Employers Should Be Blog-Savvy to Protect Their Businesses and Reap the Benefits of the Blogging World

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Blogging is just one of many ways the Internet has proven its value as an important information source and communication channel. One consumer-research firm estimates that 42% of the general population has read at least one blog; and this number includes those without computers or many computer skills. Another significant finding for employers is that most bloggers are younger than 19, which means they will be bringing that experience and knowledge into the workplace.

The challenge for business owners/employers is to define what is quickly becoming a fine line between how blogging can hurt their businesses and the many ways it can also benefit and improve business growth.

There are three primary negative effects of blogging for employers.

1. Blog Attacks: Blogging has made it easy for individuals to write about their negative experiences with any business. Some many be justified, such as poor customer service, but other attacks are unjustified, but how would you know by just reading the blog! Current or former employees could use blogs to denigrate their employers, as business entities, and/or individual executives, managers, supervisors and even fellow employees.

2. Blabbermouths: Unknowingly, employees could reveal sales and marketing strategies and even trade secrets or violate copyrights, for example. Those employees that would engage in such activities knowingly are part of number one above.

3. The Keys to the Kingdom: Blogging, of course, is a two-way street; a blogger wants others to comment on his or her blogs. Tech-savvy companies can often find vital information about their competitors in what would otherwise be considered innocent blogs. Some could respond to an employee’s blog, surreptitiously using the name of a fellow employee to obtain classified information. Someone who wants to penetrate the computer security of any business could start a blog conversation with an employee. Once a “technie” knows some personal information about a blogger, it isn’t difficult to make educated guesses about email and security passwords, since too many people still use addresses; birthdays: family members or pets’ names; and other simple information.

On the positive side, blogging is quickly becoming an important business-building tool. Business owners can use it to reveal trends in their industries and conduct customer research. It can also be a very cost-effective method to communicate with the 15% of customers who are responsible for 85% of most companies’ revenues. To that end, a wise, progressive employer may want to hire one or more of those young, experience bloggers to create and manage beneficial company blogs.

Twenty-first century employers can’t simply disregard blogging, but must take a proactive approach to maintain some control of employee blogging on and off site. Many experts suggest these steps:

1. Encourage the free exchange of ideas in the workplace.

2. Include a blogging section in your employee handbook.

3. Make sure the handbook section specifically prohibits employees publishing defamatory blogs about your business, co-workers or clients.

4. Request employees to include disclaimers on their personal blogs.

5. Update your non-disclosure agreement with a blogging statement. New employees would sign that contract anyway during the hiring process. Ask current employees to sign the updated agreement as well. Make sure you explain that the agreement now includes a blogging statement or policy and that any information disclosed through blogs could also result in immediate dismissal.

Once a written policy is in place and all employees have signified they understand the policy with their signatures on revised non-disclosure agreements, both employers and employees can concentrate on making blogging a positive, competitive advantage.

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