ESPN: The worldwide leader in sports, but not Twitter


ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, has updated its social-media policy for talent and reporters. You can find a copy of it here. The policy does have its strong points. But, there are certain areas in which it misses the mark. A discussion follows after the jump…

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Before I dispense with my critique of ESPN’s social-media policy, on a somewhat related note, let me remind everyone that The Employer Handbook is hosting a free NFL Survivor Pool. You need not know anything about football to participate, the winner gets a prize, and did I mention it’s free? There is still time to sign up, which you can do here.

And now, on to the policy.

The Good:
Each social media policy stands on its own. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all”. That said, the best policies offer some combination of rules and guidelines. Here, ESPN hits the mark. Its policy features a nice combination of important rules (e.g., “Do not post any confidential or proprietary company information, references to ESPN policies or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN”) and commonsense guidelines (e.g., “Think before you tweet” and “Think before you re-tweet”).

The Bad:
IMHO, including a section in a social-media policy to educate employees about social media is as important as the policy’s remaining terms and conditions. That’s missing in the ESPN policy. Maybe the ESPN policy drafter(s) assumed that those covered by the policy are generally familiar with the ins and outs of social media. And, yes, I realize that most ESPN talent and reporters are generally familiar with some forms of social media. But why not include it anyway?

The Ugly:
The updated social-media policy prohibits breaking scoop (i.e., anything other than public news) on Twitter. That information must first be vetted by the tv or digital news desks. ESPN claims that while it would like to “serve fans in the social sphere, … the first priority is to ESPN news and information effort.” Bradley Shear notes in this recent post on his Shear on Social Media Law that this rule completely misses the point of social media:

[T]his policy will only harm its ability to compete in the fast changing digital landscape. During the last several years, many major news stories have been reported first on Twitter. Some of these stories include: the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the 2009 Hudson River plane crash, and the death of Osama Bin Laden. During the NFL lockout earlier this year, sports reporters regularly posted breaking news updates on Twitter and then followed them up by more in depth articles at a later time.

For those of you who are considering implementing or revising a social-media policy, I recommend that you check out “Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace“. (Proud disclosure: I am a contributing author). Jon Hyman, a labor and employment attorney who edited the book, and who, like me, has drafted several social media policies for clients, has a great chapter in the book on social media policies. Sure, you can Google “social media policy” for free and plod your way through drafting a policy. But, why not buy the book and do it right the first time?

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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