by Christian Stegmaier
Web blogs are ever multiplying – that’s something which is very obvious to any user of the Internet. Further, a growing trend in blogging is the creation of blogs relating to specific corporations, which are maintained by current or prior employees of that corporation or at least rely upon them for content. An article on Forbes.com (“Protecting Employers Against Bloggers” (February 15, 2006)) estimated that perhaps as many as 5% of the American workforce maintain online personal diaries; however, interestingly enough, only about 15% of employers have specific policies addressing work-related blogging. Indubitably, the percentages for each have increased in the ensuing years.
Why should a corporation care about its employees’ blogging activities? Well, the short answer is that reputation is everything to any company, especially those that have spent countless hours and tremendous sums on developing and protecting their brand images. Corporations in the hospitality sector are perhaps the most zealous in building and defending their respective brand images. Blogging is a lightning-fast mode of communication that may damage (or even destroy) a corporation’s reputation or brand image if what is transmitted is hurtful enough.
According to the Forbes.com article, a survey conducted by the Employment Law Alliance, a network of independent employment law firms, showed that 16% of the employees who maintain blogs have posted information that could be considered negative or critical regarding their employer, supervisor, co-workers, customers or clients. This statistic underlines the dangers that may lurk for corporations that are subject of a blog and therefore makes it crucial that employers understand their right to discipline employees who post material on their blogs that is harmful or embarrassing to their employer.
What can corporations do to fight adverse blogging by unhappy and former employees? The first clear step would be to include creating, promulgating, and enforcing a clear policy on the use of blogs by employees.
As described within the Forbes.com article, most blogging policies should contain at least the following provisions:
-Blogging may not be done on company time or with the use of company computers.
-Bloggers must comply with all of the company’s policies, including, but not limited to, the code of conduct and the discrimination and harassment policies.
-Blogs are individual interactions, not corporate communications, and employees must not represent or imply that they are expressing the opinion of the company. Bloggers are personally responsible for the contents of their blogs.
-Never disclose any confidential or proprietary information concerning the company.
-A charge to employees to respect themselves, their selves, their co-workers, and their company. Do not place anything on a blog that will embarrass, insult, demean or damage the reputation of the company, its products and customers, or any of its employees.