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Approved(Read time = 2-3 minutes) A previous ScoopD blog post illuminated the emerging dilemma for marcom practitioners driving their companies to social media best practices; namely the appropriate role of legal approval in the social media communications process.  As often happens in today’s social media, the post opened up a whole can of virtual and viral worms.  Here, contributor Chuck Byers takes the conversation a layer deeper w/regard/to striking an appropriate balance between protection, real-time marketing and freedom of expression.

This isn’t going to be an entertaining rant on the intrusion of our legal colleagues into the creative and messaging process (although such is tempting) because the truth is this sometimes acrimonious dialog is historic and on-going.  And ultimately, I’m going to ask you to share your best practices because, quite frankly, the role of legal and marcom in corporate social media is evolving.

At the outset, let’s acknowledge that there are enormous and legitimate legal concerns.  I’m not a lawyer but it is obvious that an entity is at legal risk nearly anytime it communicates with its constituents.  It used to be that biggest worries were having a corporate officer mutter something untoward into an unsuspected open microphone or in a mistakenly “off-the-record” interview. These risks are compounded in legal’s eyes by the litigious nature of today’s society, shareholder activism, and competitive business practices. 

There are clearly additional concerns over the implications and mis-steps of the speed of information exchange and the breadth of information reach.  The worldwide web isn’t called www for nothing and the ability to injure, harm or offend spreads as wide as the ability to enhance societal justice.  Trumping all considerations is the necessary ability to catalog, store, retrieve and produce — or more importantly legally protect and defend — material that could be potentially determined to be discoverable.

That said, what is the appropriate balance between legal protection, marketing, freedom of expression and capitalizing on the spontaneity and interactivity of the social media for the social good? How do companies balance these two historically orthogonal perspectives when there appear to be a range of corporate policies and cultures at play?

At one end, there is a technology company with a very active robust social media department who designates specific individual to be their social media communicators.  These individuals are charged with using good taste, a thoughtful consideration for the power of their words and deeds, a culture that reinforces that they are the company’s representatives and that they are the trusted messenger of the company’s good will.  Within these boundaries, they are charged to maximize all facets of social media for the company good … blogs, tweets, FaceBook and even virtual reality.

At the other end, there are companies whose legal departments are insisting that they need to approve an 89-character tweet that point’s customers to the company’s latest new product announcement. 

So where is the middle ground?  As communicators we would clearly prefer the former to the latter.  But this not Utopia and not every company is going to be so liberal 

What are the best practices?  We call upon the wiki-power of the blogosphere for the answers.  Share your experiences, best practices and worst practices.  The ScoopD team hopes to gather feedback with the intent to begin dialogue leading to a sense of direction.  

And in the best spirit of social media, we will share all in what we hope will be a consensus seeking exercise.  Follow http://www.twitter.com/maddogprofessor on Twitter and let’s begin trading ideas.

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