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Do you trust your employees? Approaching news dissemination in a social media world

Posted on 4th July 2011 under Article

The Guardian has revealed that the BBC is considering putting clauses into the contracts of some of its key stars forbidding them from releasing sensitive information via social channels such as a Twitter.

It’s a tricky one for the BBC, which has seen a number of notable leaks in recent weeks, the most prominent being Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s disclosure on Twitter that she was to appear in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s new comedy Life’s Too Short alongside Sting. But it is an issue that many smaller businesses across the world are now facing on a daily basis.

At a time when many publications are using Twitter and tweets as the sole basis of stories, this is clearly a potential PR and reputation disaster that any social media PR strategy needs to consider.

But as we enter this new socially democratic age, I’m not totally convinced that legally binding contracts are necessarily the way forward, especially for smaller businesses.

Here are the key points that businesses need to consider when putting in place a social media PR strategy:

1.     Realise that times are a-changin’ – step one is to approach this issue and any social media PR strategy with a 2.0 mindset. Be fully aware that the world has changed and the way information is disseminated has undergone a radical transformation. Any policies, strategies or guidelines should be approached from this standpoint.

2.     Communicate internally – often businesses are very bad about communicating internally. It might be that employees don’t even know that certain things can’t be shared with the wider world. So, err on the safe side and be clear and transparent so everyone knows where they are.

3.     Build trust and respect – if you combine the first two points with trust and respect from your employees, they’ll be more likely to work with you to keep announcements secret until you are ready to tell the world. Building trust and respect probably won’t involve banning them from using social networks during the working day and/or writing legal verbose into their contracts. It’s about being clear, open and honest and it’s a key part of any social media PR campaign.

4.     Educate and train – often on social channels, your employees can really be your best advocates. But you need to train them in how to effectively use social media PR in their business dealings, as it won’t necessarily come automatically. Whenever we run social media training sessions, it is amazing how confused many people are about simple things like privacy settings on Facebook or the fact that Twitter is actually fully open and publicly viewable. Putting in place social media guidelines for the business will also help if you feel like you need something in writing.

5.     Consider new strategies for getting news out – the BBC might actually find that getting Sophie Ellis-Bextor to ‘leak’ news about her forthcoming appearance is actually a very good PR tactic. Forget those old announcement press releases and trying breaking news in different ways. With declining trade publications, communities on social networks could offer an attractive alternative.