Drafting a Blog Protocol

10 04 2008

Normally I wouldn’t just copy and paste another blog as my own, but this time its appropriate because its instructive and I reference the author directly (plus I gave her a bunch of good stuff in her comments!). I make some comments next to the protocol in blue below

First I copied and pasted the protocol Beth’s Blog offers courtesy of her local Easter Seals Chapter:

“Easter Seals Internet Public Discourse Policy SECTION III PART I-9 Approved by board: July 14, 2007

The Internet Public Discourse policy applies to Easter Seals headquarters and to Affiliates.

Easter Seals has always encouraged staff and volunteers to be champions on behalf of the organization by spreading the word about Easter Seals’ work in providing life-changing solutions that help all people with disabilities have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play. Smart approach!

The rapidly growing phenomenon of blogging, social networks and other forms of online electronic publishing are emerging as unprecedented opportunities for outreach, information-sharing and advocacy. HA HA they get it!

Easter Seals encourages staff members and volunteers to use the Internet to blog and talk about our organization, our services and your work. Our goals are: Excellent to state the goals always!

• To connect with and provide help and hope to children and adults with disabilities and the families who love them;

• To encourage support of Easter Seals’ services and programs; and

• To share the expertise of Easter Seals’ staff and volunteers.

Whether or not an Easter Seals staff member or volunteer chooses to create or participate in a blog or online community on their own time is his or her own decision. However, it is in Easter Seals’ interest that staff and volunteers understand the responsibilities in discussing Easter Seals in the public square known as the World Wide Web.

Guidelines for Easter Seals Bloggers

1. Be Responsible. Blogs, wikis, photo-sharing and other forms of online dialogue (unless posted by authorized Easter Seals personnel) are individual interactions, not corporate communications. Easter Seals staff and volunteers are personally responsible for their posts. Gatekeeper in force

2. Be Smart. A blog or community post is visible to the entire world. Remember that what you write will be public for a long time – be respectful to the company, employees, clients, corporate sponsors and competitors, and protect your privacy.

3. Identify Yourself. Authenticity and transparency are driving factors of the blogosphere. List your name and when relevant, role at Easter Seals, when you blog about Easter Seals-related topics.

4. Include a Disclaimer. If you blog or post to an online forum in an unofficial capacity, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of Easter Seals. If your post has to do with your work or subjects associated with Easter Seals, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t represent Easter Seals’ positions, strategies or opinions.” This is a good practice but does not exempt you from being held accountable for what you write. Great example!

5. Respect Privacy of Others. Don’t publish or cite personal details and photographs about Easter Seals clients, employees, volunteers, corporate partners or vendors without their permission. Any disclosure of confidential information will be subject to the same Easter Seals personnel policies that apply to wrongful dissemination of information via email, conversations and written correspondence. Fair enuf!

6. Write What You Know. You have a unique perspective on our organization based on your talents, skills and current responsibilities. Share your knowledge, your passions and your personality in your posts by writing about what you know. If you’re interesting and authentic, you’ll attract readers who understand your specialty and interests. Don’t spread gossip, hearsay or assumptions. This common sense reminder may prevent an embarrassing situation or liability.

7. Include Links. Find out who else is blogging about the same topic and cite them with a link or make a post on their blog. Links are what determine a blog’s popularity rating on blog search engines like Technorati. It’s also a way of connecting to the bigger conversation and reaching out to new audiences. Be sure to also link to easterseals.com Cool tech suggestion!

8. Be Respectful. It’s okay to disagree with others but cutting down or insulting readers, employees, bosses or corporate sponsors and vendors is not. Respect your audience and don’t use obscenities, personal insults, ethnic slurs or other disparaging language to express yourself. Common sense!

9. Work Matters. Ensure that your blogging doesn’t interfere with your work commitments. Discuss with your manager if you are uncertain about the appropriateness of publishing during business hours. Time management ought to be re-designed so that everyone has a chance to participate in the outreach that the Internet currently affords the organization.

10. Don’t Tell Secrets. The nature of your job may provide you with access to confidential information regarding Easter Seals, Easter Seals beneficiaries, or fellow employees. Respect and maintain the confidentiality that has been entrusted to you. Don’t divulge or discuss proprietary information, internal documents, personal details about other people or other confidential material.” Again, great reminders and thoughtfully communicated! All of the above points could apply to the function of other tasks and activities in the organization–whether or not one call’s it “blogging,” “Social Networking,” or “community outreach,” these are always important considerations for anyone who communicates on behalf of or relationship to a Nonprofit org.

[#7 include links might as well be “Site Sources.”]

As a comment at Beth’s Blog I wrote:

Greetings Beth,

I just added you to my Google Reader & blogroll yesterday; Hope everything is well with your Washer..! 😉

Last March 10, I delivered the keynote speech at my local North Valley Community Foundation Council Meeting Titled “Trumpeting Your Mission Service & Success; Web Technologies for North Valley Nonprofits.” (NVCF.org) Essentially it was a primer for blogging and Social Media aps that (when deployed appropriately) ought to expand philanthropic efforts for our regional charities. In our case, in Northern California, we are close to some prime urban areas like SF and Sacramento that get all the glory ~ in order to ‘bring fire to our cave’, our community needs to speak out, speak loud and share in our successes together… At least that was my call to action–so far our local Execs are slow to act upon the simple and wonderful opportunities that exist when Social Media is a part of the plan.

I was confronted by the very same concerns you mention above:

1 Do any nonprofits have a formal blogging policy?
2 How do you determine when a blogging policy is needed?
3 What kind of polices are there?
4 How do organizations create policies?

1) Do any nonprofits have a formal blogging policy?

Of course there is a “formal blogging policy” out there; its just changed names since it was first adopted: Its the “Newsletter” policy and/or the the “PR” policy. Although the technology is different, more dynamic in scope and immediate, blogging is essentially journalism on steroids. Now individuals and orgs have more power than a TV station to deliver and interact with messages & consumers. We ought to be mindful that the messages have not changed as much as our ability to deliver them in more artful and complex ways. Therefore, when modeling a “blog policy” (I will attempt to draft one in my blog in the coming days), I am certain it will look a lot like something we have all seen before.

2) How do you determine when a blogging policy is needed?

Common sense ought to prevail here. Of course, anything off topic and not related directly to an org’s mission should stay private. AND of course there are concerns that advocacy for a particular legislation or candidate may complicate nonprofit status; but again, these are concerns that existed BEFORE “blogging” became a thing. There are technological concerns like spambots sending links to pornography in the comments section–but a competent developer should be able to mitigate these concerns outright. For those orgs with limited budget and no developer to handle these things, self-teaching and research ought to help solve the problem. WordPress has an excellent solution built-in to its platform, other programs that one buys should also have these spam filters.

3) What kind of polices are there?

There are two kinds of policies out there: the ones that work and ones that don’t. IF an org is so worried about liabilities and controversy that they hesitate to join the parade of other orgs that ‘see the light’ regarding Social Media they will simply have to wait and watch until their confidence level arises to the extent that they can take the risk. IF on the other hand some protocol is required by the board (like for everything these days) consider using an approach similar to the “gatekeeper” method in Journalism where an article is generated by the beat writer (anyone in the org with a mission-critical message to deliver) & passed on to an editor with responsibility and accountability (and hopefully a flare for great communication) to vet the content appropriately. Chances are there are people on staff that can wear these hats as needed. Again I urge common sense rule.

4) How do organizations create policies?

Well, we just created the policy together. Keeping in mind that Social Media applications such as blogging are new tools for the age old efforts in PR/Journalism/Advertising/Networking etc., we have cut through the “mystery” that surrounds these technologies and re-defined them in task terms. The approach to these communication tasks is based on a common sense approach that includes the guidelines you site above, but most importantly the tasks are mission-critical. To beat the horse dead: Anything that is not “mission critical” ought to remain a private post for a private person. I can imagine how a young staffer on facebook might wax on lyrically about love for a particular candidate. I can’t imagine how that has any place in a 501(c)(3)’s Internet Identity or blog. Separation between private and public is a line best drawn in absolute terms–again common sense prevails.

The mystery of these new Social Media technologies for Baby Boomers is a gap that needs to be closed. I can’t tell you how many times people’s confidence interferes with their understanding; on a daily basis I hear people say things like: “I am totally ignorant of..” or “I don’t have time to learn X/Y/Z..” If we (as consultants) institute a less jargon-y and more practical approach toward instructing about Social Media, Boomers will realize that they really can make it up as they go, its OK to learn on the job and every time they learn something new, they have added to the quality of their personal lives and that translates into improved organizational outcomes.

I would be re-miss if I didn’t let you know that Alexa Valavanis CEO of the NVCF.org is a HUGE fan of yours and without meeting her I wouldn’t have been turned on to your blog as soon. (I like to think I would have found you eventually!) But I too, have become a big fan. Cheers!




2 responses

11 04 2008
Beth Kanter

thanks so much for answering these questions. Very useful! Thanks

2 07 2008
Peggy Denker

This is great. Thanks. Now, does anyone know where I can find samples of guidelines for blog comments? Something to let folks know they shouldn’t be profane or make ad hominem attacks, etc.?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: