Will I be fired if I blog? And you just told me corporate blogs were safe?

Summary: Companies are beginning to fire employees for blogging? (w/ stats) — larger picture is “communication tools” not just blogs that should concern employers — what are corporate blogging guidelines?

Statistics (Poll — 308 U.S. companies with more than 1,000 employees):

10% of companies fired an employee for violating corporate blogging or message board policies
19% of companies have disciplined an employee for the same infractions

33% of companies employ staff to read or otherwise analyze outbound email
15% of companies hired people whose primary function is to spy on outgoing corporate email
25% of companies fired an employee for violating corporate email policies
30% of companies had been ordered by a court or a regulator to turn over employee emails
(Source: Wired study)

While all of us corporate blog evangelists (including me, my friends — Mack, Jeremiah and their friends) go about evangelizing the benefits of corporate blogging and how imperative it is to be a part of the conversation, some of us are getting fired … for blogging! Let’s set the facts straight. The above stats refer not solely to blogging but rather to a diaspora of communication tools available to corporate America. So, what are possible ways that employees communicate with one another and to the world in general:

1. Email
2. Discussion forums (Yahoo! Groups, Facebook groups)
3. Blogs (corporate and personal)
4. Instant messaging tools (Y! IM, MSN, Google Talk)
5. Twitter, Jaiku (mini-blog/broadcast tools)
6. Tomorrow, it could be another tool.

What should I do? (employer/employee)
Start a corporate blog! Ha ha. You almost fell for that one.

Most large organizations, I’m sure have a concerted corporate communications policy to deal with infractions that could hurt their billion dollar brand. As far as a corporate blog is concerned, if you decide to allow corporate blogging either within your websites or if you allow your employees to blog, the best way would be for you to craft the guidelines and let them know about it beforehand, so you won’t have to take the extreme step of firing them. Let’s face it, hiring is probably one of the most time consuming and critical decisions you take as a manager and you wouldn’t want to undo all that hard work by not implementing effective guidelines. I wonder what my corporate blogger friends from large corporations like Dell (Lionel Menchaca) and Intel (Ken Kaplan) think of all this.

Here is a perfect guiding principle as far as corporate blogging guidelines are concerned

All of the 8 most well-known corporate blogging policies agree — corporate bloggers are personally responsible and they should abide by existing rules, keep secrets and be nice. Those four principles are the core of today’s corporate blogging rules. (Source: Corporate Blogging Info)

Update: Nate Anderson from ars technica points out the cultural/international differences in corporate blogging perceptions across the globe

That study also revealed intriguing cultural differences between continents. Only 2.5 percent of the included European companies use a corporate blog, a number that was more than doubled in Asia, where 5.5 percent of companies use them. In the US, that number jumps to a whopping 14 percent. Clearly, American executives have gotten the memo that customers and shareholders like to know what’s going on with the firm, and like to see a human face instead of a corporate facade.

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  1. Can Live » Blog Archive » Buzz Marketing highlights from this week …

    […] Will I be fired if I blog? And you just told me corporate blogs were safe? « Marketing Nirvana by M… Mario Sundar covers the topic very well – a must read for anyone considering launching a blog Blogging, web 2.0 […]

  2. Mario Sundar

    “Blogs and social media are new — and they’re forcing companies to wake up, let go of some control and listen — but forums and even interviews with mainstream media has been around longer.”

    Great stuff, Ken, esp. given your experience working at Intel. With your permission, I may re-publish this content in a separate post, since it may be valuable to the readers. Hope you don’t mind.

  3. Mario Sundar

    Hi Doug,

    What kind of problems did they create? If you can’t share it online, feel free to email me at mario.sundar@gmail.com

  4. kenekaplan

    I’m a little late in responding. Before I left with my family to southern Italy on July 22 – it was hot , beautiful and the sea fixed every ache, pain and blemish — I connected with AP about this topic. I even took a call from the Register while walking down the lovely seaside cliff town of Tropea — blog post here http://kenekaplan.wordpress.com/2007/07/29/guidelines-get-people-off-the-fence/.
    Guidelines get people off the fence and empower employees with tips and a company philosophy…with the hope that more employees participate wisely with social media. These guidelines are not much different at all from employee code of conduct every worker agrees to before signing on with the company. The guidelines for blogging or social media participation merely put codes of conduct into context, so current and future employees can relate to best ways to behave. Blogs and social media are new — and they’re forcing companies to wake up, let go of some control and listen — but forums and even interviews with mainstream media has been around longer. If you’re not an official company spokesperson, you don’t officially speak for the company — you gotta win that right and responsibility. When commenting about company-related topics, avoid financial details, state you work for the company and that you don’t speak for the company then share your opinion backed with examples and fact. Always add value, or consider not engaging. Empower employees with guidelines and let them choose, then allow them to enjoy the benefits of honestly expressing themselves and the consequences for causing any harm. Guidelines can help get people involved, so make guidelines that embody your company’s culture and zest.

  5. Douglas Karr

    When my blog became more popular than our company’s marketing team’s new website, especially with our own employees, it started to cause some problems for me.

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