I blog for Media Week (see Bloggerati at www.mediaweek.co.uk) and this week the magazine kindly published my post in their ‘Best of the Blogs’ section. It is about Lawyers and Social Media. Please read the post below. It might be interesting for those of you struggling with compliance issues!
‘I know some companies are experiencing difficulties with their legal departments when it comes to blogging and using Twitter.
Some legal departments want to see every blog post before it is published and they are worried about the implications of Twitter channels.
Basically they are not comfortable with their company having more open conversations, which is the key point of social media.
Legal departments have a role, but they should not be able to dictate social media policy. They don’t know the best way to speak with a journalist or to speak with a customer. That is not their expertise.
Of course there are regulatory frameworks that companies need to work within, and these need to be respected, but having said that, companies must be free to communicate using social media. Otherwise their reputations could be damaged. And there are plenty of examples of lawyers issuing warnings to bloggers which totally backfire because they are too heavy-handed.
This is partly about companies trusting staff to use social media sensibly according to agreed guidelines.
Newspapers are a good model here. Journalists and editors are expected to have a certain knowlege of the law but are free to make their own editorial judgements in terms of what is most likely to appeal to their readerships. Lawyers are not writing the articles. But if and when there is a clear legal issue then the lawyers are brought in to advise.
Now granted, not all companies have the role of newspapers. But the communications departments of major companies kind of have the role of newspapers, in that they are reaching out to the public. They need guidelines but they need to be free to use their skills to judge which is the best way to approach people. They also need to have the space and support to be able to experiment. Social media is new, and people have to be given the opportunity to learn.
There are some individual communications executives for large companies who are uncomfortable with how lawyers want to respond to posts on blogs, and rightly so. Social media is about humanising organisations and treating people like people. The lawyers need to educate themselves about social media; relax a bit and recognise that they need to move with the times. Making communications teams paranoid about everything they write is only going to freeze people up and prevent the possibility of genuine conversations between companies and their stakeholders. Companies need to be more accountable to their stakeholders. They need to break down barriers between themselves and the markets they serve. They can do this through more open conversations.
This does vary from company to company. Some company cultures are more open and empowering, of course.’
Some other posts you'll find interesting:
- Who owns social media?
- Blogging tips
- ItsOpen Social Media Insight Reports