Confidentiality and the employee blogger

Jenni Field

Over the past few weeks the role of confidentiality has come up with employees talking about work on social media platforms. It led me to wonder just what is classed as confidential information about a business… financial information, working practices, day-to-day politics? And is it different for every business?

You could argue that my diary of an internal communicator was breaching confidentiality as I was talking about the business and my plans to implement change but then I see it is as sharing knowledge with my peers. So if there is an online portal for people to talk about work and your employees do, open and honestly, is this breaching confidentiality? How would you know if they were telling people in a pub, bar or party? and if it is seen as a breach how do you manage it?

Is this a challenge many communicators face or is it another thing to add to the list about why we should ban social networks in the office and why we should have a social media policy in place?

I welcome your thoughts…

2 comments on “Confidentiality and the employee blogger

  1. We made a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere back in 2005 and we encourage employees to participate. We continue to advocate our employees responsible involement today in this growing space of relationship, learning and collaboration.
    With this power come great responsibility.
    Whether or not an employee chooses to create or participate in a blog,wiki, online social network or any other form of publilshing or discussion is his or her own decision. However emerging online collaboration paltforms are fundamentally changing the way employees work and engage with each other clients and partners.

    In brief – the guidelines we work to are:

    1. Know and follow you company guidelines
    2. Employees are personally responsible for the content they publish on blogs, wikis or any other form of user-generated media. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time – protect your privacy.
    3. Identify yourself – name and, when relevant, role at company – when you discuss company or company-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
    4. If you publish content to any website outside of your company and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with your company, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
    5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
    6. Don’t provide your comanies or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to your company.
    7. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval. When you do make a reference, where possible link back to the source.
    8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in your companies workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory – such as politics and religion.
    9. Find out who else is blogging or publishing on the topic, and cite them.
    10. Be aware of your association with your company in online social networks. If you identify yourself as an employee, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and clients.
    11. Don’t pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don’t alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
    12. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. The companies brand is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on the companies brand.

    I am increasingly exploring how online discourse through social computing can empower employess as global professionals, innovators, and citizens. These Individual individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communications, but masses of communicators.

    Therefore, it is very much in every companies interest – and, I believe, in each person’s own – to be aware of and participate in this sphere of information, interaction and idea exchange:

    To learn: As an innovation-based company, we believe in the importance of open exchange and learning – between companies and its clients, and among the many constituents of our emerging business and societal ecosystem. The rapidly growing phenomenon of user-generated web content – blogging, social web-applications and networking – are emerging important arenas for that kind of engagement and learning.
    To contribute: Positioning your company– as a business, as an innovator and as a corporate citizen – makes important contributions to the world, to the future of business and technology, and to public dialogue on a broad range of societal issues. As our business activities increasingly focus on the provision of transformational insight and high-value innovation – whether to business clients or those in the public, educational or health sectors – it becomes increasingly important for companies and employees to share with the world the exciting things we’re learning and doing, and to learn from others.

    Governing discussions out side of a written, semi controlled enviroment boils down to an individuals best judgement. There are always consequences to what you discuss / publish. Ultimately, however, you have sole responsibility for what you post to your blog or publish in any form of online social media.

    1. Great post Ben, thank you. I love your common-sense and responsibility-led approach and I’ll be using some of your tips in my current role.

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