As social channels encroach on nearly every aspect of doing business (not to mention marketing communications), PR pros need to play a critical role in developing (and managing) social media policies so workers are clear on what is (and what is not) fair game when engaging social platforms.
In most cases PR pros will need to work with their legal counterparts to craft the policy.
Indeed, for companies eager to shift their business to a digital-first model, trying to operate sans a formal social media policy is like trying to play the guitar with mittens on.
Of course, the social sphere online is quite fluid, and PR execs need to be flexible in their ability to amend such policies. Inevitably, there will be some grey areas.
But there are a few elements that, although they will probably need to be tweaked from time to time, should be staples of any social media policy:
Appropriate use of channels: When it first started Facebook was generally considered a depository for describing that decadent hamburger you just had for dinner. But in the last few years, Facebook has morphed into legitimate marketing vehicle. Decide what information is best suited for Facebook and Twitter. In the case of LinkedIn, take the time to discern which information that’s posted can maximize discussion, sharing and lead-gen (since LinkedIn has a strong appeal to the business class).
Language: While it’s folly to try and clamp down on how your employees use their flair for language, which, let’s face it, is the whole idea of social media, there are policies you can put in place that forbid employees from using foul language, racial epithets or guttural terms.
Proprietary data: You need to decide what company information is strictly off-limits and be very clear on what are the repercussions for employees who don’t comply. You want your employees to be as transparent as possible about your products, services and corporate culture, but you don’t want to spoon-feed your competitors either or give them any hints about what’s in the pipeline.
Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1