A few thoughts on TVNZ’s social media rules as reported in the Herald.

Before we make ‘2009 wants its social media policy back’ jokes, let’s allow for some benefit of the doubt. If you’ve ever read coverage of your own company in the papers, you’ll know there’s usually a bit more context to these stories than gets printed. And in this case, it’s hard to tell from Rachel Glucina’s article where the policy ends and her editorial begins. WOULD Greg Boyed’s burgergate tweet have been unacceptable, or is that just what RG reckons?

It’s not clear, for example, where the personal opinion line is – is it ‘Char Grill Kebab has gone downhill lately’, or ‘Peter Dunne cannot survive for much longer under this pressure’? Is it ‘everything’ or just ‘work stuff’?

The TVNZ reporters I follow do a more than reasonable job of being themselves on Twitter. Expecting them to come into line, when they’re actually taking part in the national online conversation without causing TVNZ reputation damage just fine thanks, is tricky. Some of the biggest recent scandals for TVNZ have taken place without a Twitter login after all.

If the policy is as draconian as it’s painted, it seems like a backwards step, and a possible misjudgment to try muzzling such a well connected group of natural communicators. The potential reputational damage caused by coming across as humourless and fusty is worse than the occasional off-message tweet in my opinion. Arguably, it undermines *all* TVNZ’s  social media authenticity, a weird move when their flagship current affairs programme makes a show of being part of the Twitter conversation and Welcoming Your Views.

I’ve had a little to do with writing social media policy documents, and I have to say that telling people what they can and can’t do in their own time and on their own Twitter made me feel uncomfortable, beyond ‘Use Your Common Sense*’. It wouldn’t have been easy for Michelle Romaine, an external consultant, to lay down the law on something so personal and get immediate buy-in. Again, we don’t know if there was any consultation, or if this was just an email bolt from the blue.

The preferable option (and probably the harder path) is educating and building trust with your team, so that any mis-steps  happen infrequently and are quickly put right when they do. Bear in mind you can get away with a lot by being human and owning up to  mistakes in a human fashion, remember Heather Du Plessis-Allan dropped the C bomb on the 6pm news, grinned a cheeky grin, and folk loved her for it.

In both my roles with social media element, I’m lucky to have been given rope to try things, without the fear of heavy handed-ness should things go wrong. If people are inhibited by fear of breaking the rules, they’re less likely to try something different and push the boundaries, which is where the gold is. If you’re empowered to f*ck it up, you’re probably less likely to.

*One assumes that when hiring folk to report the news on national TV, getting someone with ‘common sense’ would be a pre-req.

Notes
I don’t watch One News

As written, this policy seems to only apply to Twitter and possibly Instagram. You can supposedly do what you like on Facebook (but would anyone see it / care?)

Char Grill Kebab *has* gone downhill lately