From what I understand, the police department didn’t have a social media policy. Like many companies and organizations, it had a Code of Conduct, but that didn’t provide specific social media guidelines.
As I explained to our local journalists covering this story, though we’d like to believe that we’re only hiring people with good judgment, social media creates a false sense of security that all too often results in individuals posting things online that they’d never say in a public forum.
Organizations invite trouble when they assume a standard Code of Conduct—or even common sense—provides enough guidance for employees’ behavior on personal social media channels. Not only can the lack of a policy create confusion for employees, it also makes personnel discipline (e.g., probation, termination, etc.) more complicated.
Is your social media policy clear enough? Try asking these questions:
1. Does it clearly articulate what is and isn’t acceptable?
2. Has it been updated recently? If not, you probably don’t have a clearly defined policy covering Periscope and other live-casting platforms, which ought to be included.
3. Does it specifically explain when and how someone should disengage from a conversation if it becomes heated or broaches a subject that the employee isn’t permitted to comment on.
4. Is the notification hierarchy clear? Meaning, if someone spots “bad behavior” on a colleague’s personal social channels, do they know whom to contact about it.
5. Does the policy clearly articulate when/whether/how employees can create channels on social networks? For example, what if someone wanted to create a private Facebook group for current employees? Is that allowed? Don’t assume people know the answer.
6. Is the photo/video policy clear? Can employees post photos from inside your location? What if other employees or customers are visible in the shot.
7. Does the policy clarify whether/when it’s appropriate for employees to discuss competitors on social media?
8. If employees are attending an event together, participating in a company-sponsored function or volunteering for a nonprofit, are they encouraged to take photos and video that can be shared on social (external or internal) channels?
9. If your company finds itself in a lawsuit or other crisis, do employees understand that they aren’t supposed to address those issues online?
10. If employees are contacted by a journalist through personal social channels, do they know how to engage your company’s media relations team?
Heather Whaling is founder/CEO of Geben Communication. Geben helps emerging brands and Fortune 50 companies integrate traditional and digital PR to excel in a social world. Connect with Heather on Twitter (@prTini) or subscribe to her enewsletter, a fresh ap[PR]aoch. A version of this post first appeared on PRTini.