UPDATE: The recording of Mic’s talk is now at the end of this post.

It’s been quite a fast-paced day yesterday.

We had an invitation to an event, a call to action as part of the SUBU elections, our usual lecture and a fast and well pitched presentation from Mic Adam of Vanguard Leadership who has been so kind to make time for us and join us through Skype.

SUBU election time @BU

Both Mic and I have indicated that there is a need for a clear differentiation between policy and guidelines which currently does not always seem to be applied in practice. We both suggested that policy should have a regulatory, principle-like standing within the company that makes it enforceable and can provide legal coverage as well. Guidelines on the other hand, should be suggestions or best practice cases.

While policy should focus on areas such as training, disclosure, ownership, escalation, guidelines should focus more on tone, type of messages, escalation process, feedback and more.

There is an argument that not everyone needs a social media policy…at least not a written one. However, both Mic and my argument were that thoughs and discussions about policy should take place not only before an organization decides to have a social media presence but also on a regular basis as a means of evaluating whether that policy still addresses and covers how the organization is currently using social media. In this respect social media audits are strongly connected with policy as they can both inform it as well as shape it.

Mic Adam of Vanguard Leadership on Skype

In a way the lack of clarity, purpose and therefore policy is the reason behind many of the social media blunders we witnessed in the past years: from Nesle’s focus on their logo during their “battle” with Greenpeace to Domino’s loose definition of employees can use social media during working hours…

The clearer the policy, the clearer the objectives, the easier to implement the strategy is and the easier to avoid #fail moments online.

Mic made a very good point when suggesting that policy discussions should bring around the table not only those in the marketing/communication departments who will most probably be managing an organization’s accounts but also human resources and IT representatives. As he put it, if HR was to direct policy efforts the document will a list of dont’s. If IT were to lead it, open data, cloud computing and other open/freemium software usage and purpose will be approached differently and so will be the devices from which access would be permitted. If marketing/PR/communications would lead the effort “common sense” would probably be the rule of thumb, and we look at the examples I provided Mic is quite right. While the “common sense” rule is very good and applicable it works only in an environment where people are on the same page in terms of experience, usage and understanding of what social media can do for the company.

But policy, Mic said, can involve even more people and departments. Depending on the size of the organization and the scope of the policy, the legal department or unions might be involved as well.

Who sits around the table where the social media policy of an organization is discussed and decided depends very much on the organization’s social media goals and objectives.

As you prepare to talk with your client about their social media usage, do ask them about their policy and find out how much their ideal social media practice and their rules reflect their objectives.

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About Ana ADI

Professor of Public Relations/Corporate Communications @ http://www.quadriga.eu | Researcher | PR & Social Media Consultant | Advisory Board Member of SMCEDU | Fulbrighter

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