TweetEthics: Trust and Transparency in a Web 2.0 World

As PR reps and journalists for individuals and companies learn more about the benefits of Twitter, and other forms of social media, questions are arising about how/how not to present information.

Should the writer of a post – or tweet – reveal who they are? Indicate that they’re writing “on behalf of” another individual or organization? Let the reader draw his/her own conclusions? What’s right? What’s not?

While the media is new – the questions are not. As a corporate communications professional, myself, I’ve often written letters, newsletters, quotes in news releases, speeches, etc., “on behalf” of CEOs and other organizational leaders and spokespeople. That’s common practice in corporate communications. In these situations it is understood that the messages are “from the organization” and it is assumed that they have been – if not originated by – at least reviewed and approved by the identified “spokesperson.”

That may certainly also be the case when organizations develop profiles and begin interacting with the public on social media platforms. But, somehow the same practices in social media “feel” different. Perhaps because they’re more “conversational” and participants feel as if they’re engaged in conversations with a “real person”? Perhaps because the interactions are more immediate and “real time”?

In any event, it’s clear that there is still a lot of uncertainty involved as journalists, PR professionals and “just plain folks” continue to communicate through “new media.”

Still, the basics remain the same, I think. The media may have changed, but the foundational principles remain the same. Trust. Transparency. Ethics.

The Society of Professional Journalists has been in place since 1909 and has a Code of Ethics that provides sound principles for journalists that are as valid, I believe, in the Web 2.0 world as they have ever been.

In an era when virtually anyone can become a “journalist,” they’re worth reviewing every now and then.

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