Gag Me With Your Social Media Policy.

April 26, 2010

I love freedom of speech. I love that we live in country where you can say what you mean and mean what you say. So it’s understandable why I said WTF when not once, but twice in a 10-day period I’ve had conversations with people about Social Media Policies at their companies. Social Media and Policy; to me those words don’t go together. It’s like Office Park – doesn’t fit. To me a policy about speaking your mind feels like control that companies don’t have, unless of course they wish to compensate the employees for selling one of their fundamental rights. And if a company is going to employ such a policy, why not call it what it is: A Gag Order.

So I understand that within companies, including big important worldwide PR agencies, discretion is important. Employees or PR flacks should not be talking / writing about private matters, products that haven’t shipped, anything to do with profits/losses, inside information, etc. All of this makes sense to me; it’s not cool plus it gives the SEC the right to beat you with a big, nasty penalty. But where it becomes very uncool is when a company tells an employee what they can or cannot do on their own social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, etc.) and said company monitors what employees do off the clock. I’m sorry but am I the only one who sees a huge problem here? Aside from being totally unethical, it may be illegal and I’ll be curious to see what class action suits are brought against companies as time goes on.

Alright so I’ve accepted, for the moment, that such polices exist. But I need to understand the fundamental WHY? Does the company have something to hide? Does paranoia run rampant through the organization? Are they afraid one their flock may go off the farm and meet other like-minded sheep? Well we couldn’t have that now could we? People freely expressing their opinions on their own time? Just the thought makes me quiver! After all, what if they say something nasty about a co-worker, or write about an unpleasant experience they had during the day? Can you imagine if the big bad truth gets out?

No matter what companies do, no matter how hard they try to impose silly policies, in the end it’s never going to work – ever. As humans we have this wonderful ability to express ourselves be it through words, music, art, dance, or even silence as my friends do in Tibet. For corporations to believe they can actually stop their team from sharing life experiences with others is foolish. It’s even more atrocious when the same company who imposes such measures, encourages their employees or clients to “embrace social media” and use it as a tool to extend a brand. Can you say hypocrisy?

Well I suppose it’s time to that BPR take a very hard and serious look at creating our own social media policy, since it seems to be the fashionable thing to do. I hope you’ll cut me a little slack since I’m new at this policy stuff and the policy I’ve created may be a bit long, but here it goes. Effective Monday April 25, 2010 the BPR Social Media Policy will be the following: Do the right thing. We’ll spend the next few weeks trying to shorten it a bit, but for now hopefully this gives my team a good idea of what to do.


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