Sunday, November 1, 2015

Staying Professional on Social Media

Julie Weller

With so many people constantly participating in live conversations on social media today, it's important that those of us working in fields of journalism and public relations remember to draw the line between our professional and personal lives.

For journalists, it's important to stay independent on social media and to keep personal tweets to a minimum, or on a separate account, so that they do not reflect poorly on you or the media corporation you work for. These guidelines are the same for public relations professionals on social media, but in addition to representing our place of work well, it's important to represent clientele well too.

Today, everyone online who blogs and participates on social media creating and sharing stories can be considered a journalist. This is why it is so important that as journalists and public relations professionals, we seek and report the truth and always remain independent so that our followers and fans will continue to see us as credible sources that they trust.

Public Relations Professionals on Social Media

Many public relations professionals today are connected to their company's social media accounts from their smart phones. One of the most dangerous outcomes of this is accidental tweeting or posting personal content from the official company social media account.

There are instances of this everywhere, for example, this tweet from an employee of American Red Cross.

In this particular case, the tweet was deleted after about an hour of being posted to Red Cross's Twitter account. The employee who tweeted this apologized from her own account and Red Cross apologized as well, making a joke to lighten things up a bit.

While this tweet was seemingly harmless and Red Cross handled the situation well, there are some situations where employees tweeting and posting their personal beliefs have gone too far. Take this case where a Kitchen Aid employee tweeted his own personal beliefs about President Obama from the company account.

In instances like this one, tweets like this call for the instant termination of an employee. This is why it is so crucial to think before we tweet as public relations professionals AND journalists.

Journalists on Social Media

It is very common today for journalists to tweet coverage from their own personal Twitter accounts, instead of from the news account that they work for. This causes the need for an even bigger line to be drawn when it comes to tweeting personal content than for public relations professionals. 

The RTDNA website lists social media and blogging guidelines for journalists to follow that directly align with the RTDNA code of ethics. In addition to the importance of finding the truth before tweeting or re-tweeting, it is also so important that journalists recognize they are responsible for everything they say.

Although tweets can be deleted, they remain in online archives forever. That's why it's crucial that journalists are careful about tweeting, following, liking or sharing anything that could relate to their personal interests and cause a conflict of interest with their beat or any story they cover. 

The RTDNA code suggests being careful when posting information relating to age, sexual preference or religious and political identities, in addition to watching who you friend and follow. As journalists, our social media accounts reflect directly on who we are as a person, which could result in a lack of independence and complications when covering stories if we share too much about our own personal beliefs.

We must always keep in mind that one personal tweet or post could tarnish our reputation and credibility as a reporter or as a professional, and could eventually result in termination from our job.

As long as we all think before we tweet and remain professional on social media, our followers will take us seriously, think of us as a credible and reliable sources and seek us out for information they know they can count on.

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