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:
- PRSA Toolkit: How to Build Your Social Media Policy
- PRSA Toolkit: Building Your Social Media Foundation
- PRSA Toolkit: Resources for a Best Practices Approach to Social Media
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.