Employee blogging – good or bad?

Posted on: June 26, 2007

Writing negative comments about your organisation on a personal blog is seen as ‘ethical’ by almost 50% of PR people. That’s one of the results of an international survey by Prof Don Wright and Michelle Hinson reported in the proceedings of the International Public Relations Research Conference, which have just been posted online.

The survey of PR practitioners found that 45% the respondents are aware that employees of their company or a client’s organization have communicated on weblogs, and that the outcomes have been mostly positive. As to whether it is ethical to monitor employee postings and to discipline staff, there was a strongly positive view. Some 79% said that monitoring staff was “ethical” and 59% backed discipline for staff who write negative statements, unless the staff were representing a labor organisation or trade union.

Despite these strongly held views, only 3% actually undertook research or measured “information their employees are blogging”, although 46% expect to do so in the future. Wright and Hinson also point out there is little research into the impact of blogs and other social media on the theory and best practice of communication. Obviously, there is a debate to be had on the ethics and legal issues that surround employee blogging.


4 Responses to "Employee blogging – good or bad?"

I’ve just had a mailing from a training company about “Why HR needs to understand social media: how blogs, wikis and social networks can help and hinder HR strategy”. It includes a section on using legal angles to protect against blogs, etc.

If PR practitioners don’t grasp the importance of social networking, blogging etc, as an opportunity and positive development for organisations, their colleagues in HR will likely be promoting “command and control” solutions which are counter-productive and probably reputation damaging, in my view.

This is just not on. This is not research based on theory. Internet Transparency and Porosity is a well established theory. There are books and papers that cover it.

All organisations are transparent to a degree online. All organisations are porous and no less so than online.

There is both practice and legal precedent for monitoring. Precedent for taking employees to court is also established (don’t, you won’t win).

But the big issue is partly what Heather suggests and partly a complete misunderstanding about social media.

It is not about organisations at all. It is about a bunch of mates gossiping like they always did down the pub.

It is small social groups gossiping online.

Of course it is ethical to monitor (lurk) communities that include employees. What would you do in a pub? walk out because an employee was talking to his mates about work?

As for research into the impact of blogs and other social media on the theory and best practice I do not know where they did their research but there is a tonne. Admittedly its online and not in academic walled gardens. Just listen to FIR which discusses theory twice a week and brings forward a lot of research too (I have just finished recording new PR theory on managing uncertainty – and blogged about it too). Its not that there is little research – there is far too much to keep up with.

As for how we manage the social media effect and how it affects organisation, that is a different argument. and Heather is right we could, as a ‘profession’ quite easily cede this to the C&C freaks.

My only argument with Heather’s comment is that its not reputation (a puff of wind and something that is not owned by the organisation anyway) that is at stake. It is the asset value of the organisation – eFootprint is an asset.

Today’s contribution to online research numbers “Marketing in the Era of Accountability”

[…] on control may not be surprising given Tom Watson’s recent DummySpit reference to a study of PR practitioners that backed monitoring and discipline of staff who write […]

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