A few days ago, there was a great bit of a dust up in NYC about firefighters and EMS folks being profiled by the NY Post for a terrible reason: taking and posting images and descriptions of people involved in scenes online. The wonderful Dave Statter wisely noted that this situation had the potential to blow up into the national media. I agree, this is exactly the type of situation that will cause agencies, organizations and companies to get very, very scared.
I didn’t think I could add anything to what’s already out there on the subject, until I looked at what’s going to happen next. And as terrible as what those folks did was, it’s the reaction is what could be really bad.
What could be possibly be worse than posting gruesome and demeaning photos? How about overreacting and banning social media.
Let me be crystal clear about this, the men that posted those images should be disciplined. But this is not a problem with social media, it is a problem with those men. And brass and politicians, in an effort to “do something ” about the problem, may very likely confuse the two and set their agency back by years.
It may be too late for this case, but in your case, hopefully it’s not too late. (And yes, this or something very similar can happen in your agency, organization or company; and if you can’t think of something, you give your staff too much credit.) So, what should you be doing right now, before the Post comes calling?
First, you need to review your social media policy (and if you don’t have one, check out http://www.socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php) and get creative. What dumb thing can put your agency on the front page? Make sure that’s reflected in the policy.
Next, and this is the most important step, is to train people on the new policy. And not in the sense of, “don’t be a moron on social media,” but instead teach them how to use social media correctly, positively. How they can act as an ambassador for your agency to the world. Because that’s what they are, your very best spokespeople, and they are completely underutilized.
The final step is supremely important, and can only happen once the first two steps are taken care of completely. You stand behind your staff. If your policy is good enough, and the training was positive and adequate, your people should be among the best in the world, and deserving of your protection from the brass and politicians when they come looking for scalps. And if you can’t honestly defend them knowing they’ve gotten the very best training, is that their fault?