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IBM Publishes Guidelines For Employee Bloggers

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The news last Friday that IBM is introducing a large-scale corporate blogging initiative has attracted plenty of attention, both in the blogosphere and by mainstream media.

Today, IBM published on its employee intranet its draft guidelines for corporate blogging. James Snell, a member of IBM’s Software Standards Strategy Group, has posted those guidelines on his public blog as well as a link to a PDF you can download.

In summary, this is what the guidelines address:

  1. Know and follow IBM’s Business Conduct Guidelines.
  2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time — protect your privacy.
  3. Identify yourself — name and, when relevant, role at IBM — when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
  4. If you publish a blog or post to a blog and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
  5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
  6. Don’t provide IBM’s or another’s confidential or other proprietary information.
  7. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
  8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory — such as politics and religion.
  9. Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them.
  10. Don’t pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don’t alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
  11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.

The guidelines themselves are detailed and are worth close study, both for insight into how a large organization is approaching the matter as well as a sense of what IBM itself regards as the critical framework to establish that will enable employees to go ahead and become bloggers.

James’ post contains some very interesting additional insight into some of the background leading up to last Friday’s news and today’s release of the guidelines.

I posted commentary in March about IBM’s 2,800 internal blogs. In my post on Friday, I speculated that the number has undoubtedly increased since then. It is so, according to James:

[...] A small handful of technical innovators developed and deployed an internal blogging service that has grown in a period of just 18 months to just shy of 9,000 registered users spanning 65 countries, 3,097 individual blogs, 1,358 of which are considered active, with a total of 26,203 entries and comments — all of which has been put together strictly through word-of-mouth promotion. And it’s still just a pilot.

And to illustrate one important point – that developing comprehensive guidelines for blogging in the workplace is an evolutionary, iterative process – James has this to say:

[...] The corporate communications and legal teams worked collaboratively with the IBM Blogging Community to draft the Corporate Blogging Guidelines copied below [on James blog]. The core principles – written by IBM bloggers over a period of ten days using an internal wiki – are designed to guide IBMers as they figure out what they’re going to blog about so they don’t end up like certain notable ex-employees of certain notable other companies. They’re also intended to communicate IBM’s position on such practices as astroturfing, covert marketing, and openly goading or berating competitors – specifically, don’t do it. As these guidelines were being drafted, we drew heavily upon our own experiences as bloggers and the excellent prior art in this space graciously provided by Sun, Microsoft, Groove and many others who have drafted policies and guidelines for their employees.

One clarification point. In my post on Friday, I said IBM has 130,000 employees worldwide. I took that number from the report I first saw in Silicon Valley Watcher. According to James’ blog, IBM has 320,000+ employees. Now that scales things up quite a bit!

Really, a visionary approach to corporate blogging.

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Neville Hobson is the author of the popular NevilleHobson.com blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: NevilleHobson.com.

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