On Thursday, March 11, 2010, CNN.com published a news piece about how a soldier possibly leaked covert information about a military operation that could have tipped off the enemy and given them an advantage over what they were trying to accomplish. Here is a blurb of what the soldier blogged:
“On Wednesday, we are cleaning up (the village). Today – arrest. On Thursday, God willing, we will be home,” the soldier, who was not identified, posted on the social networking site, according to IDF. (Source: CNN.com)
No Harm, No Foul?
The division commander of the unit decided to cancel the operation altogether rather than risk any undue harm or surprise attacks from their enemy. The soldier was reprimanded for stepping out of line and divulging information that could hurt people and plans. Although it wasn’t a very smart move, wouldn’t you say that the soldier was just doing what the rest of online socialites and news hounds are doing? He was just reporting the news, what he saw, how things looked and what could be next. Surely there is no harm in that….is there?
Evidently there WAS some harm in what the soldier posted on Facebook, enough to have him sentenced to ten days imprisonment and for the entire operation to be scrapped. I’d say it was pretty darned serious and harmful.
Corporate Sites Should Tread Lightly
Although social sites like Facebook and Twitter are enormously popular and beneficial for businesses, there are some rough, unwritten (in most cases) guidelines that online businesses and corporate media departments should observe in order to avoid embarrassing situations like these. It’s also to ensure that the best quality and accurate information is provided in every post and in every communication that is made with their customer.
The soldier reported the facts, plain and simple. There wasn’t any conjecture or opinion, but he updated his Facebook status based on what he saw at the time. The only thing that was inaccurate here, if there can be such a thing, is that the IDF soldiers are prohibited from posting, tweeting and updating their status or in any other format that contains classified information. That’s also plain and simple, however it seems that the soldier refused to acknowledge that guideline nugget. As for corporate media departments, cases like this can also happen and can cause just as much embarrassing and sometimes irrevocable damage. How can this be avoided?
1. Corporate media employees
Assign one to two persons only in your corporate media department to work the social media angle and get news stories published on your website. There can and should be a committee if necessary, but only allow key individuals to actually make the posts or upload them to the site. This gives the site’s editors time to review the piece and make sure that it represents the corporate entity accurately and positively. Had someone reviewed the soldier’s post beforehand…
2. Develop Posts
Be clear to the editors what kinds of posts you want to represent on your site. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that they should “know”, but actually spell out to them your expectations and quality level that you expect. Although the soldier may have been aware of his disregard, it was too late after he had posted it. By making sure that everyone understands what is and what is not acceptable can save you a lot of grief and embarrassment for future times.
3. Resource Availability
Limit availability to networking resources within your department. Allow the writers and online executives to be themselves of course, but have a system in place that will block and allow the parameters that you set. For instance, do you prefer to read ALL blog posts before being published? Set this up so that there are several sets of eyes on the post before it goes live to the social networking sites.
Embarrassing situations can happen to any company, especially online. Has anything like this or similar to this ever happened in your corporate media department? How did you handle it? What guidelines does your corporate structure have in place regarding social media and how to handle situations when they arise?
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