Just like the snow storms over the South East today, there has been a flurry of activity and comment recently on the topic of the relationship between blogging, social media and public relations (including media relations):
This topic will have been (and will surely continue to be) the topic of choice for every bright young thing on the CIPR Diploma, and I'm not going to attempt any sort of academic analysis of this still-drifting issue.
Nor am I going to get into blogging just about, well, blogging. That would be of very little interest to my clients and other Footings fans.
However, let me pull out a few points from the CIPR guidelines that you might find of interest:
The CIPR Code of Conduct is very clear on what you, the client, should expect from me, the PR professional. It is all based around three principles: Integrity, Competence and Confidentiality.
Taking them in reverse order:
Confidentiality is an absolute given. In any activities, whether I'm 'on duty' or not, and whether a client is past, present or future, privileged information stays confidential. In social media terms, that means no tweets, blog posts or online hints about what's not for the public domain.
Competence is clearly essential too - if I'm going to advise my clients about the use and impact of social media, I need to understand it (and use it) myself. I'm giving it a fair shot, as you can see! But I will always say if we are getting towards the limits of our professional competence, and I can pass you on to the specialist associates we work with.
Integrity is the slightly puzzling one when it comes to social media. Obviously I get it when the CIPR stresses the need for accuracy and honesty. That's a no brainer, as my kids would say. But the requirements for openness and disclosure do get a bit complex (and possibly over-cooked in places).
As a general rule, I always err on the side of total disclosure. Unlike many 'normal users' of social media, PR professionals are required to be completely up front about their identity, their interests and any potential conflicts of interest. No 'ghost' blogs, no false representation on blogs or other social media sites etc. I do not have multiple profiles on Twitter, for example - it's @lizmale or nothing I'm afraid.
But I have to admit that I find it a bit galling that I am recommended by the CIPR to state my profession even when 'off duty' - if I'm posting a comment on another blog unrelated to my work, for example. ("My name's Liz and I'm in PR. Liked last week's recipe, Nigella..." Yuk, that feels horrid.)
I do have personal views, political views even, that I want to air and that I should be able to express anonymously if necessary. Thankfully, it's rare that I would find it awkward not to put my name next to any viewpoint, and if a comment could impact on my clients or colleagues in any way then it's just not going to happen in the first place. But yes, I do discuss some issues online using a pseudonym. So long as I can demonstrate my integrity to the CIPR Disciplinary Committee (should that ever become necessary, God forbid), it should be ok.
Anyway, I think it is true that, in time, it will seem very odd that the CIPR has issued guidelines on the use of social media (there aren't separate guidelines interpreting the Code of Conduct for financial PR, for example).
But given that so many PR people are social media newbies just like me, I think some attempt at pinning down the implications are very helpful in places.
That particular point was quite a shock actually. In fact, I think I'd better do a quick check on previous posts before I get into trouble... excuse me a minute