A Social Guide Post

Alex Howard aka @digiphile tweeted to his followers today a link to Reuters’ new social media guidelines, which he called “progressive.” Here’s an excerpt:

“We want to encourage you to use social media approaches in your journalism… Many of you are using social networks like Facebook or Twitter both as part of your newsgathering and as part of your personal social networking. In the online world private and professional are increasingly intertwined but we do expect you to maintain a professional face at all times in your work for us and this extends to your use of social media. Put simply, we’re expecting you to apply standards to your professional use of social media that will probably differ to those you would use for your personal activity.

Reuters’ encouragement of its staff to jump on the social media bandwagon is an astute move that will enhance awareness and authority of its news content, and the producers thereof. It contrasts with the policies disseminated in May by a competitive news organization:

“Our code of ethics says the news staff may not publish websites, blogs or other online journals, that discuss companies, people or topics covered by [said news org]…direct Internet traffic to media competitors or discuss them… Journalists should be aware that anything posted on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, social networks, web feeds, or other blogs can be disseminated by someone seeking to discredit, belittle or embarrass the reporter of the organization. Failure to abide by this ethic may be grounds for termination.”

Admittedly, this latter policy was created last May, eons ago in Twitter time. Since then, I met the company’s new social media executive (with a solid digital pedigree) who was hired to catalyze the news organization’s historically conservative culture. Let’s keep an eye on it.

More and more companies, especially media companies, are scrambling to establish guidelines for employees to engage the social graph. This is not only prudent, but for communications professionals, an absolute necessity given internal PR departments’ limited bandwidth to effectively advance brand esteem in an atomized media world. It is almost vital today for a company’s rank-and-file to carry the torch — again, within reasonable guidelines.

For those advising their client-companies on these matters, here are some useful resources:

  • Policy Tool (for Social Media) – “a policy generator that simplifies the process of creating guidelines that respect the rights of your employees while protecting your brand online.”
  • Mashable’s Social Media Guide for Journalists – “From making use of social media tools to create and store content (ala YouTube) and other video blogs to tracking down sources (via Facebook) to publicizing stories and interacting with readers (by logging into Twitter), social media tools have opened up a whole new realm to today’s journalists.”
  • Harvard Business Review‘s look at “Intel’s Social Media Training” — “We have been following the journey taken by Bryan Rhoads, Senior Digital Strategist at Intel whose job title is our pick for one of this year’s coolest. Rhoads starts by explaining the Intel journey.”
  • Directory of Social Media Policies — “Here are a num­ber of pub­licly avail­able social media poli­cies and guide­lines for cor­po­ra­tions, non­prof­its and media com­pa­nies. In some cases, we’ve repro­duced them on this site because of how often they get moved around or dislodged.”