In this age of technology, social media plays an important role in building contacts for promoting whatever business you are doing. That’s the reason we see big and small vendors, writers, actors, activists, journalists, etc. participating actively on social media for promoting their ideas, products, and services. Guidelines or code of conduct helps you to maintain your personal and professional credibility. Following are some useful social media use guidelines for journalists and PR:
Social Media Use – Guidelines for Journalists
Verify your online accounts and pages
All journalists should verify their online accounts on social networking sites. So, if someone will create a fake account using their name and other information would not harm their reputation because people would know it’s not them. Many public figures have verified their accounts on Twitter. The similar practice could be done on other social networking sites. If any social networking site does not provide them with the option to get their account verified, even then they should identify their account under contact information’ section on the official website of their news organization. If someone is a freelance journalist he can practice the same thing under the information section of some of his verified account; let’s say Twitter. People should know which one is the official page/group and which pages/groups are created by fans.
Avoid publishing news which has no credible source or evidence. Do proper research before publishing some content.
Journalists specifically in Pakistan (Urdu media) are not habitual of adding a source to their news story. Even if they do, it is not credible most of the times. They simply share viral content related to some hot issue without verifying the facts. Social media is a place where people can access shared content anytime. When someone identifies the information you have shared or are sharing is wrong, you lose credibility and public trust. Therefore, journalists should be careful while sharing content about which they don’t have sufficient knowledge.
Break the news on your official website before breaking it on your personal social media account.
Many journalists do this mistake. Many journalists break some news story on their Twitter or Facebook account first which is not an ethical practice. They should break the news via the official platform first unless they are not freelance or citizen journalists. They must write this disclaimer on social media page/account under description area: “views expressed here are my own” so that they should not be held accountable for making any comment which goes against the policy of their working organization. This will also help them to maintain credibility among the public.
Interact with followers but don’t sound opinionated.
Journalists should spare some time to interact with the audience on social media. They will get appreciation as well as criticism from audiences’ side. It’s good to be patient while dealing with disagreement and criticism. They should accept mistakes and correct them immediately on being wrong. Otherwise, their argument should be convincing not insulting for the audiences. Being human there is always a chance that your thoughts will carry the color of your personal beliefs and opinions, despite this fact journalists should try their best not to sound opinionated. They should remain neutral in any case.
Take proper privacy measures to protect your online account.
When you become a public figure people are more than interested to know details from your personal life. If you will share everything with the general public then don’t accuse them of making scandals. Personal photographs and information could be used by haters or rivals for defaming purpose also. Although some social media networks such as Facebook provide versatile privacy options. For example, you can turn on the follower option and share professional content on public privacy settings and keeping the rest of your content private by sharing it with friends only.
Making an official page is a better option than adding random people on your profile for your promotion. Choose a strong password for your account which should be a mixture of phrases, punctuations, and digits. Don’t forget to turn off your location setting before doing some private chat as few applications allow users to see your location which might be dangerous in some cases.
Social Media Use – Guidelines for Public Relations Professional
You should have expert knowledge about your organization and product or service you are marketing and to whom you are marketing it.
PR or Public Relations Professionals is responsible for maintaining the connection between the company and audiences. Generally, we know them as the social media manager on social media. A representative of an organization that is responsible for communicating the ideology, events, products and other services online. Therefore, he should be patient, have good communication skills and expert knowledge about everything related to his subject. He must have the ability to identify his targeted audience for different products and services in order to operate effectively and efficiently on social media.
Plan a proper social media strategy and act accordingly. Share relevant content only. Don’t use religious or emotional appeals for the promotion of your social media page.
PRO (Public Relations Officials) should set some plan of action and move towards the goals of marketing step by step. Share relevant information only. PROs, in order to promote their company, product or other services, sometimes violates ethical standards. There are some companies which share standard content on their social media pages and websites, but many other uses emotional and religious appeals to increase ratings, shares, and number of likes. For example: Like it, if you love God, share it if you have an awesome mother, this innocent cute little girl deserves 100,000,000 likes, etc. Therefore, information relevant to product or services should be shared only.
Keep updating your audiences. Sound neutral and deal with the criticism patiently.
Actively update your audience about new products, services, and events, etc. PRO should keep in mind that rivals will try to defame their product/service/cause through different means and tactics. Sometimes users also share negative views on social media pages if they don’t feel satisfied with anything. In any case, PRO should deal with such issues patiently. If any negative suggestion is genuine, they must apologize from your audience in a humble way and assure them this will not happen in the future. If the criticism is not genuine support your argument with enough pieces of evidence to prove your point, rather than playing the blame game and sounding bias.
Engage people through creative strategies rather than using unfair means to promote your content.
Public Relations Professionals don’t acknowledge that it is legally not right to promote some content forcefully and from a personal account. For example, my friend used to work as a social media manager at Adventure Club. After creating some event she used to send me its link for joining and promoting that event among my friends and other people. I used to send URL of that event with a request to join it to my contacts on Facebook. I stopped doing it when Facebook blocked my account for a month due to the spamming issue. It was her job and she used to get paid for it but used me as a free platform because she knew I have a big list of family, friends and professional contacts on my Facebook account.
It’s better to pay social networking sites for boosting some post than spamming and making others to like your content forcefully. In other words, social media managers must use legal ways to promote content rather than free of cost unfair means.
Be careful about the stuff you share online. Never reveal any confidential information on social media.
Every person has the right to live the way he or she wants to. One must know the fact that social media is not your private or personal space, especially; when you are representative of some organization. Being at such an official position, one must be more careful about online shared content. Never reveal private or confidential information related to your organization and yourself on social media publically. Every expression you make on social media matters. Transparency is good but not everyone deserves to see it.
Journalists and Public Relations Professionals must possess certain qualities like having vast knowledge about the subject, good communication skills, and patience, etc. Therefore, much of the guidelines for both these professions are similar such as privacy measures, maintaining a professional image on social media, dealing with criticism patiently, not using unfair means to promote content, etc. Slight difference in guidelines is based on the difference in their roles.
Duty of journalist is to educate the public using authentic facts, figures, and pieces of evidence which officials do or don’t reveal to mislead public. Journalists create public awareness on several issues whereas; public relations professionals provide information relevant to their subject only and persuade the public to mold their attitude in favor of their products and services. Journalists communicate about local and global issues of public interest and public relations professionals communicate about some specific organization, product, service or cause. Therefore, much of the points were similar in context but the style of their application varies among both these professions.
Maida Khan has done Masters in Mass Communication from NUST. She is a part-time lecturer teaching TV Production courses.
Writing is her hobby, and she is a vocal activist.