While the answer to that question is "no" for many organizations just getting started in social media, it's time to start crafting your policies now--and making sure your employees are on board. The trick: Maintaining openness and transparency to remain credible with your audience and offering employees sensible guidance in case, like the person noted above, they haven't stopped to consider the impact of their actions. Here's a roundup of good policies to check out before you craft your own, with some notes on whether they'd have helped in the case above:
- Dell has published its blog policy here (and a release about it here). Dell doesn't forbid opinions, but says they should be clearly noted as such, and goes further to say "Consumer protection and respect are paramount to Dell employees, suppliers and other company representatives." Note Dell's based its policy on ethics guidelines from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association designed to encourage honesty and transparency among marketers online.
- In a good model for nonprofits, the Mayo Clinic just published its employee guidance on social media use, delineating between personal and work-related uses. It notes that "the main thing Mayo employees need to remember about blogs and social networking sites is that the same basic policies apply in these spaces as in other areas of their lives." Mayo Clinic cites the Blog Council as a resource, as well as...
- Intel, with a policy that includes this useful item under "rules of engagement" that might've helped in the Ketchum case: "Be judicious. Make sure your efforts to be transparent don't violate Intel's privacy, confidentiality and legal guidelines for external commercial speech. Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to Intel. Also be smart about protecting yourself, your privacy and Intel Confidential information. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and be judicious."
- Government agencies also have policies about employee use of social media. The U.S. General Services Administration offers these guidelines for government blogs and websites, and this link to existing federal blogs. The guidelines note: "As informal as blogs are meant to be, if they're appearing on a government domain, they're official government communications...That doesn't mean you shouldn’t have a blog—you just need to think carefully about how to use it as an effective communications tool that can benefit both your agency and the public." (After reviewing all the federal blogs for a government agency client, I learned that all of them permit anonymous comments--something many organizations hesitate to do.)