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Recently, I was conducting a media training workshop for a prominent organization and a staff publicist asked me if I would add a few words about the need to be discreet when blogging. There was a back story that offers any of us who blog, tweet or e-mail a teachable moment. Someone in her organization had upended a publicity effort by an innocent posting on his personal blog. Since the blogger in question was authoritative in his field, he had many readers of his posts -- people who were keenly interested in his thoughts. One of those keenly interested readers was a reporter for a specialty magazine.
Something exciting had happened at the blogger’s workplace and he went home that evening and wrote a post about it. The magazine writer read the blog and, based solely on that entry -- without calling the blogger for more information -- wrote a couple of paragraphs about it on the magazine’s online edition. A wire service picked it up from there and several publications and radio outlets carried the story, citing the specialty magazine as the source. These outlets assumed, incorrectly, that the magazine had vetted the story.
The problem was the story was incomplete. The original blogger was in possession of only partial information about the development and his organization’s public affairs department was pulling together all the elements to make available a comprehensive story. When they issued their official release, the media treated it as old news and ignored it. The blogger had scooped his own organization with a partial story.
With so many people writing blogs, so many more tweeting or posting on Facebook and more still sending e-mails to friends and colleagues, there is a constant danger of premature and/or incomplete information reaching the media. That sort of information can distort or misinform and, in some cases, do damage to a company or organization. News casually disseminated in via blogging, social media and e-mail often lacks the necessary vetting by public relations, public affairs and executive personnel.
Let’s deal with blogging, social networking and tweeting and e-mailing separately.
It has never been harder to keep a secret than it is today. Everyone is connected via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook. Many people write personal or professional blogs. If you are part of a large organization, check with your public relations representatives before posting new information. If you are part of a small organization, confer with colleagues before going public on your blog. You want to avoid disseminating to a small audience (your blog readers) information that might be compelling to a huge audience (the public at large). Reporters hate being scooped. By blogging news, you are necessarily scooping those media outlets that don’t follow your blog. As in the case I cited, a blog post can undermine a well-planned media campaign by stealing its thunder.
As someone who takes 140 characters to say, “hello,” I’ve always been dubious about sending out any substantive information via tweet. The compression factor by necessity forces you to leave out details. There’s nothing wrong, however, with teasing a release or calling attention to a release via Twitter. Just coordinate with your public relations people or colleagues before you take to the keyboard. (And please check your spelling. If you are tweeting on a smart phone, it is very easy to misspell words and sometimes misspellings can change meanings.)
As with Twitter, there are limitations on how much you can post on Facebook and other social media sites. Although the allotment of characters is typically double Twitter’s, it’s still limiting. Best to use social media to direct attention of your friends and followers to a web site where an official news release can be read.
As virtually everyone knows -- to his or her grief -- it is entirely too easy for an e-mail recipient to forward a message to another couple of people, each of whom forward it to several more...... and your message to a single person suddenly goes viral. E-mailing something -- even if you mark it “confidential, eyes only,” is like printing up a billboard and standing on the street corner below with an arrow sign pointing up and reading, “Please don’t read the billboard.” When dealing with company or organization news, I like to use e-mail the same way I use social media -- directing attention to the website with the full media release on it. That way if your e-mail goes viral only the official, approved version is available to the media and public.
Bottom line: when you’re dealing with company news, think long and hard before hitting “send,” “post” or “publish.”
THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG ARTICLE IS NOT A LAWYER AND HARVARD BUSINESS SERVICES, INC. IS NOT A LAW FIRM. THE ARTICLE ABOVE IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS LEGAL ADVICE. THIS SHORT ARTICLE IS STRICTLY TO MENTION SOME ASPECTS OF DELAWARE’S CORPORATION LAWS AND/OR LAWS RELATING TO OTHER FORMS OF ENTITIES WHICH YOU MAY NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH A LAWYER BEFORE FORMULATING A STRATEGY WHICH WILL BE SUITABLE FOR YOUR SPECIFIC CASE.