BBC tells staff not to be stupid on social media

When did you last update your social media guidelines or policy? Is it still relevant or do you need to dust it off and shake it up? What’s your organisation’s view on employees using live-streaming mobile apps?

The world of social media is a rapidly changing one, and this week the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) issued new guidance for its BBC News and BBC Radio employees, which states:

A useful summary has always been and remains: ‘Don’t do anything stupid’.

This article examines the latest BBC guidance plus provides links to 160+ social media policies for you to browse through.

ChrisHamiltonChris Hamilton @chrishams, (pictured) Social Media Editor, BBC News, says: “The guidance is a reflection of the fact social media is now just part of what we do, albeit a critical part, allowing us to talk to people, involve them in our output, and distribute or bring them to our content.

Getting the most out of social media
“It’s a space that moves at an incredible rate, and we want to make sure the guidance we have continues to allow us to get the most out of it. The fundamentals of our social media guidance remain unchanged. (Tweet this)

“Other fundamentals remain as before, including not saying anything that may compromise our impartiality, not sounding off about things “in an openly partisan way”, and not revealing confidential BBC information.”

What do I think?
The BBC is respected and renowned globally for its use of social media. I think it’s a trusted, credible and reliable source of information, and is prolific across social media including: Twitter: @bbc, @bbcworld, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, InstagramTumblrVine and many more.

It also publishes guidance via its Journalism site online which is worth checking out, particularly the user-generated content info and its BBC College of Journalism YouTube channel.

I think the guidance is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of its comprehensiveness, no-nonsense approach and use of clear language.

I particularly like the fact it provides clarification about who they designate as using social media “officially” and encourages employees to not only talk about their work:

If you have official status, your activity must be consistent with that. That doesn’t mean you can only talk about your work. In fact, we encourage the opposite: social media is all about personality and being human.”

How refreshing! Want to know more on this topic? I featured Muir Housing Association recently who wrote about empowering its employees to use social media.

Don’t do anything stupid…

I think the use of the word stupid is ok in this context. You can’t misread or misunderstand it, particularly as I think the guidance provides flexibility within boundaries.

This latest three-page publication – which you can read in full here – builds on the original guidance which was published in 2011.

Since then new platforms and apps have appeared such as Twitter’s Vine (six-second videos) and WhatsApp, so I think it’s smart to update it and reissue.

It doesn’t include information about Meerkat or Periscope, so I expect it will probably be updated again in the near future if the powers that be decide that would be helpful for employees.

The BBC says there are three main kinds of social media activity they are concerned with:

1. Employees own personal social media use, not carried out in the name of BBC News, though it could well include work-related activity, like newsgathering or reaching out to contributors.

2. The social media activity of designated editors, presenters, correspondents or reporters carried out as part of official BBC News output.

3. Official social media activity in the name of BBC programmes, teams, or brands.

What else is in it?

The guide also includes reminders about the safety implications of sharing location data, about the impression given by those the BBC follow or befriend on social networks, and about the impact of spreading unconfirmed rumours, especially in breaking news situations.

I’ve written numerous times about guidelines for employees when using social media, including: Obeying the social media rules of the road.

quote_bbcHere is an extract from the new guidance: “Don’t be seduced by the informality of social media into bringing the BBC into disrepute. Don’t anonymously sanitise Wikipedia pages and similar websites about the BBC. Don’t criticise your colleagues.

“Don’t reveal confidential BBC information, including sensitive stories or deployments you or others are working on. Beware revealing information that may risk the safety of you or your colleagues. If you’re deployed to sensitive or dangerous places, switch off functionality on electronic devices and social media services that reveal your location.”

Further reading:

The BBC also has a guide for on-air references to social media, which you can read here.
Read the updated 2015 social media guidance from the BBC

Further reading on my blog about social media:

The role of social media in Government comms
Are you up to speed with social media?
The relationship between social media and food
Musings of mice, men and social media at Muir
How internal comms pros use social media
The evolution of social media
Who’s using what for internal social media?
The language of social media – free download of my research

Regular readers will know I’m on the Social Media Panel of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) @CIPRSM. A couple of years ago we published social media guidance for members and non-members alike to benefit from. You can see it here and below:

Want to read more social media policies?

I first published a list of social media policies on my blog in 2013. Over time some of the links have broken as old websites have gone offline or the content has changed.

So I’m republishing an updated version here. It has 160+ policies for you to browse through. Please do let me know by Tweeting @AllthingsIC or via my contact form if you spot a broken link, so it can continue to be as useful as possible.

I’ve also collated video examples of social media policies and guidance via my YouTube channel:

What do you think of what you’ve read today? What do you think of the BBC’s latest guidance?

If you have thoughts on using social media or want to share what works in your organisation with my readers, please see my guest article guidelines and let me know. You’re also welcome to comment below.

Thank you for stopping by,


160+ Social media policies and guidance:

Adidas Group

American Institute of Architects
American Nurses Association
American Red Cross
Amp3 public relations
Australian Government
Australian public service commission
Baker & Daniels
Banco Sabadell
BBC News
BBC – updated March 2015
Best Buy
Bread for the world
BT (British Telecom)
British Medical Association
British Psychological Society
Canadian Tourism
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
City of Houston
City of Seattle
Chartered Institute of Public Relations
Children’s Hospital, LA
Civil Service
Coca-Cola Company
Cornwall Council
Dell UK
Department of Justice
Devon County Council
Easter Seals
Eastern University
Edinburgh Council
Environmental Protection Agency
Exeter University
Eway Direct
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
General Medical Council
Greater London North Scouts
Greteman Group
Hamilton College
Harvard Law School
Hill and Knowlton
Hill and Knowlton – principles
H&R Block
International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee 2010
Iowa Hospital Assoc
Johnson & Johnson
Kansas Uni
Kirklees Council
Kodak Tips
L.A Times
Le Bonheur
London Ambulance Service
London School of Economics
Malvern Hill District Council
Maryland Association
Mason Inc
Mayo Clinic
Media Law Resource Centre
Metropolitan Police
Microsoft Tweeting Guidelines
Microsoft Doctrine
Ministry of Defence
Monmouthshire County Council
National Ice Skating
National Public Radio
New York Times
New York
New York State Bar Association
NY City Department of Education
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Norfolk Police
New Jersey Institute of Tech
New Zealand Government
New Zealand State Services
Ohio State University
Ohio State Uni Medical Centre
Ontario College of Teachers
Open Society Foundations
Orange County
Oxford University Press
Procter & Gamble
Porter Novelli
Queensland Gov
Robert Scoble
Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust
Royal Academy of Dance
Royal Mail
Scottish Women’s Football
Seattle University
Southwest airlines
Thomson Reuters
Twitter template for Gov departments
Unity Trust
UAE Government
UK Armed Forces
UK Civil Service
Uni of Michigan
Uni of Missouri
Uni of Oregon
Uni of Southern Mississippi
Uni of Virginia Library
US Medical Supplies
US Army
US Air Force
US Marine Corps
US Navy
Warwickshire County Council
Woodfield Community School
York University

First published on All Things IC blog 1 April 2015.

Picture credit: Chris Hamilton via Twitter.

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