If you already have a handbook that is frequently updated with laws that employees are asked to follow, such as ethics guidelines, dress codes, drug violations and smoking areas, wouldn’t you want to create a set of regulations to guide your employees in how to act online?
I’m sure you already have a handbook section on using company telephones to make personal calls or using workstations to send personal e-mails, right? Why not extend that personal communication to the web?
For instance, can an employee with a personal blog update it at their work computer? Can an employee publish a post on the corporate blog? Is there a corporate blog?
Are there rules for representing the corporate brand if an employee writes disparaging remarks on a social networking site? Do you want your employee to align himself (while working at the company) with some political or religious ideology on some website?
Is the employee allowed to use the corporate email address as a means of contact on Facebook or LinkedIn?
30 Examples of Online Guidelines
The British Broadcasting Company is one of the best examples I can cite with a comprehensive set of principles for blogging and social networking use by their employees, including the recognition that many employees already have personal blogs so they allow unlimited use of company computers for personal purposes, so long as work productivity is not drained.
I found other neat examples through the UK’s Civil Service Office, the New Zealand-based Network of Public Sector Communicators, and Kentucky brand-building agency Doe-Anderson.
I extracted the key points from:
- 9 rules for employees of the British Broadcasting Company
- 5 rules for public servants of the UK’s Civil Service office (here are the original 10 rules)
- 10 rules for government agencies, by Jason Ryan of NPSC
- 6 rules for employee communications, by Jason Falls, the director of social media at Doe-Anderson
You can see more detail of each section by clicking the footnotes after numbers 9, 14, 24, and 30.
- Don’t do anything that may harm the character of the BBC.
- Act in a transparent manner when altering online sources of information.
- Don’t attack or abuse your colleagues online.
- Don’t write derogatory or offensive comments.
- Don’t be perceived as supporting a political party or cause.
- Remove information about a colleague, e.g. holiday pictures, if asked by that person.
- Don’t reveal confidential information about the BBC.
- Discuss potential conflicts of interest with your manager.
- Include a simple and visible disclaimer on your blog or other social network that “these are my personal views and not those of the BBC.”1
- Be credible: Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent.
- Be consistent: Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times.
- Be responsive: When you gain insight, share it where appropriate.
- Be integrated: Wherever possible, align online participation with other offline communications.
- Be a civil servant: Remember that you are an ambassador for your organisation. Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of your department or agency.2
- Host your blog on an official dot-gov domain. Don’t use an externally-hosted solution. Use an open-source solution so there is no cost to the taxpayer.
- Be compliant to government web standards. If it’s funded by taxpayers, then it must be accessible to everyone, such as using “alt” tags to describe images, having the option of audio broadcasts, etc.
- Be clear who is writing the content and how to contact them both online and offline.
- Expect that your readers trust you, so don’t disclaim any content, don’t vet anything through an attorney, and keep everything transparent.
- Be fair to everyone and don’t delete comments that are negative or critical. Post a comments policy.
- Post regularly. Be prepared to make edits after-hours or on weekends.
- Be open and honest. Your blog is about engaging people, not boring them.
- Be ethical. Everything published online is in the public domain, and you must recognize that your posts are legitimate. Don’t name-call, for instance.
- Participate both on your blog and on other blogs. Post comments on other blogs, email other bloggers, be part of the social web.
- Use integrity. Don’t post anything when emotional; wait a day if you must.3
- Be honest.
- Clearly identify that you work for the company, but don’t necessarily speak for the company.
- Respect your competition.
- Never write or say anything you wouldn’t say in front of your boss.
- When you don’t know, say, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.” Then try to find out and respond.
- Avoid arguments and direct discussions with those derogatory about the brand. If pressed, direct them to the public relations/customer service department for better information.4
This list is by no means complete. Robin Fray Carey provides a summary of sorts in a recent article about Miss Manners 2.0.
Does your company have any guidelines for online behavior? Do you think it should?
By creating a set of guidelines, everyone will respect each other. You can start by forming a taskforce comprised of managers and employees, with staff who are both aware and ignorant of online standards.
I’m curious to see your thoughts.