Blogs are a great way to disseminate information to your customers and clients quickly. They can also be an effective way to communicate with your employees. But there may be some concerns about how to handle blogging by your employees on the company blog or the employee's personal blog.
As the blogosphere continues to grow it is not surprising that many companies are looking for ways to address employee blogging issues. There is some hesitation about employee blogs because an employee may disclose confidential business information, talk negatively of other employees or of the company and display an interest that is in conflict with your business policies. There is a thin line between the company's best interests and violation of your employees' first amendment right to free speech. In order to avoid these concerns, employers should implement general employee blogging policies. Here is what you need to consider when implementing an employee blogging policy.
How to Handle Employee Blogging: Types of Blogs
There are three types of employee blogs. The first is a blog written by employees intended for other employees. This type of blog you would find on a secure company intranet that only employees could access. Employees also write the next kind of blog but it is intended for external audiences. This type of blog would be posted on your company website that is accessible to the general public. And the last type of blog you have to consider is an employee's personal blog. This may be the trickiest to deal with because your employees have first amendment rights to freedom of speech but you can set up a policy that will prevent confidential information about your business from being blogged about by your employees. The blogging policy you create should cover all types of blogs that an employee may write.
How to Handle Employee Blogging: Deciding When to Create a Blogging Policy
You may not think that you need to have a blogging policy. But according to Devora Lindeman, senior counsel at Greenwald Doherty specializing in management-side employment law, it is in your best interest to have a policy in place for your business. "Actually, companies need blogging policies regarding both company blogs and what employees do off the job," says Lindeman. "Companies could be on the hook for things their employees say, or endorsements their employees make, even without the company's authorization or knowledge."
There were several cases at major companies of employees that were fired for blogging. Ellen Simonetti, aka "Queen of Sky," was a flight attendant for Delta airlines. She was fired for posting on her blog "inappropriate pictures in uniform on the Web." A Microsoft contractor, Michael Hanscom, was fired after he had taken pictures of Apple G5 computers being unloaded onto the software company's campus and posted them to his blog.
Do you remember the social network Friendster? Joyce Park, who was a Web developer for Friendster, was fired for her Troutgirl blog. Chez Pazienza, a senior producer for CNN's "American Morning, was fired for his blog and for blogging on The Huffington Post. But Pazienza acknowledges that he did not ask permission from CNN to blog, either on his own Web site or on The Huffington Post. After working at Google for less than a month, Mark Jen was let go. He started a blog on his first day about working at Google.
In all these cases the employees were terminated because of content in their personal blogs. Should employees be permitted to maintain personal blogs on their own time? Yes, but they should be clear on what their employers blogging policy is.
How to Handle Employee Blogging: How to Implement the New Policy
The lesson to learn from the examples of employee firings and how some companies have chosen to address employee blogging is to make the policy as clear as possible. "Employees can also do damage to companies' reputations and client relationships that should be prohibited by such policies," says Lindeman.
The best formats for this policy is to first state the policy and follow with a bulleted breakout of the key points. Microsoft's policy includes a frequently asked questions section that further clarifies the policy for employees. And you may want to offer guidelines or blogging best practices similar to what Razorfish included in their employee guidelines.
Once the blogging policy has been finalized it is important to let your employees know there has been a change to the employee agreement that each employee signed when they were hired. An e-mail or memo should be sent to all employees including a copy of the new policy and/or a link to where they can reference the policy.
Lindeman advises, "Employers would be wise to implement protections they need in this wired world, rather than being in a position of having to close the barn door after the horse has already bolted."
When creating a blogging policy you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Several companies including Cisco, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Razorfish and Yahoo! have developed clear yet comprehensive employee blogging policies.