In the past couple of weeks, Gary Lineker and the BBC have been caught up in a very public battle of ideas over the use of social media.
Amongst the media furore, former political strategist Alastair Campbell has compared the BBC’s debates over its guidelines on social media with the Charity Commission’s recent consultation on its social media guidance for charities, which closed on Tuesday at 5 pm.
As Natalie Barbosa said in her recent blog post about the Charity Commission guidance, charities rely on social media and the guidance is not without controversies. Charities have several considerations when it comes to social media. Like the BBC, charities want to protect freedom of speech but also protect their reputations, both in terms of what their staff are saying and how they respond to it.
As the BBC is learning, all organisations should have in place a clear social media policy which should account for different roles and the extent to which someone represents the organisation. In a charity context, what is expected of a trustee or CEO may differ from the behaviour required of a head of fundraising, for example. Any policy should be clear about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate when using social media, and also be clear about who it binds.
More broadly, charities should think about the culture and relationships surrounding their social media policy. Regardless of what a policy says, some individuals may feel very strongly about certain topics and an over-harsh policy may push such staff members to leave the charity. Charities should also be careful about making individuals feel resentful – either those pushed out of the organisation for wanting to speak out or those who stay in but feel silenced.
Previously internal policies are now being pushed into the limelight. The question is now not only what organisations are saying, but also what they are not saying and why. While these questions may be difficult and intricate, it is best for charities to get ahead of the game by putting in place a social media policy rather than waiting for any such debates to happen in the public eye.