It is both ambitious and laudable to put together advice, such as the updated CIPR social media guidelines – however, it is impossible to cover all the eventualities that need to be considered, especially where legal regulations apply.
Of course, anyone new to social media need to avoid falling into the pitfalls that those who’ve been before them have made. So, guidelines and looking to those with a track record of practical experience and/or engagement in social media, are useful.
Undoubtedly, PR practitioners need to understand social media and how it impacts on their activities and organisations. This is an exciting opportunity but one fraught with dangers. A Twitter entry by James Andrews of Ketchum recently got him into trouble with client FedEx – showing how even someone with experience can become an immediate case study.
However, case studies themselves become simplified, taken out of context or exist as a myth to convey a particular message. So you’ll hear people talk about Wallmart’s Fake Blog (flog) from 2006 as a cautionary tale, whilst last year’s Cadbury Wispa revival is touted as showing the power of social networks.
These are the social media equivalent of Exxon Valdez and Tylenol – which is a dangerous learning methodology for PR practitioners. Life in PR (or online) isn’t as simple as a couple of case studies or even a set of rules might imply.
PR practitioners not only need the guidance for themselves, but to produce policies for their organisations. Intel publishes its social media guidelines within the legal information area of its site. Based on principles and rules of engagement, there’s still a lot to take in here.
Craig Whitney, The New York Times’ assistant managing editor who oversees journalistic standards, has published a policy for social networking sites (via Judy Gombita), showing it isn’t just the PR world that is struggling with the emerging online scene.
Are such guidelines helpful to those new to social media? In companies are they part of an education programme, or policies intended to prevent or catch those who reveal more than they should?
How do those PR practitioners who are new to social media best find out how to engage? Is it enough for them to attend a training course or lurk around blogs like Greenbanana? How can we help others to “get” social media?