Creating a Blogging Policy

HR leaders need to play a strategic role in developing a blogging policy. Here are some guidelines.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
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Yahoo's Personal Blog Guidelines permit employees to blog about the company within parameters: Employees understand up-front that they are personally liable for their inaccurate or defamatory statements, and that proprietary information is off limits.

Its policy promotes respect for colleagues, and encourages blogging employees to notify their managers that they blog. However, Yahoo clearly states that employees are not required to inform managers of blogging posts.

To summarize, a policy which permits blogging must:

* Prohibit the dissemination of trade secrets;

* Restrict the posting libelous material; and

* Inform employees about the legal parameters of their actions.

From my perspective, HR leaders need to have a dialogue with company executives to consider whether a policy that permits blogging would be beneficial. The positives of such a policy include:

* The potential to drive business to the company;

* The need for employee guidance on permissible and impermissible activities in an Internet medium that blends personal and work activities;

* The decreasing likelihood that critical comments about the company will be posted anonymously; and

* The increase in employee morale, as workers perceive extra freedom in their work lives (conversely, overall morale may decrease if employees are fired or disciplined for blogging, in the absence of specific policy guidelines).

For the company that decides to prohibit any blogging about the company, it is equally important to delineate permissible and impermissible activities for employees. A caveat for companies which permit no blogging about the company: If you discover a current employee posting critical commentary to a blog, consider the ramifications of terminating the once dissatisfied employee, as he or she morphs into a highly motivated disgruntled ex-employee, with many more things to blog about.

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The Blogging Jeannie is out of the bottle, especially with respect to larger companies. Employee comments will find their way to the Internet. A proactive policy, if presented effectively, can provide some certainty in dealing with employees, as nervous executives hold their collective breath as a handful of employees blog freely about the company's successes and warts.

HR professionals can drive this important discussion of company blogging on several levels, including assisting in the development, implementation and monitoring of a blogging policy. Simply put, HR's strategic role is pivotal in linking blogging activity to the arena of reputation risk, in partnership with executives, in-house or outside counsel, and IT professionals.

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