As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Using Social Media Ethically

As I have done before, I digress from the Coast Guard to talk about social media. Being in graduate school, I am doing a lot of research and writing papers. Lately, I am doing research on using social media ethically in public relations and have found some interesting information. This list is by no means all-inclusive but I wanted to boil it all down to some simple, usable guidelines. I would like to hear what you think about these basic principles and if you feel there are other things to consider that I have not included.

An article in Strategic Communications Management pointed me to a great source, the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) in the U.K. The site offers three guiding principles:

1. Integrity - honesty, transparency, full disclosure, and acting with regard to public interest
2. Competence - only discuss topics for which you are qualified
3. Confidentiality – do not disclose confidential or “insider” information of any kind. A general rule of thumb is to not say anything that is not already publicly available.

The CIPR guidelines also point out important legal concerns for using social media including:

1. Intellectual property - obtain permission before using any material protected with a copyright, trademark, or patent including music on a podcast, image on a blog, quoted material from another Web site, and linking to information on another site. Always cite sources and references.
2. Defamation – do not make any oral or written statements that could harm a reputation. Ensure your content is accurate, true, and not harmful to anyone or anything.
3. Invasion of privacy – do not use or disclose personal information without permission.

Additionally, various articles in recent trade publications including PR Week and Public Relations Tactics and The Strategist highlight general tips for using social media including:

*Be honest, legitimate, and transparent
*Create dialogue - get involved in the conversations and they will get involved in yours
*Focus on the message, not the tool - offer a distinct and credible point of view that engages readers
*Make friends - spend time building personal relationships with online contacts
*Don’t go overboard with brand promotion and corporate messaging or people will tune you out
*Use keywords to help improve search results for your site(s)
*Use an informal, conversational writing style

With the rise in online chatter, many organizations are publishing policy on appropriate online behavior to guide employees. Some of the ones I found through a quick online search include Edelman, Hill & Knowlton, Yahoo!, IBM, BBC, Feedster, Plaxo, and Toronto District School Board.

So, what do you think about these tips for using social media? Is there anything else to consider? What do you think about corporations providing guidelines to employees?

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