The legal hazards that executive bloggers must steer through are many. Here are four of them, compiled by Lori Clary, an attorney with McDonald Hopkins LLC.
- Blurring the line between personal and professional: As an executive, you’re the face of your company. When you post something online, it’s inevitable that what you say will be associated with and — in many cases — attributed to your company. As a result, it’s important that your blogging persona be just as deliberate and professional as you are on a day-to-day work basis. Anything less could result in a stray posting becoming Exhibit A in litigation against the company. If your blog is intended to express your personal opinions and viewpoints, make sure your readers know that and take care to ensure that your personal blog doesn’t negatively reflect on your ability to serve as an executive with your company.
- Inadvertently disclosing confidential or trade-secret information: You know your company better than anyone — and that’s a good thing. Just be sure to post only nonconfidential, nonproprietary public information on your blog. Jumping the gun even a little bit could result in your company’s competitive edge being diminished or worse (think blown deals, SEC investigations, diminished business value, employment termination and lawsuits, to name just a few unsavory complications). If you have any doubt about whether a piece of information is for public consumption, that information isn’t appropriate blogging fodder.
- Running afoul of the FTC’s product endorsement rules: As an executive blogger, you always want to present your company’s products and services in the best possible light. The Federal Trade Commission, however, has very definite requirements for product and service endorsements that appear in blogs and other social media outlets. At a minimum, you need to be sure your readers understand your relationship to the company so they can gauge for themselves how much weight to give your opinion.
- Failing to seek legal guidance: Executive blogging can be a powerful way to raise your company’s profile, build excitement for products and services, and interact with your customer base. To reap the benefits, though, you must manage the risks. Trusted legal advisers can help, so be sure to involve them before problems occur.
Lori A. Clary is an attorney with McDonald Hopkins LLC. Her focus is labor and employment counseling and litigation.