Sernovitz on social media disclosure: "the only way to be successful"


The next presentation at BlogWell after Ken Kaplan's Intel presentation and John Earnhardt's description of what Cisco was doing on the video side, was Andy Sernovitz's presentation about disclosure best practices. Disclosure is utmost important in social media usage within firms. This ethical issue has to be thought through very carefully by social media managers, and not just by lawyers. "Disclosure is essential", Andy said, it is "the only way to be successful". But he also insisted that "disclosure is easy". It is about "saying you are and who you work for". In essence, it means that you have to say "I work for such and such and this is my personal opinion". This applies to you blogging on behalf of your company and can also apply to you managing bloggers doing the same thing on your behalf, be they internal or external. As a matter of fact, it is also fairly applicable to you when blogging for yourself on your personal blog in case you have a full time job somewhere else. It's a matter of honesty and transparency, which is very much in synch with the early versions of what used to be called netiquette.

Andy went on saying disclosure needs education: few people understand these ethical issues as social media becomes more popular. It's normal because at the beginning this kind of tools were limited to a number of well netiquette-educated people who came from the web world. As it opens up to other people, there are loads of people "who never had the opportunity to talk openly on the outside". Andy Sernovitz and the Blog Council therefore developed this teaching tool to start a community discussion. The idea is to lead by example and to provide 6 checklists to adapt, teach and evolve. It is aimed at corporate teams and agencies alike. 24 companies participated in the creation of this checklist, and it took 4 months to refine it. It can be found at

There are six main big ideas which make up this disclosure best practice document:
•    first: disclosure of identity,
•    second: personal/unofficial blogging and outreach,
•    third: blogger relations for outreach campaigns and rules of disclosure
•    fourth: compensation and incentives
•    fifth agency and contractor disclosure (when agencies are hired, one has to make them enforce the rules Andy insisted)
•    sixth: creative flexibility, as long as they know it is marketing ...

Andy considers that these 6 ideas are as many opportunities to "raise the bar" and to "keep social media in the blogosphere clean". It has to be stated, Andy added, that compensation also depends on the type of product or service that you are selling. You may download and use this document as long as you respect the rules described on Andy's Blog council pages.

Yann Gourvennec

I specialize in information systems, HighTech marketing and Web marketing. I am author and contributor to numerous books and the CEO of Visionary Marketing. As such, I contribute regularly on this blog for Orange Business account on cloud computing and cloud storage topics.