We Are Communication Architects

Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

May 25th, 2010

Content Planning: Developing Internal Policies

In all likelihood any organization of any size is going to have existing guidelines concerning not only employee behavior but also how the organization and those within it are going to respond to certain situations. Whether it’s an employee issue, something regarding a customer accident or even a weather emergency, there are procedures to follow and scenarios to play out and now that the content publishing program is starting to take shape these existing documents need to be brought into the process. In addition to that new ones will need to be developed that build off what’s already in place.

It might seem unnecessary to have these policies developed and in place since the issues they address may not exactly match what the program is meant to be about or deal with. Why would there need to be policies dealing with, for instance, employee misconduct if the program is about influencing industry peers and potential customers? For the simple reason that all social media programs are, by their very nature, wide open to the entire public and so tinges may need to be dealt with on those platforms regardless of their original focus. Even if those policies and agreed-upon procedures say “Maintain a staunch ‘no comment’” they need to be there so those involved in the program are not left swinging in the wind when something comes up.

A lot of the time there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, at least not completely. If the organization or company is one with hundreds, if not thousands, of line employees than any social media behavior policy (how to interact on Twitter, Facebook etc) are going to be built on the foundation of and be extensions of the policies already in place that guide their interactions, so the seeming hurdle that developing “social media guidelines” can present is moor ethan halfway cleared, an important point that can overcome a good amount of potential push-back. Even more importantly, the development of such policies has the potential to become the model for the rest of the organizations.

What’s essential, though, is that these policies and guidelines become part of the whole and not exist in a social media vacuum where they’re left unheeded much of the time and therefore potentially ignored. How to react on social media outlets, who’s going to be the point person and other considerations need to be outlined in the broader plan. Delegating them otherwise is a recipe for, at best, the loss of efficiency and at worst disaster as points going unheeded.

Over and above that, though, there’s a need at this stage in the game to establish the best practices for social engagement. This isn’t so much dealing with the core content strategy so much as establishing what sorts of things are and aren’t appropriate for publishing on any of the decided-upon platforms. These can range from high-level (politics, religion) to more granular guidelines that are put in place based on feedback and comfort levels from other departments in the organization such as Legal and HR. This is where getting their input and involving them from the beginning comes in handy since putting these policies in place will be easier based on their knowing what the program is all about and therefore being able to give informed input.

Having these best practices and guidelines in place makes everyone’s job easier since it’s a document that can be referred back to whenever anyone questions whether something is appropriate for publishing or not. This, combined with the overall editorial goals, should answer those questions 95 percent of the time. If it’s 1) on-topic and 2) within established parameters for appropriateness it should be good to go and can be approved through the normal workflow.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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