Companies are always on the lookout for simpler ways to explain social media guidelines to employees. Scenario guidelines connected to people’s role or jobs tend to be the most helpful. Here is a simple model that can be leveraged for any size organization and add clarity to help employees participate well in social media as it connects to your PR strategy.
The model is four simple questions: Who can make news? Who can break news? Who can share news? Who can consume news?
Who can make news? Who can break news?
Technically anyone in your organization can make news. The news may be good or bad. People are human so you’ll end up with a mix of both. But it is important for employees to understand that while they may make news as part of their job, most of the time it is the official company channels that will break the news unless agreed to in advance.
Let’s look at common examples:
You lead an account team and you’ve worked your you-know-what off for months to close a huge deal. You brought in the big fish and are doing the happy quota dance – you’ve made news. But you should not take to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other places with this news. Deal announcements and positioning with quotes as appropriate are best handled by the PR team. So while you’ve made news, it is not yours to break in this case.
On the other hand, you signed up to keynote a major conference on behalf of your company. The PR team has been involved from the beginning and you’re good to go. You do a fantastic job and are riding high as you walk off stage. You tweet from your phone how much you enjoyed the opportunity to speak and the crowd’s support – you made news in your presentation by being on stage, but in this case it is ok to “break” news that you delivered this presentation and thank people via your personal social media handle. Why? Because you involved PR in advance and this is a way to personally thank those who listened to you. You should not however, take to Twitter that you had an awful experience or criticize the crowd lest you set off a firestorm of comments.
Who can share news?
You want to empower all your employees to share positive news. So again, anyone may be able to share news, the trick is WHICH news. Providing guidelines for employees to share news that comes via official corporate channels is a great strategy. They need to know what and where these official channels are – be explicit in this and don’t assume they’ll just find the right ones. You can also arm them with pre-approved, PR sanctioned, socially shareable comments in advance of some news like product launches, events, corporate anniversaries, etc.
Employees do need to know that they should not share news that relates to the day to day activities of their job, things they overheard or were said in meetings and that confidential information is off limits period. Everyone in PR and executives in general cringed at the HMV Layoff Tweet-Fest and subsequent fall-out. It’s a reminder that in particularly tense moments like substantial layoffs or with really big, positive internal news announcements – like you’re company is being acquired and everyone will make a fortune as part of the deal – people will have an immediate emotional reaction and may, without thinking, turn to social media for a release. Before such moments, preface your conversation by saying that the following meeting, announcement, etc. is not appropriate for social media per your company guidelines (all the more reason you need to get these written and review them on a regular basis). And let them know that your official PR channels will handle the news announcements and they should refer inquiries to PR.
For big emotional news (layoffs are a very common one), recommend other releases for employees – have counselors at the ready to discuss; recommend they take the rest of the day off to be with their family; offer to call someone to pick them up; etc. When you rock someone’s world, you can’t expect them to behave as if nothing has happened so help them through it in a way that is positive for all involved.
With as much preparation as possible, you will still have a problem at some point. This is not an “if” question. This is a “when” question. So always have the critical response digital team at the ready in advance of such announcements. Real time monitoring and response strategy will make or break your brand.
Who can consume news?
This is anyone in the world with social media. Never before has the world’s real time information been so readily available to anyone, anywhere, all the time. This is important to keep in mind and also to remind your employees that this is true. Social media can be deceiving… you can be alone on your phone tweeting away without realizing that you’re suddenly trending. A PR disaster is one tweet, one share or one click away. So remind employees to consume news with a grain of salt and to remember that anyone and everyone can be listening – and they usually are.
Scenarios with real examples from your business are the best ways to help employees understand…
Who can make news?
Who can break news?
Who can share news?
Who can (and will) consume news?
Simple, straightforward, empowering… these are the cornerstones of good social media guidelines.