On September 1, 2011, the Washington Post made public its new and revised guidelines for journalists using social and digital media, while also providing links to seven similar organizations' social media policies, including ESPN, NPR and The Los Angeles Times.
“When using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., for reporting or for our personal lives, we must protect our professional integrity and remember: Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists,” says the article, which goes on to list seven guidelines for its editors while using social media:
1) Maintain Credibility
2) Avoid Real or Apparent Conflicts
3) Be Professional
4) Promote Transparency
5) Look Before You Link
6) Think In Real Time
7) Mind the Medium
At the August 7 PR News Facebook Conference in San Francisco, Glenn Manishin, partner at Duane Morris LLP, said that social media not only has risks, but that they can be devastating. “Social media is old wine in new bottles: Most of the issues are the same as in the traditional world—if it’s illegal in the physical world, it’s illegal online.”
Modern communications professionals operating in the social media world should not only respect the terms and conditions their media counterparts must abide by, but should also incorporate them into their own communications strategies—while representing both themselves and their organizations. According to the Post, disclaimers about “personal” content do not exempt us from our journalistic ethics and standards.
So think twice about tweeting or posting anything to Facebook that might hamper your personal—or your company's—reputation. Furthermore, if your organization, or client, doesn't have its own social media policy in place, it needs to move quickly. It's only a matter of time before an employee breaks an unwritten rule and brings unwanted stress to the organization.