Social Media Policy Development: A Best Practice Approach 5

The key to building an effective social media policy is to customize the guidelines to meet the needs of your organization. A well developed policy will guide your employees in the many ways that they engage in social communications. The best practice approach requires that your organization invest the time, resources, and effort to plan and build a policy that empowers the organization, allows people to understand the value of social media and helps them to see how they can better participate as internal brand champions.

I had the pleausre of working with PRSA to assist in the development of their social media policy, which was rolled out today. It was a great exercise because of the intricacies of an organization that serves more than 21,000 members. It’s a comprehensive policy, one that sets the standard for social media participation, gives guidance on engagement, and offers social media best practice resources to employees, volunteers and leaders. PRSA’s policy will grow and evolve as the organization extends its social footprint.

A best practices approach to creating the PRSA social media policy included the following steps in the development process:

  • Finding a champion (in this case the PR manager) to spearhead the effort, corral the team and manage the process from start to finish.
  • Building a coalition or core team that developed policy objectives across the organization so it would not only guide employees, leaders and volunteers, but also PRSA chapters, sections and districts. The coalition consisted of PR, marketing, executive leadership and the PRSA legal team.
  • Conducting an in-depth audit to evaluate the current state of PRSA social media and to help standardize and promote better brand guidelines connected to social media participation.
  • Encouraging participation and not stifling communication, going well beyond just the do’s and don’ts of social media. The policy also carefuly reviewed situations specific to the Society, and focused on where the organization needed to convey stronger messages, including legal concerns like privacy, intellectual property and disclaimers.
  • Covering employee participation on behalf of PRSA, as well as including a statement on personal use. Understanding that employees will participate during their work hours and their own free time, it’s important that employees know the type of representation, responsibility and respect they must have for PRSA at all times.
  • Considering several key areas in the policy, including access, account management, acceptable conduct and the rules of engagement, content, security and legal issues.
  • Introducing leaders and members to the draft policy, asking them to evaluate usefullness by participating in a survey prior to launch. Feedback from the survey was incorporated into the social media policy to create an even stronger set of guidelines.
  • Including other organizational policies — the PRSA Code of Ethics, the PRSA Branding Guidelines, the PRSA Style Guide and the PRSA Media Policy — fully integrating these policies into the social media policy, as they now relate to social outreach.

This is only a starting point for PRSA and its new social media policy. The Society’s policy will continue to evolve as the organization grows its social media presence and identifies increased opportunities for engagement.

It’s critical that the process of policy development continue throughout every phase of social media planning. PRSA will continue its best practices approach by implementing an organization-wide social media plan that allows departments to tailor it to their goals and strategies;  re-evaluating its policy during the strategic planning phase each year; and sharing the direction of its own social communications with leaders, volunteers and members.

What is your best practice approach to social media policy development and how has the overall process helped to create a strong set of guidelines for your organization?