Blog policy? Try a Social Media Policy

Toes_2My company, Brulant, has been around for many years, but is just recently embracing elements of social media internally. In the past few months I have immersed myself in social media to learn – each day I find something new about what our clients can do and what we can do internally.  I’m still learning, but one of the first pieces of advice was to get a blogging policy out there for the company.  We don’t have official corporate blogs in place yet, but I hope to one day soon.  Even so, people need to know what can help them and hurt them regardless of social media tools in play.

I started by looking for other examples out there.  Here are some things I dug up, and I’ll add to this as I find more.  Frankly I started saving so many links and examples it became redundant.  Some of the most valuable finds:

  • A colleague from the Technology Marketing Executive Council run by Forrester shared his firm’s policy (I’ll ask permission to mention him here before I give him up).
  • John Cass, who I connected with over Twitter and Social Media Breakfasts in Boston, has written a book about corporate blogging along with a companion wiki.  He also is a contributor to the list of Fortune 500 companies that have blogs.
  • Charlene Li from Forrester has a wiki of example corporate blog policies, although some of the links are DOA.  Her new book Groundswell with Josh Bernoff has a whole chapter dedicated to "the groundswell inside your company," but the strategy and advice for marketers applies throughout. This is a fundamental book everyone should read. There, I said it. And I just bought 15 copies to give to the people on our internal social media interest group.

Combing through all of these, it was clear that what was relevant to blogging policies is relevant to other sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and many others.  Aside from the HR verbiage around "disciplinary action up to termination may occur" for policy violations, the policy is really designed to promote professional and open dialog regardless of the technology.  Frankly, people need to be aware that firm executives (not to mention our clients) are watching the content generated on the interwebs and should act accordingly. 

Here is the outline of our policy and paraphrased snippets of what is included.  Contact me directly if you would like a copy, although we are still in the process of finalizing and publishing internally.  What have you included in yours and how could we improve this?

  • Agency Monitoring and Privacy Policy
    Essentially saying, "yes, executives are watching and you are responsible for your content out there especially when talking about work on your personal blogs, Face book profiles and forums."
  • Promote Interactivity and Individuality
    Be personal, clear about the purpose of your content, and be responsive to emails, comments and feedback.
  • Promote Free Expression
    Don’t censor comments unless they violate the policy (i.e. confidentiality), and don’t restrict access.  Allow and encourage conversation through comments and sharing of ideas.
  • Strive for Factual Truth and Scholarship
    Never plagiarize, do not use assumed names, and cite sources referenced in each post.  Learn about Creative Commons. 
  • Be As Transparent As Possible
    Reveal as much as your are comfortable with about your identity while being mindful of your own privacy.  Disclose conflicts of interest and other professional associations.
  • Be Professional
    Balance time spent in social media and don’t let it interfere with your work.  Don’t talk about specific clients without their formal approval.  Be mindful of what information is confidential to the firm or our clients.  Live the values in our internal team member handbook.  Respect copyright, the law and other people – disagree gracefully and respectfully. 
  • Examples of Situations Where The Policy Applies and Does Not

I’d value further advice on improving, and as we evolve our use of tools and engaging in conversations we will keep the policy updated.  Already I wish we had an internal wiki to use to collaborate with the team drafting this.  Does your company have a similar policy?  Who drafted it?  What was the response when it was published to everyone?

Thanks to Becky McCray and jwhitcomb for suggesting to write this up.

photo credit: mrvjtod via flickr

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  • Excellent post, Adam. Very few companies with which I deal actually have blogging guidelines (much less social media guidelines).
    My sense is that most companies believe they have controls in place (via non-disclosures, as example) or are not sure how to address the issue and therefore don’t. Other companies only develop policies after a defining moment (e.g., a public rant by an employee, a Twitter gaff by a staffer, or an internal rumor turned external news by a disgruntled ex-employee). And in that case, it’s too late.
    I do have a personal rule of thumb though: If I wouldn’t want my mother to see it, I don’t post it.
    And while companies might not want to adopt my policy, it does offer some valuable guidance: anything and everything that’s made available on the Net is public. Period.

  • Excellent post, Adam. Very few companies with which I deal actually have blogging guidelines (much less social media guidelines).

    My sense is that most companies believe they have controls in place (via non-disclosures, as example) or are not sure how to address the issue and therefore don’t. Other companies only develop policies after a defining moment (e.g., a public rant by an employee, a Twitter gaff by a staffer, or an internal rumor turned external news by a disgruntled ex-employee). And in that case, it’s too late.

    I do have a personal rule of thumb though: If I wouldn’t want my mother to see it, I don’t post it.

    And while companies might not want to adopt my policy, it does offer some valuable guidance: anything and everything that’s made available on the Net is public. Period.

  • Thanks Michelle, I appreciate the comment. I would extend your personal rule of thumb from mother to mother/spouse/CEO/best friend/client. Everything out there is public or is at risk of becoming so. It’s worth providing help and guidance before people make those gaffs. Not to mention compliance concerns for big companies or government agencies.

  • Thanks Michelle, I appreciate the comment. I would extend your personal rule of thumb from mother to mother/spouse/CEO/best friend/client. Everything out there is public or is at risk of becoming so. It’s worth providing help and guidance before people make those gaffs. Not to mention compliance concerns for big companies or government agencies.

  • Organizations are beginning to recognize that they need to empower employee blogging, not just tolerate it. If your company gives you the tools a couple of good things happen. One you go a long way towards humanizing the organization and you (the company) are able to exercise a lot more control of what content gets out there.
    There was a great article in the Dallas Morning News last week:
    My favorite paragraph:
    “It’s clear that when it comes to traditional authority figures – whether they’re chief executives or heads of state – people trust them less,” says Mr. Edelman. “Employees are the new credible source of information. We have data that shows an employee blog is five times more credible than a CEO blog – and I say this as a CEO blogger.”
    The whole article can be found here:
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/columnists/chall/stories/DN-Hall_16bus.ART.State.Edition1.463ac30.html
    Best,
    Chris Baggott
    CEO/Co-founder
    Compendium Blogware
    http://www.compendiumblogware.com

  • Organizations are beginning to recognize that they need to empower employee blogging, not just tolerate it. If your company gives you the tools a couple of good things happen. One you go a long way towards humanizing the organization and you (the company) are able to exercise a lot more control of what content gets out there.

    There was a great article in the Dallas Morning News last week:

    My favorite paragraph:

    “It’s clear that when it comes to traditional authority figures – whether they’re chief executives or heads of state – people trust them less,” says Mr. Edelman. “Employees are the new credible source of information. We have data that shows an employee blog is five times more credible than a CEO blog – and I say this as a CEO blogger.”

    The whole article can be found here:

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/columnists/chall/stories/DN-Hall_16bus.ART.State.Edition1.463ac30.html

    Best,

    Chris Baggott
    CEO/Co-founder
    Compendium Blogware
    http://www.compendiumblogware.com

  • Very nice post Adam. This is definitely something that will be beneficial both to Brulant as well as other companies. With anything as big as social media, it can get so overwhelming that many ask “Where do I start?” This is an excellent springboard to leap from and get some stuff straightened out internally.

  • Very nice post Adam. This is definitely something that will be beneficial both to Brulant as well as other companies. With anything as big as social media, it can get so overwhelming that many ask “Where do I start?” This is an excellent springboard to leap from and get some stuff straightened out internally.