Tag Archives: Policies

10 tips: How to write an effective Social Media Policy

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More and more companies are embracing the openness and transparency of social media, and are using it to demonstrate their authenticity online.  Over 170 companies have already published their social policies online and socialmedia.org have a selection of policies for anyone to look at when they are creating their own policy and a great set of Best Practices in their toolkit.

Chris at Social Media Governance has what I think is the definitive list across industries – a list I often refer to when creating new policies for clients in a similar industry. 

What shines out though is how similar these policies are to each other.  Common themes are threaded throughout each policy, themes that are the culture of the business themself

Here are my guidelines on making a great social media policy:

  1. Be respectful. Don’t insult, disparage, libel, defame, inflame or attack others.  You might find that you get yourself into a flame war with someone who has a heck of a lot more time than you do, and spends all their time online arguing or disparaging your brand
  2. Be Authentic.  Integrity should underpin all of your communications.  Be true to yourself.  Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.  The effort will be too much and remember – people buy from people.
  3. Be accurate. Fake social media campaigns are soon exposed and credibility is soon lost.  And when you’ve lost credibility, its very hard to get it back.  you will suffer. The brand will suffer
  4. Be aware of corporate IP. Protect copyright or confidential corporate information.  Makes sure that you respect other companies IP too.  It’s complex and involved if you get on the wrong side of it
  5. Be careful.  Do not speculate on matters that may prejudice your company in any legal case.  Remember that you may be required to disclose all of your emails sent over a very long time period if something happens
  6. Be valuable.  Your readers, they are potential future clients and connections and their satisfaction matters.  You want to offer them value from your communications so make sure that they receive value and not trivia
  7. Be humble. You can not be right all of the time. Acknowledge your errors and apologise with humility.  Remember, there are people on the internet with a LOT more time than you.  Apologise readily and quickly.  See point 1
  8. Be generous. Acknowledge other authors where you’ve used their work.  if you’ve found an image on the internet, make sure that you can actually use it (see point 4 above), and that your attribute the owner accordingly.
  9. Be responsible. You are the company spokesperson in your external messaging.  Press, journalists see you as the voice of the company.  make sure you behave appropriately.
  10. Be thoughtful. An off the cuff comment can do immense damage to your reputation and corporate brand.  See Points 1, 7 and 9.

Another good tip if you’re writing a social media policy is to be concise. A good social media policy should be less that one page so that the contents are remembered. Keep it simple. Keep it memorable.

And make sure you have a policy that reflects the culture of your company – whatever the culture is…

Image Credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

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Crisis What Crisis?

This is an article that I wrote for the January edition of IT Now which was published this week

 

imageYou already know that social media is changing the way you find information and will fundamentally change the way you interact online.  But with the media focus on errors, mistakes and PR disasters, how do you reassure your executives that if things do go wrong, you have an effective and workable process in place to mitigate the effects if it occurs at your company?

Many companies also don’t have an effective crisis management plan in place.  They have no procedures to deal with an online or crisis catastrophic physical event involving their employees and the results can be devastating. Therefore, companies that are starting to use social media for communication or customer support should consider having a comprehensive structured procedure to cover all possibilities, potential issues and aspects of managing a crisis.

Consider the problems that Toyota had earlier this year with vehicle product recalls and issues with brakes and accelerator pedals.  Toyota initially had no plans in place to deal with communications with customers and remained largely silent until the crisis had escalated to global proportions. The media speculated on what was happening, community forums were reporting stories, complaints, and criticism of the company. Toyota had an estimated 10% wiped off the value of the brand.  When the crisis continued to grow people were kept well informed by blogs and Tweets.  But these messages seemed to have come too late to keep the reputation of the brand.

This type of issue, and others like it, could be minimised by implementing an effective brand monitoring program that watches for change of sentiment about the brand, and looks for spikes in user engagement or dissatisfaction.  This approach could avoid nascent PR problems which might go unnoticed by the brand. Early action by the brand can turn issues into non-issues due to early engagement with customers.

Engagement and proactive conversation which reduces the customer’s pain and keeps them informed is a good approach to minimising the effects of a crisis.  If you keep your customers satisfied by regular communications they will turn to your channel and not turn to the media for information.  When issues arise, companies who keep the media and customers informed will avoid speculation about what is happening.  In December 2008, Ford had an issue with a long running Ford fan site called the Ranger Station. Ford sent the owners of the site a ‘cease and desist’ letter requesting that they dropped the use of the name ‘Ranger’. The news spread like wildfire across many Ford user forums which quickly looked like Ford’s actions were turning into a PR disaster. Scott Monty, Fords social media manager systematically minimised the effects of the PR firestorm within 24 hours using social media channels.  Scott satisfied the customers’ needs to know what was going on in almost real time, keeping the community informed and happy.  This stopped speculation on other 3rd party web sites and drew attention right back to where the news was happening – from the team that was involved – at Ford.

Usual PR diversionary tactics and tricks – delay, deflect, defend weren’t needed at all – and this helped in the crisis management strategy. What worked much better was honesty, candour and total transparency – which is a much better tactic.

Having an effective crisis management plan in place is important and all outbound communicators need to be aware of the new procedures. But adding it to your employee terms and conditions without any proactive approach will not work when a crisis hits.  Your policy amendment needs to be rolled out to each and every member of staff but what’s the best way to go about this?

Here are some considerations for implementing your crisis management plan.

  1. Educate everyone in the company.  Offer half day training sessions tailored to everyone in the business, or offer online e-learning.  Make the training mandatory and phase it in over several weeks to make sure you train everyone in the business from the C suite to the admin team. Everyone needs to be aware of the new policy and how it will affect them.  Make sure your training rollout includes provision for new members of staff joining after the training has completed
  2. Set expectations.  Although everyone throughout the business will not be using social media in their day job, they need to be aware of the impact that it might have on the business and they will need to become brand advocates offline.  With the growth of your online brand presence they might get questions offline, and need to be able to know how to deal with any questions about policy, strategy etc.
  3. Roll the policy.  Make sure everyone signs the amendment to their terms and conditions.  If they are going to use social media, then they need to be trained first – so they can help and guide others who may be new to corporate blogging / social media activities etc.
  4. Put a process in place so that any outbound communications by anyone in the company is done with the knowledge of the line manager and HR. 
  5. Find someone within the organisation to become the social media evangelist.  Often the company doesn’t realise the commitment they have already invested in the company, so to having a great communicator on your side is invaluable.   They will help communicate your strategy to the execs.
  6. Have a centralised list of people who do outbound communications so you know who to direct your communications to inside the office.
  7. If you have the resources, monitor each employee’s use of their chosen business social media channels to be able to proactively respond to any issues that may occur.
  8. Have an effective crisis management plan in place.  Involve the Communications team and the PR team.  Make this plan part of your social media policy.
  9. Make sure you have enough people who can listen to the outbound stream to detect if a crisis develops and act accordingly.
  10. Revisit the plan and make sure it’s refreshed often.  Unlike the employee handbook, social media changes often so you need to be flexible.

Having an effective and workable plan in place will mitigate the issues if a crisis occurs. After all, the difference between a crisis and an emergency is that everyone is drilled in emergency procedures (think fire crews and cabin crew).  With an effective crisis management plan and procedures in place, you can add your social media emergency drill to your standard implementation plan, drill everyone and make everyone aware of what they need to do when – or if the crisis arrives.

Digg This

Worker reinstated for disparaging Facebook updates

Crikey – this is quite a significant move…Mashable have reported that a US court have said that an employee who writes things on Facebook about their employer is considered to be Free Speech – even if the comments are negative.  This happened after a lawsuit when an employee was fired for writing disparaging things about her boss.   The termination was judged to be unlawful

According to the NLRB’s Facebook page, Facebook comments can lose protected status depending on where the discussion takes place, the subject matter, the nature of the outburst and whether the comments were provoked by an employer’s unfair labor practice.

Its a step back for companies who are worried about implementing social media in the organisation, and a headache for HR and PR who are trying to manage the conversation – but it’s thought provoking enough and it brings me back to my maxim.

Don’t publish anything that you wouldn’t be happy to have quoted back to you in a court of law.  There is no delete key on the internet…

Tips on implementing your Social media policy

When I talk to customers about their social media policy, or lack of I’m often surprised at the desired end goal.  Often the customer wants to have to have a comprehensive set documentation that covers all eventualities and includes aspects of Crisis management that I talked about on Friday.  So far so good.

But all they seem to want to do with this policy is to add it to the employee terms and conditions – or get each employee to sign the policy.  Nothing more. Hmmm.

So what about implementation?  The policy needs to be rolled out to each and every member of staff for due diligence purposes, sure, but what’s the best way to go about this?

Well, here are my top tips for getting your policy implemented

  1. Educate everyone.  Either offer half day training sessions tailored to everyone in the business, or offer online e-learning.  Make the training mandatory and phase it in over several weeks to make sure you train everyone n the business – from the C suite – to the admin team – everyone needs to be aware of the new policy and how it will affect them.  Make sure your training includes new members of staff joining
  2. Set expectations.  Although everyone throughout the business will not be using social media in their day job, they need to be aware of the impact that it might have on the business and they will need to become brand advocates offline.  With the growth of your online brand presence they might get questions offline, and need to be able to know how to deal with any questions about policy, strategy etc.
  3. Roll the policy out in a structured way.  Make sure everyone signs the amendment to their terms and conditions.  if they are going to use social media, then they need to be trained first – so they can help and guide others who may be new to corporate blogging / social media activities etc.
  4. Put a process in place so that any outbound communications by anyone in the company is done with the knowledge of the line manager and HR. 
  5. Make sure all staff have the appropriate legal disclaimers on their outbound sites
  6. Have a centralised list of people who do outbound communications.  Kodak have a list of all of their staff on their Follow us website
  7. If you have the resources, monitor each employees use of their chosen business social media channels to be able to  proactively respond to any issues that occur.
  8. Have an effective Crisis management plan in place.  Involve the Comms team and the PR team.  Make this plan part of your social media policy
  9. Make sure you have enough people who can listen to the outbound stream to detect if a crisis develops and act accordingly
  10. Revisit the plan and make sure it’s refreshed often.  Unlike the employee policy social media changes often so you need to be flexible.

And then you can relax – hopefully Smile