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January 26, 2009

Corporate Blogging Policy

corporate blogger in trouble?One of the big questions that cause PWJ (people with jobs) to pause before blogging is the absence of clear corporate policy on personal blogging. It's pretty simple when Mary in Operations has a blog about her ice hockey team, but then something happens in the media and Mary chooses to post a blog entry about TheBusiness, or about TheIndustry, or about TheProduct. Then a corporate toady googles the company name, finds Mary's blog, and all of a sudden there's uncertainty. Is Mary in trouble?

corporate blogging policySo Mary's Boss punts to HR, and HR kicks the can over to Legal, and Legal says "no employee can make public comments about the company without prior approval". Although people at every step know Mary meant/did no harm, they worry about the message it sends. How will they stop the next blogger if they look the other way this time? It all gets very squirrely, and it teaches the culture to avoid embracing Web 2.0. Look at what Mary went through.

corporate blog policyI'd like to offer my notion of Social Media policy: communication policy is device-neutral and medium-independent. Doesn't matter if it's a blog, a twitter, a fax, a letter, a speech, a chat room - inappropriate is a constant.

Tweet That Needed PolicyWitness the recent brouhaha over a senior ad agency VP who's driving to a client meeting. He sees an ugly conflict and twitters a negative comment about the area. A client employee sees the Twitter and circulates it throughout the company. A Client VP sends the Agency a stongly-worded letter asking why do we give you big bucks every year and you're dissing our town? The AdAgency VP posts an explanation, and even his wife blogs about it (and let me say, he married well).

None of this conflict has anything to do with Twitter, or Twitter's 140 characters vs. SMS's 160 characters, or blogging. It does, however, have a lot to do with what our parents taught us: good blogging policy
  • If you can't say anything nice, don't.
  • Don't write down anything you wouldn't say to their face
  • Don't do anything you're not willing to see on a headline YouTube.
  • You can't be too clear or too generous in a context-free message.
  • Praise liberally, criticise constructively

But, to the rescue: we've seen some excellent Corporate Blogging Policies. The IBM Social Computing Guidelines offer a clear, commonsense approach to blogging, twittering, facebooking - by ignoring the medium/device and focusing on appropriateness. The Yahoo blogger guidelines are excellent, and they stress that they're guidelines not rules. The BBC guidelines are very very British. The wonderfully-named blog Gruntled Employees offer a two-word guideline: Be professional.

Your US Air Force has provided a flowchart which leads their people through a structured decision making process regarding blogging.

This is the best blog policy I've seen, and it doesn't surprise me because I believe these things about the military: (1) they've got a lot of bright, clever people, (2) they do a very good job of communicating simple, extensible expectations, and (3) they're better than anybody at directing and guiding young people - because that's what the military does.

Edited 4/25/09


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