Blog Council Transparency Toolkit Draft Released

Actually, the formal title is the Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit, and through Mayo Clinic recently joining the Blog Council I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in “the end of the beginning” of the discussions in development of these resources.

The Blog Council is an organization of mostly Fortune 500 companies (and their non-profit or not-for-profit equivalents like Mayo and Kaiser Permanente) who are actively engaged in blogging and other social media. (See a membership list here). Mayo is among the newer members, and so our role in the development of these guidelines has been minimal, but the Blog Council’s work on projects like this is a big part of why we wanted to join. It’s helpful to be able to network with and learn from similar-sized organizations as we navigate the social media world together.

As corporations are developing policies related to blogging and social media, there are some good resources out there already, such as on Constantin Basturea’s TheNewPR/Wiki. (You’ll note that it’s in my Blogroll.) It has lots of links to real corporate policies, for instance. One of the strengths of the Blog Council project, though, it that instead of being a collection of individual company policies it is a “best practices” document, and represents the best collective thinking of companies with lots of real-world experience in this arena.

I also appreciate the spirit in which this toolkit is offered: it’s an open source draft. As the broader community gets involved in the discussion, it will be further improved. But anyone can take the documents and use them as starting points for developing their own policies, and the toolkit can be applied beyond just blogs.

The Blog Council isn’t some kind of “policing” or “watchdog” agency, and we’re not here to make binding rules for anyone. But our members united by enthusiasm for social media, and we want our organizations to be involved in an ethical, open, transparent way…and we’d like to do all we can to encourage our corporate colleagues to do the same. The toolkit is just about making it easier for us to share with each other and also more broadly, and to provide a mechanism for community feedback.

For example here’s what the first checklist, on Disclosure of Identity, currently says:

Focus: Best practices for how employees and agencies acting as official corporate representatives disclose their identity to bloggers and on blogs.

When communicating with blogs or bloggers on behalf of my company or on topics related to the business of my company, I will:

1. Disclose who I am, who I work for, and any other relevant affiliations from the very first encounter.

2. Disclose any business/client relationship if I am communicating on behalf of a third party.

3. Provide a means of communicating with me.

4. Comply with all laws and regulations regarding disclosure of identity.

5. We will educate employees, agencies, and volunteer advocates.
– Train them on these disclosure policies
– Monitor to the best of our ability
– Take action to correct problems where possible

6. Pseudonyms
(Option A) Never use a false or obscured identity or pseudonym.
(Option B) If aliases or role accounts are used for employee privacy, security, or other business reasons, these identities will clearly indicate the organization I represent and provide means for two-way communications with that alias.

7. “We Didn’t Know”
All blogs produced by the company or our agencies will clearly indicate that they were created by us.

I hope you’ll check out the Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit, and share your comments either below or on the Blog Council site.

Update: Here’s the post about the toolkit on the Blog Council site. See more discussion from Valeria Maltoni here.

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Author: Lee Aase

Married father of six and grandfather of nine, and the Chancellor of SMUG - Social Media University, Global. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

0 thoughts on “Blog Council Transparency Toolkit Draft Released”

  1. Lee,

    I think you hit the nail on the head by emphasizing that this is a draft. This is the start of a conversation, not the end. It will be truly exciting when we see what organizations do with it.

    Thanks for the terrific post! We definitely appreciate the support.

    Cheers,
    Michael

    michael@blogcouncil.org
    312-932-9000
    I am a Blog Council employee and this is my personal opinion.

  2. if this results in more Disclosure Policies, required by marketers and linked blogwide by bloggers, this is another great step towards transparency…nice post and I’ve also blogged about it at http://www.DisclosurePolicy.org/ It’s a long-term effort, and making Disclosure Policies as ubiquitous as Privacy Policies will only come from beating the drum loud and often…

    BTW, I can’t tell from my Treo, but do you have a DP linked sitewide here? If so, kudos & great example. If not, give it a try!

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