Friday, February 18, 2011

Social Media More Controversial than Congress

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Utility Communicators International winter seminar meeting in Austin, Texas.  My topic for the conference was an overview of the energy debate for this congressional session.


As you can see from the picture on this page, we had a little fun with it. Because of the often controversial nature of Congress, I assumed that my session would include the most debatable topics discussed during the two-day meeting, but I was wrong.

It turns out that social media policies for utilities can illicit even greater debate among communicators than any old energy policy overview ever could.

During the seminar, Senior Corporate Communications Manager Jeremy Rawitch presented his view on social media policies as someone who just completed development of a policy for Southern California Edison. He noted that utilities have unique challenges because they are subject to public service commission oversight and involved in close relationships with customers who do not easily separate employees personal and professional personas.  

Perhaps the the most controversial part of the presentation was the company's policy that suggests the use of employee disclaimers when posting on social media sites. For example:

“I work for Utility X and this is my personal opinion.”

The disclaimer idea was widely challenged by the communications crowd at the conference. Many objected that disclaimers interfere with the free flow of opinions on social media channels. Rawitch acknowledged the challenge, but from the company’s perspective it is important to protect employees  and the utility in every way possible.

It’s amazing how contentious a little thing like disclaimers can become when they are applied to social media, which was created to allow unfettered discussion. The partisan battles in Washington now seem tame by comparison.

To find out more about UCI click here.

To find out more about Southern California Edison join them on Twitter  @socaledison

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