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Blogging v. Representation – the PR Case

June 8, 2009

Does it come down to the 1st Amendment v. corporate policy? Or is there more to it…..

As a PR professional – whether it’s in a corporate, agency, association or non-profit setting – we represent a brand/product/client etc. As blogging becomes more popular, many of us are blogging about issues that can relate to anything in the PR world.

So, here’s my question – where’s the line? Do you only talk about certain topics on your blog? Should a supervisor be able to tell you what you can and can’t blog about?And if you do blog about something they don’t agree with, can they request that you close down your blog?mouth-tape-man

Sure, it’s a free country, but we always have to keep in the back of our mind the effect that any writing will have. We also can’t be scared to discuss issues of importance. Here’s my theory – it’s all in how you present it. If you present a well-constructed argument and can back it up, I don’t see why you can’t blog about it. For every blog post you write, you should be able to print it out and post it somewhere in your office for all to see – and not worry about being embarassed or casting a shadow on the client. In the PR business, it is all about representation – and posting thoughtful posts isn’t a bad thing.  If you slander something related to the field, sure, it probably won’t go over well.

My suggestion is to have an open door policy with your boss about blogging. If you plan to personal blog, talk it over with them. Let them know that it’s out there, what you want to accomplish with it, and if there is a controversial topic, let them know about it. It’s better to be prepared so they aren’t taken off guard. Disclaimers are great, but sometimes people don’t read them. Are they a good idea to have? Absolutely. Everything you have online can be linked back to your employer.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. ChetG permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:02 pm

    Very nice LAF. This is surely a topic that any online PR practitioner can relate to. Great advice especially for students who have yet to learn what they should and should not have on the internet.

    I will be passing your wisdom down the line.

    • June 8, 2009 2:41 pm

      Hey Chet – I think on a student level, it is very important for when they go in for job interviews – what type of blog do they have, what are they saying on social media – it is all very relevant to the employer.

  2. June 8, 2009 2:24 pm

    The gospel of good sense has been read in our hearing. Let us go and do likewise.

  3. jaywalk1 permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:29 pm

    Hey Lauren,

    Definitely an interesting topic. I agree with many things here, but I’m not sure about the open door policy though. I don’t think it should be hidden, but should we put it up for discussion?

  4. June 8, 2009 2:30 pm

    Hey Jay – Interesting point. Do you think it could change depending on how much of a “spokesperson” you are for the company? If you are in the media a lot with spokesperson attached to your name, I think you should adhere to open door policy. If you aren’t, it might be best to follow the disclaimer rule.

  5. jaywalk1 permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:34 pm

    Yes, I can agree there. Anytime you’re the outward facing (or high ranking) figure. Anything you write, say or do is fair game. When you sign up for that, you sign away the control in that area. To the public, you are that co. or org.

  6. R. Pulvino permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:37 pm

    Nice post LAF. Definitely an important topic of interest since some companies (like Sun Microsystems) encourage employee blogging, while other discourage it out of fear, or uncertainty, about what it being posted.

    I’d have to say that these days it is important for companies to have a set of ground rules about employee blogs. Not necessarily to discourage blogging, but to set an example about the ramifications for inappropriate content.

    I realize that “inappropriate content” will vary from business to business, but it is still important to allow employees to have a voice within an organization and outside the organization as well.

    As long as that voice is respectful and thoughtful, an employee should be encouraged to write, and write often.

    My two cents…

    • June 8, 2009 2:40 pm

      Thanks, R. I think that is a great point about the type of voice, and how it will vary from biz to biz. Some great food for thought.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. June 8, 2009 2:42 pm

    Interesting piece – there are some issues that would be covered under confidentiality too. If you aren’t supposed to be “discussing” something – then blogging about it is obviously out.

    Also there is the issue of paid blogs. If I’m hired to blog on a companies behalf, or to review a particular item, how much control do I retain over what is written? If I DON’T like that product I would feel uncomfortable stating that I do which is why many review bloggers state that they reserve the right to be honest with their opinions.

    Interesting post and lots of good thoughts. I think it’s something that is still being worked out.

    Angela <

  8. June 8, 2009 10:29 pm

    Interesting topic, Lauren. On the personal side, I think it depends on your employer. I work for a large Fortune 500 company that probably could care less if I blog, so long as it’s respectful, I’m not giving out personal or confidential information and I’m not bad-mouthing the company or it’s competitors. So for me, I don’t need to inform my company about my blog. If my company came to me and asked that I stopped blogging, I would listen to their reasoning, but chances are, I wouldn’t shut my blog down. Again, this is on the basis that I am being a “professional” and not violating any corporate guidelines (i.e. confidential info, etc)

    If I worked for a non-profit or small organization, my thoughts would probably be different. There is a more direct impact on those organizations than what I have on my company. That’s not to say that employees for large corporate companies don’t have any impact, they do.

    Now, if I were blogging on behalf of my company – large or small – that’s a different story. I don’t think it matters if it’s a 2-person company or a large corporate company; if you are directly representing an organization, you need to have an open-blog policy. What to discuss, what not to discuss, who ultimately has content control, etc.

  9. June 9, 2009 12:30 pm

    Kasey – Great points about a company asking you to take the blog down. If it stays professional, presented well and does not violate confidentiality, I see no reason why they should care about the blog.

    Angela – I like your point about paid blogs. I think we will see more of this in the coming year.

    Thanks for reading!

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