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Social Networking Guide | Blogs
Blogs
Your agency might decide to start with one blog as a pilot. Employees who propose a new blog should develop a “decision document” to support the proposal. They should then seek the approval of a supervisor, an internal governance committee or the agency PIO.
 

 
Five-point Checklist

  1. What type of blog do you propose? What’s the specific project/area/topic/event it will cover?
  2. What purpose will it serve? How does it benefit the agency and/or citizens?
  3. How will the blog supplement, complement, replace or compete with current blogs?
  4. Who will form the team of blog post authors? Editors? Moderators?
  5. What’s the expected lifetime of the blog?
 

 
Posting Team

You may want to create a “posting team.” Any member of the posting team could submit possible blog postings. The team should operate with the following guidelines:
  • To receive consideration, each post must bear the author’s signature.  Editing by someone other than the original author is a good thing—something you should encourage.  Full ghostwriting of entries, however, is not a good thing.  The posting team should disallow submission of ghostwritten entries. 
  • Choose the people who would be the primary authors of posts.
  • Except for general editing, the less filtering that occurs between the subject matter expert and the public, the better, as long as the author understands that he or she is acting in an official capacity and is writing for the agency, and not as an individual speaking personal opinions.
  • The agency PIO should be the final authority in deciding whether to approve the team’s recommendations for posts.
 

 
Blogging Forum

Blogging forums improve communications among employees, government customers, commercial suppliers and the public. Consider the following suggestions on how to establish and maintain a state-sponsored blog.
 
Create a blog request form that starts the process of setting up a blog.  Require submission of the form to the agency’s public information officer. Include the following elements in the blog request form:
 

  • Title for the blog
  • Short statement about the purpose and value of the blog
  • Desired URL shortcut (typically some variation of the unique blog name, but in all lower case, no spaces, no special characters, e.g., /daspablog)
 
The agency PIO should consult with the affected managers to determine whether to approve the request to start a blog. 
 
Monitoring the blog is the responsibility of the blog owner. The owner must ensure proper supervision of the blog, and that the information it provides is accurate, timely, relevant, and complete. This responsibility includes de-activating the blog upon the blogger’s termination. Immediately notify the agency’s PIO if ownership-responsibility for the blog transfers to another person.

 
Reducing the Risks
Blogging involves risks.  Here are some ways to reduce them.
                                                                                                      

Risk
Risk Reduction Technique
 
Negative Comments
Readers offer very negative, even crude comments.
 
  • A clear, consistent comment policy can counter off-base, rude and obscene comments.
  • Monitor comments constantly. Utilize notification software.
  • Allow both positive and negative posts, thereby building trust among the public.
  • Use the blog to address negative issues.
 
 
Loss of message control
Participants find ways to short-circuit the process of screening and vetting public statements; or multiple agency-authors post messages that are inconsistent or conflicting.
 
 
  • Communicate regularly with agency posters to ensure they stay on message.
  • Ensure that moderators are attentive and proactive in addressing posts that get around screening and vetting.
 
 
Firestorm
The blog becomes a forum for attacking the agency. Lack of understanding and/or failure to follow the rule of transparent authorship creates a firestorm.
 
  • Maintain a clear, consistent policy on comments to deter off-base, rude and obscene comments.
  • Monitor comments constantly. Utilize notification software.
  • Allow both positive and negative information to be posted, as long as the post is thoughtful and within the bounds of civilized discourse.
  • Use the blog to address negative issues.
  • Require all blog postings from the agency employees to be signed (name, title)
  • Regularly remind agency employees who write blog postings to remember that they speak for the agency, not themselves personally.  They are spokespeople for the state.
 
 
Neglect
Employee has trouble monitoring or writing for the blog while still performing other duties.
 
 
  • Designate more than one person to administer the blog.
  • Employ a number of blog post writers (subject matter experts).
 
 

 
Prohibited Activities

Do not allow the blog or its contributors to engage in the following activities: 
  • Use of vulgar, abusive language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms targeting individuals or groups
  • Endorsement of commercial products, services, or entities
  • Endorsement of political parties, candidates, or groups
  • Violation of the posting requirements and disclaimers contained in this guide
  • Violation of Section 508 (ADA)-compliant postings
 

 
Best Practices for Bloggers

  • Blogs succeed when visitors feel they have reached a trusted source of information. Let readers know the blogger’s identity and qualifications as a professional. Do not release any personal information (e.g., home addresses, residential phone numbers, etc.).
  • Post content on a regular basis. This may mean daily or weekly, but not less frequently than every two weeks. Publicize the posting schedule. Be realistic in preparing a schedule. If a blog remains idle for 60 days or more, consider taking it offline.
  • Make time and devote resources to moderating all comments that readers post. Commit to reading every comment received, even if you do not post individual responses to all of them. You may need time to research responses. Communicate to the audience the timeframe for responses.
  • Invite guest contributors. This is a great way to enhance value without increasing workload. Announce the names of the contributors, and provide some information about each.
  • Respond on the blog to the posted comments, especially negative ones. Blogs build credibility and readership if readers see them as open, accessible and responsive.
  • If the same questions occur repeatedly, create boilerplate responses to some questions.
  • People will find the blog in a variety of ways (e.g., via search engines, search and other e-mail alerts, RSS feeds, various social networking sites, book marking sites, or e-mail from another person). Visitors will often read only a headline (or title), or a headline and several opening sentences. The more intriguing and relevant the headline and the content that follows, the more likely the content is to build readership.
 
 
Blog Public Notices, Policy and Record Retention

  • All state blogs must contain a public notice. Example: “The Department of Administrative Services manages this blog to improve communications with our employees, customers, commercial suppliers, and the general public. This blog will discuss [Subject matter of blog, e.g. information technology, schedules, communications, building issues, etc.]. Our use-policy is subject to amendment or modification at any time to ensure the blog’s continued use is consistent with its intended purpose as a limited forum.” If the notice itself does not appear on the main page, then place a prominent link on the blog homepage that clearly identifies the attachment as “Privacy, Security and Legal Notice.” You may customize your public notice to meet your agency’s specific needs as they relate to the blog.
  • All records—including information posted, received or connected in any way with state blogs that meet the definition of a record—will be subject to Oregon’s Public Records Law.
 

 
Moderating the Content

  • “Moderating” means reviewing and approving content before it appears on the site. The state does not endorse or take responsibility for content posted by third parties. All users, however, must abide by accepted terms, conditions and code of conduct.
  • Publishing un-moderated content may generate serious liability for the state.
  • In some social media formats such as Facebook, Blogs, Twitter responses, etc., you may encounter comments that cause concern.  If user-posted content adheres to context of the conversation and meets the standards of courtesy, then allow it to appear, regardless of whether it is favorable or unfavorable to the state. If the content is ugly, offensive, denigrating and completely out of context, do not allow it to be posted. If hurtful, insensitive comments are the norm on a particular subject, consider closing the story to any comments.
  • Most blogging software automatically notifies blog administrators of new post submissions, thus eliminating the need to manually check the blog. We suggest the agency create a group mailbox to receive comments. Designate someone to be responsible for monitoring the mailbox and screening comments. Encourage submissions within a reasonable timeframe (one or two business days) during regular business hours.
  • Automatic blog-monitoring mechanisms, such as Bloglines, Google or Technorati, can help you monitor blog posts. Using such tools can help make you aware of the issues that concern your audience. They can also help you track comments about your agency’s policies, procedures, programs and projects.