Blurring lines: professionalism vs. well, life

First and foremost I must issue a disclaimer. In no way, shape or form, do we here at Freestyle consider ourselves lawyers. Far from it actually (about 3 years, $150k, and a state bar exam away from it), but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to discuss the important issues facing the evolution of communication and the legal ramifications that have arose along with it (ok, that sounded a little lawyer like).

Today, the Social Media Club of Des Moines (along with the amazing Mars Cafe) hosted Megan Erickson of the law firm Dickinson Mackaman Tyler & Hagen to discuss the rocky road that businesses must traverse in order to deal with the complexities of their brand image and their employees’ online lives.

The well-spoken and social media savvy Erickson, a specialist in employment law, expounded on social media as a duality of sorts. On one hand, the need and ability to create a brand using social media is clearly important, but on the other hand the susceptibility of that image online to such things as an employee’s disparaging or indicting Facebook account, can create some sticky situations. Thus, this blurred line between professionalism and personal lives can often places companies and employees at odds, especially when it comes to employment.

“According to a study done by Microsoft, 80 percent of human resource professionals use social media to screen employees. Of that, 70 percent of those surveyed acknowledged rejecting a candidate on the basis of what they found online,” said Erickson. But is it legal?

In most circumstances, yes, it is legal. The fickle, minute details shouldn’t encourage you to try and break the system. Instead, careful attention should be paid to your rants, images, and information posted online.

What about social media policy? Erickson made a great point. So, apparently, laws are based on consistency and objectivity (weird, I know), which makes standard company policies so important in today’s world. However, social media policies can often times become too narrowly written or create loopholes in already existing policies. Instead, she recommends that a general policy should be crafted with social media in mind to address general issues. Smart attorney!

While we here at Freestyle do not condone censorship on any level (self or government), we recognize that we live in a world of presumptions and opinions, which is obvious to us considering we’re a PR firm and all. With that said, be smart, creative, and fun, but not at the cost of your job or your company’s dignity.

Unfortunately, when all is said and done, clarity on the subject remains murky and you can expect it to remain that way as we move through the bumpy Oregon Trail that is social media. Hopefully, you don’t get bitten by a rattlesnake along the way!

p.s. Check out Megan Erickson’s blog here!

Jordan Lampe Sr. Account Associate

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About Freestyle PR

Pushing boundaries.
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