It's hard to believe that it was almost a year ago that we were discussing on the Between Lawyers blog a series of breathless announcements from lawyers and other pundits about the dramatic dangers for employers who did not have a "blogging policy" in place. Too many of those announcements suggested that "thou shalt not blog" was the best policy, not realizing that there might even be positive benefits of employee blogging in the sense of the Cluetrain Manifesto and other thoughtful approaches.
Concerned that the general public would see the new-found concern of lawyers as being simply a law firm marketing flavor of the day, we decided to shine a little light on the topic, cut through the hype and take an approach that focused on education rather than fear. You can find our posts on this topic in the blogging policies archive of the Between Lawyers blog. I've just read through the posts and they seem so reasonable that you may wonder if lawyers actually wrote them. There are also some great links and resources.
I think that the discussion here did some good because I didn't see any "Blogging Policy Alerts" for quite a few months after we (and others in the blog world) discussed the topic.
Well, it was a short ceasefire. A new article at Forbes.com called "Protecting Employers Against Bloggers" is a recent example of the alarms being sounded again.
I've read a whole bunch of these articles on the dire need for "blogging policies" and I'm forced to conclude that I'm just a dumb country lawyer who doesn't get what all the brouhaha is and maybe my experience as a blogger really has not given me any insights into these issues. I'm also a little more dubious of surveys than most people seem to be.
Maybe someone can help me understand why I can't understand why having or not having a "blogging policy" is such a cause for alarm.
As I see it, if you have the normal sort of well-drafted employee manual or guidelines, Internet or technology use policies and corporate communications policies, it seems like you should have blogging covered. I just cannot see how blogging raises issues that are any different from public speaking, email, websites, and even use of the telephone. In fact, if you substitute "telephone" for "blog" in the recommendations at the end of the Forbes.com article, you'll see that the same principles apply equally to telephone use.
On the other hand, if you have none of these policies, then concentrating on "blogging policies" without addressing the other policies seems a little silly.
In all events, expecting to find a one-size-fits-all policy is not a wise move. These policies need to fit your culture and the unique circumstances of your business. The Forbes.com article ends with what I believe is the most important point of all in this area (and it's not a legal one) - training. As the article says, "Employees should be trained about the existence and contents of these policies and their obligation to maintain the employer’s reputation in the community at large." Bingo. Policies without training and leadership at the top levels create their own set of problems, especially if the exercise is just to slap a "standard policy" into place.
However, I'm willing to learn where I'm missing the point. In the meantime, I recommend that you read the posts in our archive in addition to the dire warnings about blog policies that seem to be bubbling back up to the surface in recent weeks.