Lessons on Blogging Etiquette from Obama

Obama’s teleprompter was launched into stardom last week, after Rush Limbaugh addressed him rhetorically on the air. Rush poked fun at the president’s recent gaffes at speaking events, which were the result of incorrect teleprompts, asking:  

"Teleprompter, in your opinion, how is President Obama doing so far?  Did he convey the level of anger you hoped for regarding what you told him to say about AIG?  Teleprompter, is the president ever argumentative with you, or is he compliant with your instructions?” 

The teleprompter threw back the punches on his blog, in which he wittily answers a few of Limbaugh’s questions. The post is amusing – and was piquant enough to get coverage in the Miami Herald and the Christian Science Monitor.

Looking beyond the repartee, though, the Obama Teleprompter blog is interesting in another way: it’s a work-related blog whose content frequently borders on the inappropriate. To keep your company’s image clean, here are a few tips for what not to do on a work-related blog:

  • Don’t call your boss by funny names. If your boss is the president, you might consider finding ways to refer to him besides “Big O,” “Big Boy,” and “Big Guy.”
  • Don’t divulge company secrets. If you have to begin a sentence with, “I don't think I'm breaking my operational top secret clearance by telling you X,” you might want to reconsider whether it’s really something you want everyone on the information superhighway to read.
  • Understand the boundaries between public and private. Here I need only cite this passage: “Publicly, we're saying this is OMB chief Pete Orszag's idea, but everyone here knows that it was the Big Guy's brainstorm, because Big Guy's hobby is tax policy.”
  • Don’t talk about your love life. It’s just a bad idea to talk about the “hot reporter from Latin America” that you think you have a date with.

The bottom line: when employees take the initiative to do their own blogging, it can be a great way to engage people in your brand. With the wrong content, it can backfire and make you look bad. For sample guidelines on how to encourage employees to blog responsibly, check out IBM’s “Social Computing Guidelines.”

- Contributed by Katherine Leahey