Avoiding Social Media Landmines

By: Laura Peck

While the industry has drawn a fine line between the truth and libel and slander, the sudden popularity of social media is bringing other issues to the table of what is and isn’t ethical. It only takes one person, a third party, to understand a statement as defamatory. So you might want to hold off slamming someone on your blog or twitter especially with the easy search tools available. By saying “In my opinion” won’t completely save you however stating negative opinions in non-malicious language will help.

That said what is a public relations professional to do after receiving that not-so-true e-mail at 4:30 p.m.?

  • Control Your Emotions. And counsel your client/manager to do the same. It has to be intelligence instead of emotions that rules your decision making process.
  • Choose Your Words Carefully. Especially when replying to an e-mail because you are not there in person to explain your tone or meaning.
  • Be Accurate, Truthful and Stick to the Facts. You don’t want to say something you don’t mean. The truth is your best defense.
  • Follow the 24-hour Rule. It is tempting to fire off an annoyed e-mail, tweet or post but by waiting 24-hours before responding you will be able to avoid saying something you will regret later. If you have to respond right away, take a couple of minutes to physically leave your computer area to clear you head, talk to someone you trust before sending it and save a draft and have someone else read it. Most of all ask yourself, would you say it face-to-face?

Other problems can arise when someone else posts something on your site. In such cases, it is important to have a blog moderation policy in place. The best blog disclaimers are clear, noticeable, and read and reflect what’s actually occurring on the blog. However you must never edit someone else’s comment – either use it or delete it.

The other issue facing students is when they move into the real world. While in an educational setting, students are allowed to use things for educational purposes like videos and images, however a number of problems can occur when they more into the real world. You have to have permission to use photos, videos, quotes and likeness of people.

Additionally more employers are screening job candidate’s social media networking sites prior to hiring. And the number one reason for distain is the candidates screen name is unprofessional. chickmagnet@gmail.com won’t get you a job anytime soon. That said you could use your social media sites to your advantage. You can list your PR/Career objectives and goals and describing previous experience.

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