Notes from the “Social Media Policy” forum, hosted by Portland PRSA

The Portland Metro Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) held it’s March forum featuring speakers who presented on social media policy.

The following are my raw notes.

Presenter: Victor Kisch, Stoel Rives, LLP

Issues today:

  • background checks via social media
  • communicating confidential information
  • learning about employees’ personal information, health issues and family info
  • bad-mouthing company and supervisors
  • and many more

Employees expect free speech rights. There aren’t any, really—only with the government.

  • The question: is the employee putting the employer in a negative light?
  • Need to communicate this to your employees.


  • liability for torts committed by an employee (e.g., defamation, invasion of privacy)
  • liability for harassment or discrimination claims
    • example: hiring process (not hiring an employee based upon protected information found in social media)
    • one way to avoid this: have one person do the background check and have the other make the hiring decision
    • trade secrets

Presenter: Bryan Rhoads, Intel (@bryanrhoads)

Why social media?

  • Passion, leadership, influence, feedback, reach, personal

Their goals:

  • Amplify Intel and brand
  • Build community
  • Empower employees
  • Engage others
  • Be social media leaders
  • Expand the conversation

What’s in it for Intel?

  • Go beyond traditional marketing
  • Communicate directly
  • Humanize our technology and brand
  • Share our passion
  • Engage the influencers
  • Close the feedback loops
  • Reach audiences
  • SEO


  • Treat it with respect
  • Follow the guidelines
  • Be committed
  • Be patient
  • Be yourself (your best self)
  • When in doubt—escalate
  • Intel Code of Conduct

Guidelines for Participation:

  • Learn, follow, check back for changes
  • Good marketing & PR sense
  • Good old common sense

Words of Caution:

  • Monitor yourself
  • Know potential impact on Intel and third parties
  • Know off-limits topics and avoid them
  • Only public content (no classified or confidential)
  • Don’t disparage the competition (or Intel)
  • If blogging about competitors, contact Legal
  • Don’t imply product endorsements (for other companies)
  • Consult Intel Global Communications (PR) on media requests
  • Social media can fall under commercial speech (subject to Truth in Advertising)—you must substantiate claims
  • Sourcing attribution

Be transparent: use your real name, e-mail, identify your role and point out vested interests

Be judicious: everything is public/searchable, know what’s confidential and protect your business and your own privacy

Write what you know – know what you write: stick to your subject matter area of expertise, use first-person, include disclaimers, respect brand/trademark/copyright/etc. and disclose if you are speaking out of your area of expertise

Perception is reality: successful + newsworthy = extra attention, your content creates perceptions and do us proud

It’s a conversation: talk to real people, show your personality and invite participation

Add value: helpful, thought-provoking and community-building content

Create some excitement: share the great stuff happening, amp up public dialogue and learn from others

Be a leader: promote healthy debate, choose topics carefully and keep it clean/considerate

Did you screw up?: be honest, quick, don’t ignore it and get help

If it makes you pause: pay attention to gut feelings

Questions Asked

Q: How much time should employees dedicate to (or be allowed to engage in) social media?
A: More for managers to consider. Watch personal/incidental time. Bit of a blurry line between personal vs. work updates.

Q: How do employees know what’s different between confidential info and what’s new/breaking news that can be shared?
A: If it happens, take it down, but share why you took it down (be transparent).

Q: What happens with disgruntled employees?
A: If they are doing it on company time, then it’s a manager/HR issue. If they’ve been dismissed, then there isn’t much they can do as a business. Employees need to consider their own professional profile they create by being slanderous.

Q: Tell us about the good, bad and ugly moderation policy.
A: If you blog, it’s your responsibility to answer and moderate. Publish comments that are positive or negative, but if it’s “ugly” or offensive, then they’ll be deleted.

Q: How much is the burden on the employer to develop and train employees on these policies?
A: It’s a really good idea to do the training.

Q: What can or should a company do if an employee is saying negative things about their employee on Facebook? (Especially when they identify that they work for the company.)
A: It’s very case-by-case. If it’s repeated and they are mentioning they work for the company, then you might want to take action.

Q: How do I advocate for having these policies in place with my executives?
A: Get data and find examples of other firms/companies do it. If your customers are online using social media, then that further adds to the case.

Q: Are there legal issues education should be considering?
A: Make sure your social media guidelines follow your other guidelines.

Q: How do you manage relationships between donors, employees, patients, partners, etc.?
A: Try to make your policies broad enough to encompass everyone. Have them ask before they proceed.

Q: How about internal communications?
A: Good to have internal communication guidelines for social media and electronic media.


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