Every radio station needs a clear social media policy, especially given the high-profile nature of its air talent. The point of this policy is not to restrict your employees, but to keep them from getting themselves into trouble. Social media is still relatively new, which is why we see so many public figures getting themselves fired by making social media faux pas. Don’t rely on a vague “morals clause” in your airstaff contracts. This may give you the legal grounds to fire somebody after they make a mistake, but your goal is to prevent that mistake from happening in the first place. You need a social media policy.
Here are some tips for creating a clear social media policy that will set expectations and keep everybody on your staff on the same page.
- Get the right people involved. When writing a social media policy, you should get all of the appropriate stakeholders involved in the process: Management, Human Resources, even Union representation if necessary.
- Decide if your airstaff requires a separate policy. While you should have social media policies in place that cover every member of your staff, there’s good reason to write a slightly different policy for your airstaff. After all, they are public personalities in a way that your engineers or promotions staffers are not. In fact, you may want a different policy for your full-time airstaff and your part-time airstaff.
- Spell out the scope of social networks you are covering. Beyond the usual suspects, there are also a number of websites that include social features. For example, blogs, blog comments, Reddit, YouTube comments, Yelp! reviews, Amazon reviews, etc. Anything posted to these websites by your airstaff is public, and could reflect on your station. Does your policy apply to all of these or just some? It should be clear.
- Decide if there are any networks you want to address specifically. There are so many social networks, with new ones popping up all the time, that it doesn’t make sense to address them all by name in your policy. However, you may want to specifically address some of the biggest networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
- Draw a distinction between company social networks and personal social networks. For example, your station may have a Twitter account and your afternoon drive jock may have a Twitter account. In general, you can probably be more protective of the company account, but that does not mean that jocks should have free reign with their personal networks.
- Differentiate between reciprocal and non-reciprocal personal social networks. Some networks, like LinkedIn, are reciprocal. In other words, both parties must approve of a relationship before it exists. Other networks are not. On Twitter, for example, anybody can follow you without needing your approval. This means that posts to Twitter have the potential to reach far more people than posts to LinkedIn. You may want to be more lax with reciprocal social networks than non-reciprocal social networks, because they more closely resemble private communication. However, anything posted online has the potential to spread.
- Differentiate between Facebook Profiles and Facebook Pages. Facebook allows users to create both reciprocal and non-reciprocal accounts. Profiles, which are meant to be used by individuals, are reciprocal. Pages, which are meant to be used by companies, organizations, and brands, are not reciprocal; anybody can follow them. Encourage your airstaff to keep a Facebook Profile for personal use with people they know, and to create a Facebook Page for their on-air persona. If they use their real name on the air, both accounts will have the same name, but your policy should govern their Page with much more scrutiny.
- Outline what you want people to do, not just what you don’t want them to do. You should expect members of your staff — particularly full-time on-air personalities — to post to station social networks a minimum number of times per day. You may also want to require a certain numbers of blogposts, or additional pieces of audio or video content each week.
- Spell out the approval process. Generally speaking, requiring approval of everything before it is posted to social media cripples your ability to engage with your audience. However, there may be certain topics, such as questions about contest rules, which should require approval. If so, make the approval process clear.
- Outline a clear delegation process for social media accounts managed by multiple people. For example, if you allow your station Facebook page to be managed by your full-time airstaff, and somebody posts a question about sales, make sure the policy spells out who that question should be referred to.
- Require training. In this day and age, every public personality should have basic social media skills. If there are people on your airstaff who do not, you should set up a training program to cover the basics.
- Require periodic reviews. While you do not need to review the social media posts of everyone on your staff, you should regularly review the posts of your full-time airstaff. Treat it the same as airchecking. This isn’t just a time to make sure your staff isn’t doing anything wrong, but also to talk about how you can use social media even more effectively.
- Outline the basic no-nos. No cursing, no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no pornography, no encouragement of illegal activity, etc. This is the easy part.
- Require disclosure. Your airstaff should clearly identify themselves when they post online, and disclose their position at the radio station whenever they post anything related to the station or the industry. In other words, forbid anonymous trolling. Of course, some on-air personalities use stage names due to concerns about safety or privacy. In these cases, the air talent should identify themselves by their on-air name.
- Require transparency. If your staff makes a mistake or misspeaks, they should acknowledge it and correct it as soon as possible.
- Require honesty.
- Encourage timely responses. If somebody posts a comment on the station blog or tweets to a certain jock, encourage them to do their best to reply in a timely manner. It helps to devise a system that makes it easy for air talent to do this. Social media management tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck can help.
- Discourage inciting remarks. Posts can easily escalate into “flame wars” online. Make it clear that you expect your staff to be respectful at all times, and to do their best to stop things before they turn ugly.
- Spell out the repercussions. Make it clear how social media activity will be reviewed and judged, and what the procedure is if anything is found to be in violation of the station’s guidelines.
- Run it by a lawyer. Make sure that your social media policy complies with any and all applicable laws.
Writing a social media policy can be intimidating if you are doing it from scratch. So don’t. Go online and find the social media policy of another company and rewrite it to fit your needs. Here are some examples:
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