Now that more law firms are getting into blogging, many marketers are struggling to articule rules for firmwide blogs and individual professional blogs. Everybody's looking for some rules to follow and no one wants to get "dooced" (fired.)
IBM has long encouraged employees to be active on the Internet, and today has and astounding 4,000 employee bloggers among their 320,000 employees in 175 locations. In six pages they have developed enlightened and perhaps the definitive guidelines for IBM bloggers. Here are the 11 key points:
1. Know and follow IBM's Business Conduct Guidelines. [Key elaboration: In general, what you do on your own time is your affair. However, activities in or outside of work that affect your IBM job performance, the performance of others, or IBM's business interests are a proper focus for company policy.]
2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time – protect your privacy.
3. Identify yourself – name and, when relevant, role at IBM – when you blog about IBM or IBM-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 a blog or post to a blog and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, 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 IBM’s or another’s confidential or other proprietary information.
7. Don't cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
8. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and 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 on the topic, and cite them.
10. 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.
11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.
"The core principles -- written by IBM bloggers over a period of ten days using an internal wiki -- are designed to guide IBMers as they figure out what they're going to blog about so they don't end up like certain notable ex-employees of certain notable other companies," said James Snell, a member of the IBM's Software Standards Strategy Group.
The final draft was polished by the corporate communications and legal staff, but the bullet points were written by IBM's bloggers based on what they felt was important -- both for them and for the company.