Special Report Legal: Karen Lefton

Karen Lefton, Partner, Brouse McDowell LPA

Two points that CEO bloggers should keep foremost in mind are, first, never underestimate how many different groups of people may read what you write, and second, despite the blog form’s outwardly ephemeral nature, everything you post is almost certain to be permanently accessible online, whether you want it to be or not.

Below are three tips for executive bloggers compiled by Karen Lefton, a partner with Brouse McDowell LPA.

Write for your customers, but know that competitors are reading.

Be particularly careful not to disclose confidential information, trade secrets, business plans — sensitive information not known to the public. There is a tendency to blog from the comfort of your home after a long day at work. Don’t. This is not the time for a fireside chat. A blog must be written with the same thought and care as a speech to your Chamber of Commerce. More people may see it.

Write for your supporters, but know that detractors are reading.

Be careful with your facts. For every fact that can be checked, there is a former (disgruntled?) employee who will check it. When things are not black or white, he will take issue with your shade of gray. Avoid references to age, race, gender, ethnicity. What difference does it make that your new marketing manager is “young”? His creativity and enthusiasm matter. His youth does not (except, of course, to the over-40 manager that he replaced.)

Write for today, but know that your words will live forever.

A blog can be like a bad penny. It will keep on turning up. Be prepared for anything you’ve ever written or taped — a blog, annual report, speech, interview, legal brief — to be accessible on the Internet. As search engines continue to improve, it will be easier to connect your name and title with postings by you or about you. Maximize the benefit by controlling your message. Minimize the detriment by treating all your communication as though it will last forever. It will. And if you’re ever involved in litigation, it will be printed out in large type on a big screen for the world to see — again.

Karen C. Lefton is a partner with Brouse McDowell’s labor and employment practice group, mainly representing businesses. She has a special interest in media law, particularly defamation, invasion of privacy and Internet issues.