Could Blogging Ever Be a Negative Thing?

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Paper in typewriter listing BlogBy now we, as PR professionals, understand the dangers of social media when it comes to speaking your mind in the blogosphere, Twitterverse, or any other strange word that someone has coined to describe an online space. We know that talking smack about your boss on Facebook can get you fired and that it might be a wise idea to make your profile private if you plan on posting a lot of pictures of you drinking yourself into oblivion. Armed with this knowledge, an overwhelming amount of professionals are finding SOME way to make their mark in the social media world, even if it’s just so that something positive shows up when their name is Googled.

However, it occurred to me the other day (as I was thanking my lucky stars to have found an employer who is so supportive of creativity and individuality) that there could be another danger.I was considering the possibility that expressing yourself through a public medium such as a blog MIGHT not always be the beneficial activity that we believe it is. What if your views on an industry-related topic conflicted with your employer’s?  Or perhaps even more consequential, your potential employer’s?  Even if you’re one of those people who make sure to clarify that your views are not necessarily those of your employer, the effects of this awkward situation might still be something that you have to deal with.

For example, say that you’re applying to work for an agency that specializes in consumer products and relies heavily on blogger outreach for media coverage. What would the implications be if you wrote a post in support of a blogger’s right to keep any form of compensation private, while the agency was very strict about keeping in compliance with all FTC regulations?  Would they think twice about hiring someone with such opposing views? (For the record, this is not a post about this issue).

Coming at this from another angle, I’ve seen a lot of agencies who are extremely reluctant to let their employees freely participate in social media, whether it be out of jealously or fear of another kind. Could being active on social media (maybe you’re even a Twilebrity!) limit your options of places to work?

I know that I’m posing a lot of questions, but I’m not sure I have the answers, and I was hoping to hear some thoughts from all of you. Have you ever experienced something like this?  Have you ever been reluctant to share an opinion online for this very reason? And on a more intense level, I ask you this- would you even CONSIDER working for an agency that didn’t embody your values or support your social media activities?

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  • http://worob.com Worob

    I think you have to be smart about how you conduct yourself on any social network. For example, I try to comment on breaking news and give personal thoughts without coming off as too strong in regards to my views. It can be a difficult balancing act, but you have to try. All of that said, I’d hope that employers see it as a positive that you are knowledgeable on a variety of topics and experience different mediums – ultimately, we’re just trying to build our personal brand and show our clients, and bosses, just how much value we bring to the table.

    @Worob
    PR at Sunrise Blog – worob.com

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  • http://twitter.com/OnlinePRNews Tara & Christine

    I think it can definitely be a negative. A pretty visible “mommy blogger” Dooce.com built an entire company out of being fired from her job due to blogging. I also know of a preschool teacher here in my hometown who recently lost her job due to FaceBook status updates. The school felt her updates did not reflect their Christian values.

    I think we all have to remember that Twitter, FaceBook, blogging, blog comments, LinkedIn, etc… are all very public forums. In this day and age an employer would certainly be remiss to not Google an applicant's (or employee's) name to just check things out! – Tara

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    I think we all have an idea of what personal opinions can be kept to ourselves and what opinions can (or should) be shared in a public space, and if we're working at a company that would penalize us for doing the latter, maybe that means we're at the wrong company.

  • http://twitter.com/helenahandbskt Helena Handbasket

    Yes. This is absolutely an issue. I am in a workplace that does not foster creativity or individuality. I most definitely have views and opinions that run in the opposite direction of my employer. I can't stifle that sassy part of who I am but I also can't share it with my co-workers. Hence the use of a cartoon avatar, a nome de plume and protected tweets. Some people may criticize this but it allows me to be myself and express myself fully. Sure there are risks but life without risks is boring. It's not something that works for everyone but it helps me to stay sane in a crazy making world. There have been close calls in terms of being found out but those moments make for a good story and I love a good story.

    I would love to work somewhere that shared my values, supported me as an individual and actually cared about what skills I brought to the table but for the time being it's not an option. For now work is just a job. Luckily, I know how to find ways outside of my day job, a lot of times through social media and the internet, that celebrate my creativity and individuality so I do not get my soul sucked out by Corporate America.

    I think there is a lot to be said for being completely happy in your work environment. I am so happy that you have found that Jess. But these days especially, it's an important skill to make do with what you've got. Even if all you have is a crappy job and a twitterfeed.

  • http://twitter.com/AmandaOleson Amanda Oleson

    I'm w/ TJ on this one… if you are working for a company that penalizes you for blogging about something you're passionate about, it's probably not the right company for you in the first place.

  • kristingast

    I think that the emergence of social media adds another layer of items to consider when looking at potential employers. Not only do I plan on evaluating the culture, benefits package, work/life balance, etc. – but I will also question their social media policy and to what extent they support their employees' personal brand.

  • http://twitter.com/agrinavich Amanda Grinavich

    This has crossed my mind a bunch. I'm a political junkie, and I'd love to blog about it. The only thing stopping me is the fear of it affecting things like getting a job, etc.

  • jeffespo

    This is a great post with equally thought provoking comments. I can speak from being on the other end of the Thought Police.

    Until recently I was the cop who patrolled blogs, forums and other sites looking for employee postings. The policy wasn't to stifle anyone from engaging in blogs it was more or less representing the company. So there were some COIs but at the same time companies spend big bucks maintaining a reputation.

    If I were to go out and blog against the company stance, well it wouldn't look good.

    However in the world that we are in companies for the most part shoudl be embracing their human assets and letting them blog, tweet or Facebook it out as much as they'd like as long as they are being good citizens of the space.

    So if you worked for ColdStone, don't be dumb and say Baskin Robins 31 flavors are better or Ice Cream Sucks.

  • beccameyers

    It's great to bring this up because sometimes people don't realize the ramifications of their broadcasts. At my school this started as a presentation to warn kids what they were doing can be seen. Then it became a class discussion which was later added to the syllabus at my school because it was effecting peoples jobs.

    There is a gray scale for sure and I think its iffy because a lot of it is situational. Since this type of outlet comes natural to most of us, its only natural to want to expand from tweeting or blogging for a client, and do some of it for ourselves. To do or not to do becomes a question. The thing is, you are who you are. If you are stating something you truly believe in, whats the difference if you blog it or discuss it with a boss?

    It's one thing if you are stating your opinion but its another if you are blatantly negatively doing something against the company. If you are a teacher at a catholic church, as an example used below, no you shouldnt be updated your fb status about parties, etc. (BTW most of my friends who are teachers eliminated all SM profiles they have. Not just for the sake of their superiors seeing it, but their students.)

    You also have to put yourself in the boss's shoes. If you work for Hoover and see writing about how Swiffer is the greatest and Hoover sucks from an employee, you got an issue on your hands. But if they are writing about an opinion you disagree with, but have no grounds for using it other than personal preference, it should not be an issue. Just like there are questions the writer and employee should be asking themselves before publishing, I think there are also a core group of questions the boss's need to ask themselves too.

  • http://twitter.com/alkerton alkerton

    It's a tricky line to walk, but I would say the one hard and fast rule must be: don't write anything negative or critical of the company you work for and expect them to give a damn that you include a disclaimer saying the views aren't reflective of the employer. If I bash my employer online and they find out, the fact that I'm backing up my critiques with case studies and examples isn't going to make a lick of difference – I'm getting canned.

    Now, is it possible for employers to take that kind of criticism constructively and use it to improve practices? Absolutely – but the time to test that theory isn't after you've lobbed a bomb at them online.

    As for future employers… I'd be less worried about that from an opinion standpoint. It doesn't do you any favours to have drunk photos and profanity-laced rants online, but if you're articulating your points clearly and professionally, I would expect most employers to see that as a demonstration of strong critical thinking skills, even if they don't agree with your views 100%.

    As for the “if they won't let you blog, do you even want to work there?” question, no, you don't, but with few exceptions, any job/cashflow is better than no job/cashflow, as long as you don't settle in and keep hunting in the background.

  • Meghan

    Woah, just catching up on my reader and this is the second post that I've found to be incredibly relevant to things happening to and around me right now.

    I have to say that you brought up many great points and I have to give my personal experience:

    During this past week, I've attended a few panels and some have been amazing. However, one that I was very excited about was highly, HIGHLY disappointing. I came in the next day and proceeded to complain to my co-worker. He suggested I write a post for our corporate blog – something I was actually really interested in doing. The snag? Well, one of the panelists is a fairly well-known blogger who we've worked with in the past {and to his/her credit, they were the best part of the panel}.

    Anyway, just another sort of conflict of interest to throw into the ring.