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Take a H-I-T

By Nigel Dessau
Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at AMD

I had a memorable discussion with a member of my team a few years ago about integrity. The nature of the discussion was around whether integrity was a relative thing. Can you have gradations of integrity?

What we specifically debated was whether it is wrong for a hypothetical employee who learns that a colleague has cheated the company to take no action. Is it a lack of integrity to ignore such a situation? In my opinion, yes. You either have integrity or you don't. It is wrong to cheat your employer and wrong to ignore the cheater.

Integrity is one of the challenges facing leaders exploring social media. Because of the unfortunate examples set by executives blogging under an alias or employees posting inappropriate videos on YouTube that reflect poorly on their employers, a culture of fear can permeate corporate social media programs. I think this is the wrong approach; instead of fear, let integrity be your guide.

At AMD, we approached this challenge by developing simple rules we could all follow—and I have made it a point to lead by example. We call our guidelines "H-I-T," or Honesty, Integrity, and Transparency. Whether you have a corporate social media strategy in place or are considering one, you may want to think through H-I-T:

  • Honesty: It might seem self evident to suggest you need to worry about this, but from a marketing sense, it's vitally important. We should all ensure our teams don't stretch the truth or make unsubstantiated claims. Leaders need to make it clear this isn't acceptable.
  • Integrity: Have you ever been the victim of a post about your company that you knew was not true, with the poster likely knowing the same thing? Sadly, it's easy to tweet a lie. It takes integrity to stay honest and fair. Who wants to win by lying?
  • Transparency: Some people think social media is the Wild West, but regardless of your viewpoint, don't try to hide. We've all experienced unpleasant situations like product delays or software flaws, but you owe it to your followers to be transparent in both good and bad times. Consider the demand for truth in advertising, and apply the same guidelines to your social media engagements.

We have tried to apply H-I-T to all of our social media engagements at AMD. Of course, we've made some mistakes—it comes with social media's real-time nature. But we've corrected them.

Once I tweeted something that I later found to be untrue, so I quickly tweeted a correction. Another time, we used a series of blog posts to challenge a prevailing industry standard benchmark that, as it happens, didn't favor AMD. But we were clear our issue wasn't the benchmark score; it was the narrow nature of the benchmark itself—which in our view, caused the user to draw an incomplete and erroneous conclusion. We didn't try to hide or confuse; in fact, we started a constructive industry conversation.

None of this is particularly hard to do, but it does take leadership, and consistency is critical. We all want to raise our voices and brands above the social media noise—doing that with integrity is what matters. And H-I-T is a good way for AMD to do that. It just might work for you, too.

Nigel Dessau

Nigel Dessau is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at AMD. He is responsible for the company's global marketing, brand, and communications campaigns and strategies, including leading a team responsible for AMD's social media engagement. Prior to joining AMD, Nigel was Senior Vice President of Storage Marketing and Senior Vice President of Alliances and Licensing at Sun Microsystems. Prior to that, he was Chief Marketing Officer at StorageTek, and before that spent 19 years at IBM, most recently as Business Unit Executive for IBM Virtualization Solutions. Nigel was educated at Nottingham Trent University in England.