To Tweet or Not to Tweet That is ESPN’s Question

twitter-logoOK, at first glance at this article on CNET, I thought for sure ESPN had no clue what it’s doing.  But, in retrospect, I see now that they are just protecting their brand… as well they should!

Often times businesses whether large or small dive into the social networking spectrum without coming up with a solid plan of action first.  Most of the time it’s a kind of “act first – think later” approach.  You know what I’m talking about – a “hey, everyone else is doing this so we should too” kind of thing.  The problem with that attitude is without a strategic social media plan or policy with which to implement there’s always a chance that an employee, department, even department head will say or do something that completely screws everything up resulting in what sometimes becomes a huge mess that must be dealth with.

So, I get that ESPN wants to avoid that situation.  But, I think there are a couple of holes in the process.

RSS Feed IconFirst, with respect to employees not being able to “engage in sports-related content on their personal blogs or websites”, I think the terminology there is vague at best.  What if “On-Air Talent Person 1” has a sports blog devoted to his son’s Little League baseball team?  He is supposed to not contribute to that? I mean, because that’s basically what it’s saying, right?

The idea behind the policy is a feasible one if presented correctly and maybe I’m missing the boat here since I don’t have the opportunity to view the official memo, but if the policy is written even remotely like the way in which I present it, there’s room for interpretation there.  It would be who of ESPN to modify the terminology accordingly.

Second, I’m not sure I like how this is worded either –

“Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven’t been posted or produced, interviews you’ve conducted, or any future coverage plans”

First, I would separate the two – “internal policies” from “detailing stories or features”.

Second, I think there should be a disclaimer at the end  of anything related to stories or features that says something to the effect of “….unless discussion of such stories or features prior to production and posting is part of the actual story in and of itself.”

What do I mean by that?  Take a look at NBC’s unprecedented coverage of theInside Obama Twitter White House in its “Inside Obama” piece.  How cool was it as a viewer to watch the Tweets coming from behind the scenes!  What ESPN is essentially saying is “Yeah.  That was good for NBC but we don’t want to do that.  We can’t monitor our people if we do.” And I say, ummm…yes you can!  Put it in the policy for that particular segment or group of segments.

Bottom line – yes, if a company is engaging in social media, make sure there is a policy in place prior to that engagement, BUT also be sure that the terminology of said policy leaves (almost) no room for interpretation AND be open to the possibilities too.

Social networking has a place in today’s society.  The rapid growth of such sites at Twitter and Facebook has already proven that it’s not going anywhere.  For a company not to utilize social media as part of its methods to reach out to its clients, customers, or in the case of ESPN, its viewers, that company is missing an incredible opportunity.  I think ESPN has its heart in the right place.  They just need to make some modifications to its location so there isn’t any further damage.

One last note…and I think often companies miss the boat on this too…social media is meant to be that – social, engaging, community building.  Businesses need to think about how that intertwines with what message they are trying to send out there.  Create and set a social media strategy but don’t forget that the purpose of utilizing the medium is not to only to get your message out there, it’s to build a community of people who want to support & help you to that end.

In other words, don’t limit TOO MUCH what your employees can or can’t do.  Give them the correct training on not only how to use social media but also what your expectations are in their use.  Give them room to breathe & remember, there was a reason you hired those intelligent, capable folks in the first place.  They know they’re being monitored.  They know that if they screw up, it’s disciplinary action.  They know the rules.  Now let them engage!


Lisa 🙂

Note: quotations about ESPN’s policy were taken from the sports blog, The BIG Lead here.

One Response to “To Tweet or Not to Tweet That is ESPN’s Question”
  1. Forgetfulone says:

    Very thoughtful piece, Lisa!

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