Social Media Guidance – Section One: Personal and professional responsibilities

Section One: Personal and professional responsibilities

This details personal and professional responsibilities for the participation in or use of social media as part of your job or whenever you identify yourself in a professional capacity as a DCC employee.

1. Personal use of social media

Whether or not an individual chooses to create or participate in an online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own business. The views and opinions you express are your own.

As a council employee it is important to be aware that posting information or views about the council can not be isolated from your working life. Any information published online can, if unprotected, be accessed around the world within seconds and will be available for all to see and will contribute to your Online Digital Footprint[1].

  • Remember you are personally responsible for any content you publish.
  • Understand your online privacy settings – Check your settings and understand who can see the information you publish and your personal information.
  • All DCC employees should be aware of and follow DCCs general Employee Code of Conduct.
  • All DCC employees should be aware of and follow the Information Security Policy
  • If you do talk about the work you do or a DCC service you are associated with, you should make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of DCC. Use a disclaimer such as: “The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the County Council.”
  • Do not let your use of social media interfere with your job and always access in your own time. See guidelines on Using County Council Websites and the Internet and Private use of ICT

2. Using social media as a DCC employee

Your relationship with social media changes as soon as you identify yourself as a County Council employee, speak in any kind of professional capacity or seek to deploy social media on council business.

In such circumstances there are certain responsibilities, standards of behaviour and other organisational considerations which apply. Remember, you are the public face of the council and should participate in the same way as you would with other media or public meetings or forums.

Always remember that participation online results in your comments being permanently available and open to being republished in other media.

You should also be aware that you may attract media interest in yourself or the organisation, so proceed with care whether you are participating in a business or a personal capacity. If you have any doubts, take advice from your line manager and/or the Corporate Communications Unit.

2.1 Participation as an employee or professional capacity

As an employee, you must take the following into consideration when using social media:

  • You are personally responsible for any content you publish so be mindful that it is in the public domain and on the record for a long time.
  • If you wish to participate as a Council employee you should clearly identify yourself and your role. Make it clear whether you are acting in your professional capacity – and remember, even if you do not intend to, your professional role or status as a DCC employee will affect the way you and the organisation are perceived and therefore brings certain responsibilities.
  • Be aware of your association with DCC in online spaces. If you identify yourself as a DCC employee, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and customers.
  • Be professional. Make sure you are always seen to act in an honest, accurate, fair and responsible way at all times.
  • Be aware of your language and conduct. The rules governing staff conduct such as the Acceptable Behaviour and Equality and Diversity policies still apply. Also, as in all publishing, you should be aware of issues such as libel, defamation and slander.
  • Never share confidential or sensitive information. You should know and follow the Information Security Policy. You have a unique inside track so be aware of the rules on data protection and financial regulations.
  • Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. DCC’s brand is best represented by its people and what you publish will reflect on the wider organisation.
  • Tell your line manager. If you wish to participate in a professional capacity it may be best to discuss with your line manager first. Always alert your manager or the Corporate Communications Unit early if you think you may have made a mistake.

2.2 Acting on behalf of the organisation or as part of your job

It is important to remember that there is a human cost in using social media as an employee or in a professional capacity. Social Media is about the social connections and conversations we have with our customers, peers and friends. To gain the maximum value from these tools, you should look to foster relationships and therefore you will need to acknowledge and understand the commitment and investment of time in building and developing sustainable online relationships with people.

  • Understand the resources available to you to maintain and foster sustainable relationships.
  • Get official backing. Ensure you have the full approval and support of your line manager before any official deployment of social media. Ideally, also alert the Corporate Communications Unit of your intentions.
  • Be professional. Always remember that you are an ambassador for the organisation. Always disclose your position as a representative of the County Council, your department or team. Anything you publish will reflect directly on the council as a whole.
  • Purpose and outcomes. Make sure you think through why you are deploying social media and what outcome you wish to achieve. For example, if you are inviting public responses then think through how you will make use of the results and how this fits in with other forms of consultation. Ask yourself is social media appropriate for this activity?
  • Assess any risks. Think through any potential risks and make sure you have plans in place to manage and mitigate these.
  • Respect your target audience. Think about their specific needs and be aware of any language, cultural or other sensitivities you may need to take account of.
  • Ask and seek permission to publish any information, report or conversation that is not already in the public domain. Do not cite or reference customers, partners or suppliers without their approval.
  • Respect copyright when linking to images or other online material.
  • Always stay within the legal framework and be aware that data protection, financial regulations apply.
  • Monitoring and evaluation. Make sure you have a plan for how you intend to monitor and evaluate the success of your activity.

[1] A Digital Footprint is the data trace or trail left by someone’s activity in a digital environment. Digital Footprints are the capture in an electronic fashion of memories and moments and are built from the interaction with the Internet, World Wide Web, Mobile Web and other Digital devices.

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Scott Horvath

Carl, I have to say thank you very much for posting this information! All three of your posts on this subject are of great use to me and couldn’t be more timely. I’m sure others will get use out of these as well!

Carl Haggerty

Thanks Scott, more than welcome. We are going to be looking at reviewing these every 6 months or so once we start getting more “live” examples for learning