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Putting Words Into Action: PRSA’s New Social Media Policy

This week, we’re unveiling PRSA’s social media policy, and in the spirit that drives social media itself, we’re making it widely available. Of course, we’ve had policies in place for years, but recently, we’ve seen the understanding and appreciation of social media change.

As geopolitical events in Egypt and throughout the world clearly demonstrate, the effects of social media on how society, businesses and governments function is not confined merely to our own little speck in the world. We truly live in a global economy.

And as we watch certain events unfold around us, the need for a more strategic approach to PRSA’s organization-wide social media initiatives becomes ever more apparent. Certainly, social media can do tremendous good for businesses and society, but used inappropriately, or without checks and balances, it has the potential to lead to confusion, rumors or misinformation as situations unfold.

The Only Constant is Change

In the early days, we all struggled with the basics — understanding the tools and how to use them. We’ve seen the emphasis shift, however, over the past several years: the questions we hear these days are much less about “how” to use a tool and more about the strategies, metrics and policies that make sense for connecting social media to larger organizational objectives. In a fast-paced arena driven by constantly evolving technology, the process of understanding and evaluating new tools won’t end, for the only constant is change, and so related policies need to change as well.

In fact, these changes — toward seeing social media in a more strategic light — are a sign of maturation, both of the social media sphere and of our profession.

Public relations professionals know that as much as they must keep their eyes open for the next tool on the horizon, they deliver real value by connecting what they do to an organization’s overall goals, whether those goals relate to financial, reputational, public policy or employee communications outcomes — a point that we’ve made through our Business Case for Public Relations™.

PRSA as an organization regularly goes through the same processes as many of you do in your own organization. We have a need for formal policies to guide our day-to-day work in serving our members, and over the years, those policies have evolved to reflect changing practices. For example, we drafted our first, formal blog policy in 2007.

Last year, we pulled together different policies relating to social media and undertook not only consolidating them, but reassessing them given the pace of change in the field. We were fortunate to work on this project under the expert guidance of Deirdre Breakenridge, a widely published author and PRSA professional development speaker, who has extensive experience in the field. Deirdre discusses the process in the post, “Social Media Policy Development: A Best Practice Approach,” on her blog.  Along the way, we solicited feedback from PRSA leadership through a survey we issued last fall, as well as from PRSA members in different venues, and the policy was finally reviewed and approved by the PRSA Board of Directors.

As far as the policy itself, it’s common to think of organizational policies as a “List of Don’ts” or limits. But they don’t have to be like that. Prominent bloggers, such as Brian Solis, Ted Nguyen and Todd Defren frequently write about the value of establishing social media guidelines for organizations,  not only to protect a company’s brands, but to develop best practices for employee and member use.

If you’re in need of some tools and resources to build a social media policy for your organization or clients, feel free to use our Social Media Toolkits below:

What PRSA’s Social Media Policy Is … And Is Not

PRSA’s social media policy is as much about how we should do things as it is about what not to do. The policy document is as much a discussion as it is a list about the role of social media, best practices in the field and how to be guided by best practices. The policy sets forth basic fundamentals — write what you know, contribute value to your community, be conversational, create some excitement in your use of social media — as well as rules about ethics and the legalities of social media.

Of course, we hope to hear from you. Let us have your feedback, your thoughts, your expert guidance and the wisdom of your experience.

About the author

Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, Fellow PRSA

Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, Fellow PRSA

Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo & Company, Florida. Fiske was PRSA's Chair and CEO in 2011.

9 Comments

  • This is extraordinarily helpful to PRSA members, including educators like me who need to keep up with rapid change in social media and guide students towards good strategy and ethics in this space.

    I would also hope that this sort of information could be shared beyond our membership to demonstrate the contribution that PR pros can make to organizations. Perhaps sell to non-members for nominal fee?

  • Hi Tim,

    Thank you for your feedback. I, like you as an educator, find this very helpful, and we know it will be helpful to a number of professionals in different roles. This is exactly what we were hoping for — useful tools members can take back to their companies or organizations.

    The social media policy and related toolkits are available to nonmembers at no cost. We believe that PRSA serves the greater public relations profession, and in so doing, there are certain PRSA products we feel should be shared at no cost. Nonmembers are encouraged to access these tools by creating a MyPRSA account (http://www.prsa.org/MyPRSA/). After creating an account, a nonmember can access the policy and toolkits.

    Rosanna M. Fiske, APR
    Chair and CEO

  • I created a MyPRSA account and downloaded the policy and toolkits. This is a fantastic resource. I think higher education organizations could benefit tremendously from these documents. We have drafted policy and guidelines for social media but nothing as comprehensive and quite honestly have struggled with it for awhile now.

    I want to be clear about usage of these materials. Besides using the toolkits can an organization adopt in part or in whole the new PRSA social media policy? If so what attribution credit should we use?

    Many thanks!

    /.M

  • Michael,

    Thank you for your kind words regarding our social media policy. We hoped that it would serve as a standard for all companies and organizations, and we’re pleased in your interest in adopting it as your own.

    We have no problem with other organizations adopting our policy as their own as long as we are properly credited (“This social media policy was adopted from the Public Relations Society of America’s Social Media Policy [revised 2.08.2011].”) and linked back to our site: http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/GuidelinesLogos/.

    We do ask that care be taken to remove PRSA’s name from the adopted policy (except where credited) and that it be properly vetted through the organization’s appropriate channels.

    Thanks!

    Diane Gomez
    PRSA PR Manager

  • I don’t think the links on this page work with Firefox. I got them through Explorer, but with Firefox, they are dead. Just saying.

    • Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Terri. We will look into this and see if it is an issue on our end or something having to do with WordPress.

      Keith Trivitt
      Associate Director of PR
      PRSA

    • Shawn – Thanks for your note and interest in PRSA’s Social Media Policy. Sorry you weren’t able to access the policy and supporting toolkits. If you go directly to the link below, you should be able to access everything you need:

      http://bit.ly/eNPpqd

      Keith Trivitt
      Associate Director of PR
      PRSA

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