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PR, Perfected: Map Out Your Social Media Policy

Keep your staff on the same page with a sustainable social media policy

By Jessica Howell - July 20, 2010
According to the employment services firm Manpower, a mere 20 percent of companies worldwide have implemented a formal policy regarding employee use of social networking sites. What gives? With a booming number of people gleaning news from Facebook and Twitter feeds, no doubt while at work, and a handful of social media driven branding crises -- Domino's Pizza's cringe-inducing employee video and the Facebook-fueled backlash in regard to Nestlé's use of palm oil in Kit Kat bars, for example -- social media policies should be tagged as high priority.

Yet, when communications, human resources, sales and legal all have a say, developing those guidelines can seem quite the daunting task. Moreover, how does a company ensure that a policy crafted in the age of MySpace can survive the Foursquare of tomorrow? Strategic Communications in Syracuse, NY, deployed a policy for its core staff of four consultants in 2009. "Because we're a smaller company, our social media policy is only a few pages long," says Crystal Smith, the company's PR consultant. "It is included in our employee handbook. As our company grows, and as social media and the laws concerning it evolve, so will our policy. As with many of our strategic and communications plans, this policy is a living document within our company."

So if your company has not developed a social media policy, it needs to -- fast. A sound rulebook spelling out the do's and don'ts of Web dialogue as it relates to the workplace will sharpen the lines between professional and personal engagement for your employees. Although the nature of the Internet may mean a revisiting of the rules next month (or even tomorrow), here are the fundamentals to get you started. ...

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