Stepping up to help champion the social media policy development process is a critical role in the organization; one well suited for the PR professional. From my experience, working with different companies and professionals, the PR policymaker (one of the eight new roles assigned) often gets the ball rolling with a clear vision of how to proceed, not to mention the energy and passion to rally the troops. Sometimes the latter is the most difficult!
Although every organization is different and the process should be customized to suit the company’s social communications program, here are a few best practice steps that have helped the PR policymaker and his/her team to build and communicate an effective policy:
– Research or audit the brand’s social media properties to identify weak or potential areas of concern, with respect to social media communications, on the various platforms.
– Work with senior management to determine who should join on the Social Media Core Team (a team of dedicated professionals who will work together to create vision and strategy) to help with policy development. PR cannot build a social media policy in a vacuum.
– Assemble your team and then set up dedicated times to meet/discuss policy development.
– Work with members of the Core Team to develop questions to ask prior to policy development. Highlighting the right questions will uncover important objectives, goals, liabilities, marketing needs, core areas of focus, etc.
– Review policies from other similar organizations in your industry, or companies with similar business models, to identify potential areas of development. Share all findings and information with the Core Team members.
– Identify specific areas to develop in the social media policy and work to divide the development (writing) process with other members of the team. Remember, as the PR person, you don’t want to be writing the IT & social computing policy or the policy that addresses legal concerns, with respect to intellectual property rights and privacy laws.
– Identify additional company policies that need to be incorporated into the social media policy (i.e., Code of Ethics, IT & Computing Policies, Employee Handbook, Brand Guidelines, etc.)
– Provide summary recaps to keep the entire team up-to-date and working toward the goal of a final social media policy. Share information on a collaborative platform to make the process easier and to cut down on email.
– Develop a communications plan to introduce the policies to the organization’s directors or managers first (some training may be necessary in certain areas of policy enforcement) and then the steps to roll out the communication to the overall employee population.
– Measure the behavior and usage of the policy by asking for feedback from employees through questionnaires, and by evaluating how employees participate in social communities. Note: All insightful feedback should be included in updated versions of the policy.
– Maintain the social media policy, which requires continuous development that usually takes place during yearly or six month communications planning sessions.
It’s important to remember that there is no set process or book of rules on how your company develops its policy or who will guide the process. It usually takes a champion to get the initiative started. Are you the PR policymaker champion in your organization?