When I ask conference attendees who has a social media policy at their company, almost every hand in the room raises. But when I ask how many of those policies have been updated in the last few months, the hands almost uniformly sink.
So let’s take a brief quiz. What do these three phases – all from one company’s social media policy – have in common?
- “Do not use any copyrighted or otherwise protected information or property without the owner’s written consent.”
- “You may not post photos taken at Company events or on Company premises without advance consent of your supervisor, Human Resources and Communications Department.”
- “If you discover negative statements, emails or posts about you or the Company, do not respond. First seek help from the Legal or Communications Departments, who will guide any response.”
Answer: All three were found illegal by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which enforces the National Labor Relations Act, protecting the rights of employees – union and non-union – to act together to address various work conditions. And much of the guidance they give flies in the face of many social media policies out there today.
All of these examples were taken from a report written by NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin Jr. offering some valuable guidance on employee handbooks, including specific examples of social media policy language NLRB deems acceptable and in violation of employee rights. In the three examples above, the company was found to have language either overly broad or that discouraged employees from protesting unfair labor practices.
I’m no lawyer; chances are, you aren’t either. However, as communicators, it’s important for us to be the protector of our social media policies, constantly ensuring we’re asking the right questions and raising issues that could harm our companies.
That initial draft of your first social media policy likely began with conversation and collaboration from communications, HR and Legal.
It’s time to get the band back together again. Along with key stakeholders, you should be reviewing your social media policy at least quarterly. What are you doing to update your policy? How are you communicating the policy employees? And how are you training employees on how to understand that ever-changing policy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. Want to read some other policies? Search a database of more than 300 social media policies.