5 Reasons to Keep Your Twitter Disclaimer

An article published by Ragan Communications yesterday suggested that the “tweets represent my opinion, not my employer’s” disclaimer in Twitter bios is unnecessary, perhaps even harmful, and urged its demise.

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UK-based Stuart Bruce, in an article reprinted from Stuart Bruce’s PR Guy Musings, said disclaimers should go because 1) Many people will never see them, 2) They don’t protect you from legal liability, 3) People will associate your comments with your employer anyway, so a disclaimer can create a false sense of security and 4) the real solution is good corporate social media policies and effective employee education on the policies or guidelines.

While I essentially agree with all four of those points, I believe getting rid of what I like to call “the personal responsibility clause” would be a mistake.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s the social media equivalent of TSA screening. The security benefits of removing shoes and belts, laptops and one-quart bags with liquids and gels for x-ray examination are questionable, too. But having most passengers endure this ritual enables otherwise wary travelers to board airliners with more confidence than they would in the absence of such a process. Likewise, having the social media disclaimer enables corporate leaders to more easily reconcile themselves to having employees posting opinions publicly.
  2. It’s not an ongoing burden. You don’t include the disclaimer in every tweet. Unlike TSA screening, which inconveniences passengers on every flight, once you have added your disclaimer to your Twitter bio, you don’t need to do it again.
  3. It’s free. Maybe it “costs” a few of the 160 characters in your Twitter bio that you could otherwise use to describe yourself, but having the disclaimer has no out-of-pocket cost.
  4. There is a difference between association with your employer and speaking for your employer. In a presentation I uploaded to Slideshare today, I outlined a series of “Bad and Ugly” examples of conduct on Twitter. No disclaimer can protect your employer from the impact of a truly stupid action you take, but most things you say or do on Twitter hopefully won’t fit that description. And many of the most troublesome Twitter gaffes resulted from employees mistakenly posting tweets on their employers’ accounts that had been intended for their personal accounts. The same content on personal accounts likely would not have caused the controversies.
  5. A disclaimer is a declaration of your right to express a personal opinion online. It’s not just a disclaimer of responsibility for speaking on behalf of your employer; it’s staking your claim, your right as an American (for those of us in the former colonies), to have and express opinions. The disclaimer/declaration is a reminder of that right and the associated responsibility.

Of course if part of your day job is to speak for your employer, the lines get a bit murkier. For example, our Mayo Clinic CEO doesn’t have the disclaimer on his Twitter bio; because of his office, he does speak for Mayo Clinic. The same may be true in some cases for those of us who work in PR, which may be part of Mr. Bruce’s point.

But for most employees in most organizations, the personal responsibility clause/disclaimer should stay.

At least that’s my personal opinion. It’s also in our Guidelines for Mayo Clinic Employees.

What do you think?

Employee Communications at Mayo Clinic

An interview featuring one of my Mayo Clinic colleagues was posted recently on Ragan.com. Linda Donlin was interviewed as part of the health care social media summit we hosted with Ragan in Arizona. Here’s the video:

I thought you’d enjoy hearing from one of my colleagues at Mayo whose job is different from mine, but who is actively embracing social media tools for communication with our employees.

Here’s a post I did at the time about the “In the Loop” publication, including an example.

This emphasizes that social media tools are powerful, and can be adapted to your communication needs. They also help you go beyond “audiences” to “communities” by enabling those you’re reaching to provide feedback to you and share with others.

Mayo Clinic Social Media Webcast

This afternoon I’m scheduled to present a Webcast on our Mayo Clinic experience with social media. The handout we provided to registered participants was somewhat abbreviated (leaving out some of the intermediate steps in the closing case study), and I added a few other slides after Friday morning, when I had to submit the handout.

If you haven’t yet registered for this FREE webcast, you can still do so until noon CDT today (8/4/09). Go here to join.

Here is the updated slide deck, and I’ve also included some key links below:

See the Press page for some of the stories about social media in health care for which I have been interviewed, including the Forbes.com story from last week and the resulting Information Week piece from yesterday, as well as the interview with Lee Odden he published yesterday.

Our Mayo Clinic blogs include Sharing Mayo Clinic, which has links to the rest of our social media platforms, including the various blogs and our Facebook fan page, Twitter account and YouTube channel.

Here is the link to the Wall Street Journal Health Blog post that incorporated our YouTube video. Here is a recent post on the Mayo Clinic News Blog with both downloadable audio and video clips and a YouTube video. And here is the post where we embedded the “Octogenarian Idols” video.

I hope you will feel free to ask your questions or make comments either below or via the #mayoragan hashtag in Twitter.

If you’re interested in healthcare use of social media, please consider registering for this social media summit Mayo Clinic is hosting and cosponsoring with Ragan Communications. It will be at our Scottsdale, Arizona campus in early October. I think we have a strong faculty and it should be a great gathering of people with a common interest.

Please be sure to vote in the SMUG seal contest, and if you want an example of the SMUG curriculum, the Podcasting courses give you a good taste. See the front page for more of a SMUG overview.

Healthcare Social Media Events This Week

I’m taking three days off for travel this week, and look forward to a big virtual event on Tuesday and interacting in real life on Wednesday and Thursday at some interesting healthcare social media events.

  • On Tuesday, I’m going to be in Chicago for some meetings and then to present a Webinar for Ragan Communications based on our social media experience at Mayo Clinic. Registration is FREE and open until noon CDT on Tuesday, August 4, so there is still time to sign up if you’d like to join. The Webcast runs from 2-3 p.m. on Tuesday. I will be tweeting using the #mayoragan hashtag.
  • On Wednesday, I will be in Indianapolis for the Eli Lilly Web 2.0 Summit. I understand there will be about 20 outside presenters for this event, which is for Lilly employees, so I look forward to an opportunity to meet some folks face-to-face with whom I’ve previously only conversed via Twitter. Not sure what the Twitter hashtag will be, but if you follow me on Twitter (always a good idea!) you’ll discover it soon enough.
  • On Thursday, I’m in Omaha for a breakfast with the American Marketing Association’s healthcare interest group. Contact Megan O’Dea if you want more info.

The interest in social media among healthcare communicators, marketers and medical staff is extremely high right now, as this story from Forbes.com indicates. For example, I understand that more than 1,500 people have signed up for the Ragan Webinar. They aren’t all necessarily involved in healthcare; some may be from other industries. So, I’m looking forward to that “broadcast” opportunity to reach a large and widely dispersed group, but the in-person meetings will also be great, allowing more in-depth discussions.

And speaking of in-person discussions, if you’re involved in health care and interested in social media, I hope you’ll consider attending the social media summit Mayo Clinic is hosting and co-sponsoring with Ragan in October. It will be on our Mayo Clinic Scottsdale campus. I’m excited about the faculty we’ve assembled and I’m confident it’s going to be a great couple of days in which we can all learn from each other.

Social Media Conferences, Panels and Tweetups

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be traveling for several conferences and presentations relating to social media. Some of these are open for additional registrations; if you can attend, I’d love to meet you. Otherwise, if you see I’m going to be in your area and would like to Tweetup, you know how to reach me.

  • On Monday, April 27, I will be in Philadelphia for a presentation on integrating social media with mass media at the annual meeting of the National Cancer Institute Public Affairs and Marketing Network.
  • Then I head to New York for some meetings on the 28th and for BlogWell on the 29th – (Registration is still open, and if you use the discount code “friendofmayo” when you register, you’ll get a $25 discount.) I got to present at BlogWell in Chicago in January, so I look forward to hearing these case studies. The Blog Council member meeting and unconference is on the 30th, also in New York City.
  • On May 7, I’ll be part of a panel at the National Press Club with Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post, George Strait of the FDA, Robin Foster of HealthDay and Bridget DeSimone of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Right after that, I’ll be heading to Chicago for an afternoon presentation/workshop on social networking, and then on May 8 I will be presenting at the Ragan Corporate Communicators Conference.
  • On May 12, I’ll be in San Francisco to present at the Community 2.0 Conference.

I’ll be tweeting and blogging from all of these, and would love to get to meet SMUGgles (or even just casual readers) either at one of these events or via impromtu Tweetup. (Although I guess it’s not really “impromptu” if I’m giving you more than a week’s notice, is it?)

At any rate, I look forward to these events and the connections I’ll be making.