behalf, or even to have that perception.

    Nothing to do with transparency or lack of tech savvy, website issues notwithstanding. J.Crew was selling online long before most retailers so how is that not embracing new technology? If it were important to the corporate direction they would do it or hire someone to do it. J.Crew is trying to foster a more upscale image and that does not come from SN.

  17. Personally, I booted the Twitter feeds that I had signed up for and have recently unsubscribed from a number of email updates too. It was getting excessive. I get enough personal contact from real people that I don't need fake "friend" updates from people who really don't give a crap about me. If you want to be sitting ducks for marketing prop. by all means, sign up for everything. Some here are the very definition of sheeple.

  18. courtney,

    I agree a shirtdress needs structure, but the drawstring didn't work for me. It was too fussy for my taste. I would just end up putting a belt over it, which is what I'd probably do anyway, but with what I have in mind, creating a smoother line as opposed to the bunching I experienced with the drawstring.

  19. I completely understand how a company works to develop its brand and therefore wnats to ensure it stays true to its mission. It was fun to here from the employees, but the decision is the right one.

  20. tastymoog - sounds cool! I wish I was a good enough seamstress to sew my own designs!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. I REALLY love @GingerSnap's idea:

    "J.Crew should embrace it and make a structured forum for such discussion."

    If they were to hire a person or team whose specific job it was to disseminate information to the public - or clear up misconceptions - I can only see that as a positive.


    @Tamstyles I will openly (and proudly) admit to being on of those "nuts" to which you refer. :) I like to think that being having that bit of knowledge out there might prevent me from spouting off in a way I might otherwise. As I am a representative of the company I work for and all. I completely understand why others might not want to make that information available for the world to see...but to each his/her own.

  23. Baybaybay, well said. My employer has the same policy. We cannot even give employment references other than to provide the dates of employment and the position held. The reasoning is that a hiring decision could be made based on our information and we could possibly be liable for the result. If our society weren't so litigious companies wouldn't have to go to such lengths but I expect the brand protection policy would still be the same.

    To those who disagree, think about your own reputation and who you would allow to speak on your behalf. The list is likely pretty darn short.

  24. I agree with points made on both sides. I don't work for a corporation or business, so I don't know all the ins and outs here. However, I do think that JCrew needs to embrace forums like this one. I, and others who have posted the same, have spent a lot more $$$ on JCrew since discovering JCA. So it's not clear to me why blogging to them is black and white, ie, bad. Also, I think they fear clarification and/or exposure of their policies. I love JCrew, yes, but I am also getting tired of the games they play-not running searches on sale items, having items priced differently online and in store (just try to get 1-800to match the store price. . . talk about a headache), games with stock, pop backs, and now back orders (anyone else noticed the curious number of backordered items lately?) Not to mention the suspicious preference to put items that turn out to have major quality issues for sale only online. Call me cynical, and perhaps my problem is that I buy too much from them, but after being burned one too many times, I'm trying to cut back on my JCrew habit.

  25. I agree, the policy makes sense, although it *was* nice to hear from employees. Re what roxy, GingerSnap and RatsOnParade said above about how J. Crew ought to be more proactive about engaging with its customers...there was actually a newspaper article recently about exactly that topic, companies hiring people specifically to represent them in the world of social media. Wouldn't it be fun to see what J. Crew could do with this?

  26. This statement in the policy is compelling to me:

    "Blogging about such issues does not allow for dialogue that facilitates a healthy conclusion. Rather, blogging about such topics can make situations worse."

    Remember, everyone, that anonymous postings, and even signed blogging, tend to inflame disputes and disagreements rather than resolve things well. If the issues are of design and quality, blogging would inform the company's competitors.

    Electronic communications sometimes appear "democratic" but don't really give someone power. And all of them end up public at the wrong time!

  27. You know whats funny though? The SAs who have posted on here and been so sweet and nice. They have given me a better opinion of the company than some of the -at times- snobbish employees I have encountered in the b&m stores.

    I understand why J.Crew would limit/abolish crew bloggling for employees. They have no control over what the employee would say and want to have total control over their brand image. I agree though that an "official" blog on their website or something would be fun to read.

  28. Don't we all rememeber 'Micheal' from October 2008 on this blog? Remember the 'just ask' code he told us about for free shipping? Micheal thought he was doing a good thing by telling us about J Crew's customer service, but he ending up offending many who read this blog. I think J Crew is trying to avoid similar situations. When an employee tries to make themself a representative for the whole company, it can backfire- Go back and read Micheal's visit to the JCA - it was a disaster.

  29. Thanks for posting the article.

    I really liked hearing from the employees, but given some of the comments posted here by associates I can see why the company would be worried--for example, the confusion over student/educator diescount policies, or the guy who said that J.Crew doesn't really consider a shopper to be a "good" customer unless he or she spends upward of $10,000 per year with J.Crew. Now in the latter case of course I know that guy was not an official company spokesman, nor was he even unofficially stating semi-official company policy, but (obviously) the declaration stuck in my head and something in the back of my brain continues to connect it with J.Crew even though it's just the spoutings of one salesboy.

    It's unfortunate that the result is prohibition on Crew-related blogging. I don't often shop at a B&M so I miss out on some of the informal tips from associates. I'd like to hear, for example, that the rose tee is selling out but there will be plenty of Ecole jackets for later markdowns rather than getting official company marketing Twitters that everything is selling out fast.

  30. I agree with Roxy's comment. In a time when the traditional methods of mail catalogs and an online Web site are being up-ended by more efficient advertising methods, J. Crew needs to embrace technology before it is left behind. This article sounds more like J. Crew implementing a "Big Brother" policy than trying to integrate its loyal shoppers (and even new shoppers) into its culture.

  31. @TUMC Thanks so much for posting that NYT article! I'd just read that last week - sums it up well! Certainly does seem like this type of job opening is the wave of the future.

  32. tastymoog,
    I agree with you on the drawstring issue of the shirtdress. I do not find it to give shape but just reminds me of an unflattering elastic waist! I think it would need to be covered by a belt or done away with all together. I have a beautiful tan shirt dress that has a chic belt that is years old and still in style and I much prefer it to the newer JCrew one which was disappointing to me and being very tall I can wear most anything.

  33. OT- Has anyone done a review of the Pique V neck ruffle dress? Has anyone purchased it? Love it or hate it? Any thoughts would be appreciated! TIA!

  34. Having been a small business owner and experiencing more than a few "head-desk" moments with employee chatter and gossip, I completely understand where J.Crew is coming from.

    It's not realistic to think all employees will follow the directive, but the it does fall in line with any other corporate non-disclosure agreement.

  35. Crewbie - I have the pique pavillion dress on my blog. Not sure if this is the same one.


    On this topic -- I agree w/J Crew's current policy on blogging. I also think it's smart if they don't have a blog or Facebook page right now. Given that Michelle Obama is wearing their clothes, it makes sense to try to control their image. Any potential controversy -- albeit viral & short lived -- is something they probably want to avoid.

  36. I totally am on jcrew's side on this one. No associate, cashier, manager should have the authority to be the company's one voice. It's destructive to the company's image if their interpretation of the rules are wrong. Good for you jcrew, to strive to keep your image clean!

  37. I don't think anyone is saying that any individual JC employee (disgruntled or otherwise) should be able to blog/tweet/flick/twit/ whatev about all aspects of the company, but it could be a good idea for JC to launch a blog via their own website. They'd be able to control content, maintain their brand focus, promote events etc. Urban outfitters/free people, brooklyn industries are a few labels that have incorporated blogs into their web/retail vehicles (some may argue those labels are aimed at a younger clientele, but I and probably many others here started shopping at JC in our teens).

    Everyone from Larabar to even General Electric has a blog (GE probably has more than one depending on division). If it's done right it can be a really fun and useful tool.

  38. Maybe they don't want associates posting to clarify because nothing is actually clear! Policies change day to day and store to store, which is ridiculous.

  39. Following up on Gigi's comment-JCrew gets no fewer than four mentions in June's Vogue: a picture of Michelle O. in the dazzling dots ensemble, a mention of Jenna Lyons out on the town at an exclusive fashion gathering, the misty lavender featherweight cashmere cardigan pictured in a fashion feature, and a wedding dress. This is the most I've seen.

  40. OT - I received a few things from the 20% off spring sale recently. Really happy with the items.

    Stadium cloth Bridget coat - luxurious and feels like it will be very warm. Kind of a retro look to it, in a good way.

    Stadium cloth Lucinda coat - chic and stylish coat. Looks so nice on me, if I may say so myself. ;)

    I really love the stadium cloth. Had the Shipley last winter and it was one of the warmest wool coats I've ever had, even without an interlining. I have been stalking the Bridget and Lucinda and was able to get them on great deals in my size and color. I'm sure there will be new coats I want this fall/winter, there always are, but for now I can send a couple of my EUC coats off to goodwill.

    French terry cardigan in shell and pewter - as others have mentioned, very comfortable and cute casual piece. I see the pewter is no longer available online so I'm glad I was able to get it.

    Plaid university pant - I wore these often during the long, cold winter so I was pleased to add another fabric/color option of these pants to my winter wardrobe.

    Milla bikini - oh how I love this bikini. It sold out so fast I thought I missed out but it came back on sale with a 20% discount to boot. Very flattering color and cut. The little twist on the bottoms makes it look skimpier than it really is. Totally gorgeous.

    Seaside chambray shorts - light and breezy, with a pulled-together look. I considered getting another pair but now they are sold out.

    Sorry for the long post but I wanted to share in case others are considering these items. And also to share the good feeling of getting an order where everything meets your expectations. Well done J.Crew.


  41. tastymoog how do you distinguish yourself from everyone else if you just go ahead do what everyone else does?

  42. anony,

    By staying on message and showcasing the unique qualities of the brand.

    Roxy, rats on parade et al already made good points that I'd just be repeating (or repeating myself!).

  43. tastymoog If you let others speak for you then you can't guarantee you will stay on message. So the policy of disallowing staff to comment about the retailer is appropriate.

    JCrew is doing a fine job initiating discussion around the unique qualities of the brand. What are we doing here today, after all? Talking about the qualities of the brand in the larger sense.

    As for the age comment, I believe JCrew is trying to market to a different type of clientele than the mainstream, not a different age group of clientele. Big difference.

  44. To clarify in case my pre-coffee rant skewed off-target, I don't endorse an employee of any company making libelous comments or sharing proprietary information in an online forum. And I respect that any company has the right to set their own policies about these things and I'm sure J.Crew's policy is echoed by many other corporations.

    That said it is really disappointing to see J.Crew set limitations rather than embracing technology. I don't think closing down Facebook groups or shutting down blogs is the answer. Trying to stifle opinions -- be they dissenting or supportive -- is probably not good for business long-term. J.Crew owns their products but they do not own public perspective. I think of them as a mainstream company because of the sheer size of the audience they reach and the number of stores they have. I would hope a company of that size would welcome honest opinions from both the public and its own employees.

    Oh, and count me among the nuts with all things Facebook, Twitter, etc. with my employer listed. In my industry if you don't have those things you don't have a job. :) I guess this post just really stirred my passion and I appreciate being able to post my opinion openly.

  45. I agree with J Crew, look at the rants on this blog regarding the educators discount, the vanity sizing and the poor Spring 2009 rollout, who would want that on Facebook?

  46. Aren't some people here repeating themselves a tad too much? Write an op/ed piece at your own blog, if we may suggest.

  47. Hey xoxo - would you say the Bridget fits TTS? I see it available in my usual size and might just go for it as I really like that "retro" style. Reminds me of a coat my BFF had when we were in grade school. Ah, nostalgia.

    Not loving it just for the look. If we have another winter like the one we just had I will need all the warm coats I can get. Global warming indeed. :P

  48. I understand the need for a policy the way everything is litigated in our society. But I also see the value of allowing associates to talk about sales and promotions and the like via facebook, twitter and blogs. I guess corporate sees it as an all or nothing thing rather than weeding out posts and what not on a case by case basis

  49. Captain Crew the Bridget coat fit TTS for me. It is a lovely coat and I was so happy to get it for such a steal. Reminiscent of those great deals we had during the winter promotions. Hope yours comes up!

  50. I keep re-reading Baybaybay's response. She's right. This is a very common business decision and in my opinion it's a good decision. A thousand voices, many of them inaccurate, dilute a company's message and mission. We all think we're entitled to information, we feel like everything is fair game, every piece of information should be ours. It isn't.

  51. J. Crew is not as clean and happy as you think it is. The pressure within is immense and should they continue the current trend, their level of service and quality of clothing will suffer simply so Mickey Drexler can increase the margin and boost "...long term..." shareholder strength.

    I work for the company and mark my words, this will be a long road to where Gap is. Madewell is the start and the devaluation of J. Crew as a brand is making the hill this rock is rolling down steeper.

    Just know that when you go in and demand certain things, managers and associates more than likely are breaking a policy or two to make you happy. Yet you cheer and think those same people had better not break the blogging policy as set forth...

    Pot, meet kettle.


Dear J.Crew Aficionadas & Aficionados: Please feel free (and encouraged) to share your thoughts and opinions. :) However, please note that this is still a personal blog. So comments that are considered inappropriate (e.g. obscene, racist, homophobic, personal attacks, rude, and just plain mean) will be removed.

And now back to J.Crew! :)